Historians dedicated to the study of food, state that when man entered the kitchen for the first time, he grilled something and had a bottle of water at hand which surely wasn’t water, but that was used  “To fight the heat of the fire and sun”.

Many things have changed since then, except for one; women have never bothered to dabble in the specialty.

BBQs, Grills and roasts, especially if they’re being prepared for many people and under an open sky, are a man’s thing. Women have never fought earnestly, in past times or after, to approach those specialties.

A griller isn’t born; he’s made.

From prehistoric times till now, roasting has been a man’s thing which women love. Demonstrating that fact are the legions of single, independent and abandoned men, converted, of necessity, into grillers struggling with ovens and coal, as well as the convinced grillers, the happy family man.

In order to assuage the thirst the art of grilling awakes, Wine arrived, then Beer.  These were the first two bottled answers for making the chore in front of the fire more civilized.

However that changed.  Now, in the Twenty First Century, Spirits have arrived and mean to stay; from Bourbon to Whisky, from Rum to Tequila, including cocktails and refreshing drinks.  Further on we’ll venture along those labyrinths.  Right now, let’s go back to the basic principles that you already know, of course, but that it’s convenient to go over.

Three Most Common Mistakes of the Urban Griller

The famous French Wine Magazine asked Jean Huteau his insightful vision on BBQs and Grills.  He called me from Paris and asked: “What do you recommend?”  “Let’s interview Checho Lopez in Argentina”, I answered, and so we went.

There are three basic mistakes the urban griller makes, he explained.

The first? Basting, seasoning the meat before placing it on the fire.  It will stick, and leaves a bitter taste that increases as the meat is grilled.

The second?  Not classifying what will be cooked.  Different meats and different cuts will be ready at different times.  Piling everything up on the BBQ or the grill is a serious mistake.

“If you do this, you’ll have some pieces ready to be eaten before others”, reasoned Huteau.

“That’s the technique, Maestro”, replied Checho. “Roasting isn’t like cooking over an iron grill”.

The third mistake?  Not leaving the meat alone, moving it frequently.  This is typical of the impatient ones, the novices.

How does one know when it’s ready?  “I caress it”, confessed the master griller who five years ago won in Frankfurt the Gourmand World Cookbook Award.   In fact, he doesn’t caress it; he touches it. He takes the pulse of the heat, testing the outer layer with his fingers.

Before saying good-bye, we dared to ask him for the most popular grillers on TV: “They’re all very good”…but, for example, Francis Mallmmann “burns everything”.

In order to understand how to handle heat, we called the well-known American author, Harold McGee, who wrote On Food and Cooking (Random House Mondadori, 2007).  His secretary answered our call and said, “The Professor is teaching right now.  Send your question and we’ll send you the answer.”

“The key to grilling is to place the food as far away from the heat as possible, “ as the gauchos from Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil do, with their roasts on a cross over cinder.

“That helps to balance the speed of the pardeamiento (Maillard reaction of a change of color in meat while it’s being cooked). Accordingly, all professionals finish their cooking with a smoldering, moderate fire.

BBQ, Rotisseries, and proper drinks

And the Drinks?

The most important tip a wine and spirits connoisseur can offer a man in front of a grill or a BBQ is simple:  “Don’t try to use the drink as seasoning.”

In other words, enjoy your favorite drink. BBQs and roasts are modern tools for noble cooking.  It’s best not to spoil it by mixing it with alcohol, unless you’re set on it, of course.  The day will come when you realize that beer, wine, rum, bourbon, scotch, Armagnac, etc. are great of their own accord, not as seasoning.

Early riser in the kitchen, Jean-Jacques Bournod, one of my cooking teachers, would become absolutely furious whenever someone suggested, “champagne flaming”.

That expensive wine has very little alcohol and it evaporates, it has no strength.  It’s just a ruse for impressing the ladies.  Naturally, if you like it, do it, but try not to show off in front of experts.  Flaming or Soflamado, “is a resource closer to firemen putting out a fire than to good cooking”, he upheld.

Every drinking culture survives around BBQs or grills; from those with 7oor 9o,to those above 42o, they have all undertaken the long run in order to conquer their position in the market, and reach their preference.  But every man sitting in front of a fire feels like a king on his throne, and has no use for advice or counselors.

Specialists in habits,such as Charles Duhigg, state the monarch at the fire irradiates knowledge, skill, and years of accumulated expertise.

The rite, grill-man with an apron, special knives, tongs, brine, ajiceros and a doctorate in fire wood for barbecues feels well established. It’s best to leave him alone. What can be done?  Changing the habits of new generations, behavioral specialists say.

“Some tasks are harder than others; to try to recommend combinations of whisky with barbeque is one of them”, wrote Larry Olmsted in Forbes magazine.

He’s right; to try and change that is apparently harder than convincing a beer lover that he shouldn’t pour some of it on his pork barbecue as if he were in the desert dying of thirst.

To those who like rum, drink it, but don’t keep pouring it on your pork chops being cooked over cinders.  As for those who prefer Bourbon, don’t make your chicken, or your wild game drunk.

The Realm of Sauces

Some barbecue men are devoted to a specific sauce with an almost biblical faith.  The problem with BBQ sauces is that they’re already present in the mind of the consumer, but there’s no BBQ season (2018 will be one) that doesn’t offer the possibility to “try out something, or for the personal touch”.

Memphis BBQ Sauce is the most popular in the country, states Olmsted in his research. This affirmation was naturally disavowed, or immediately denied or thrown out by the fans of Alabama White Sauce, South Carolina Mustard sauce, the very soft North Carolina sauce, and lovers of Texas BBQ Sauce.

In fact what the author was looking for was the harmonies, ´marriages´ between drinks with barbecue personality, and the gamut of Bourbons. 

Olmsted contacted Moonshine University (Louisville) who teaches special classes on the subject. He writes that after trying combinations of roasts (from pork to chicken) he came to a documented and fatal conclusion with a smile on his face: “I liked them all”.

“I have a friend who owns the most successful roast beef place in Paris ”, the cooking historian and gourmet, Jean Valby, once told us.

“In Paris, are you sure, Maestro?”, “Yes, “ he answered.

“The secret is not in the cuts; it’s in the daily sharpened knives.”

 

Alberto Soria  Writer / Journalist specialized in Gastronomy, Wines and Spirits / University Professor

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