July 4th if the most popular holiday to barbecue at 71%. Three of every four American households own a barbecue grill. This is followed by Memorial Day at 57% and Labor Day at 55%. The most popular foods to barbecue are burgers (85%), steak (80%), hot dogs (79%), and chicken (73%). Nowhere do I see various sausages unless they are included under hot dogs. And what about fish, shellfish, corn on the cob, vegetables, and garlic bread?
The most common side dishes are corn (41%), potatoes (also 41%), and vegetables (32%). Hickory is the most popular flavor for barbecue sauce, followed by mesquite, honey, then spicy-hot. Of course, regional variations can skew the numbers to and fro. When we were kids, my Grandmother went to the chicken coop and slaughtered a chicken. She generally made burgers or hot dogs for us kids. We always had corn on the cob, rice, and a salad. Dessert was always strawberry shortcake.
Believe it or not, in California, we prefer salmon on our grill, perhaps to enjoy some lighter fare. The midwest, as expected, is big of RED meat. In parts of the south, like the Carolinas, pork is king. And in the deep south, Cajun cuisine is most prevalent. When I last visited North Carolina, I thought they chopped the meat too much, and used way too much vinegar in the barbecue sauce.
The most common barbecue utensil is the long-handled tong (77%). Notice I wrote tong, not thong! This is followed by forks (64%), long-handled spatulas (59%), and cleaning brushes for the grill (63%).
Charcoal briquettes were patented back in 1897 by Ellsworth Zwoyer of Pennsylvania. Of course, propane has become the fuel of choice, both for ease of use, quickness, and clean burning. Generally, wood barbecuing imparts a richer flavor to the food being cooked. Nobody really knows how the word “barbecue” originated. The word is used as a noun, verb, and adjective. Those laying claim to the origin of the word are the French (hard to believe), Native Americans, Spaniards, and Caribbean pirates. The word translates to “sacred fire pit.” The Oxford English Dictionary cites the first recorded use of the word in the English language in 1697 by British buccaneer William Dampier.
Barbecue competitions are contested in all fifty states. It seems each one of us has a “secret” or family recipe. I profess to using primarily store-bought barbecue sauce unless I use a teriyaki sauce, which I make myself. I also have a special recipe for Chilean sea bass. Among the interesting foods to barbecue in my opinion are: turkey, veggies like zucchini and asparagus, whole garlic, artichokes, ham, homemade sausage, pork tenderloin, lamb (shish kebab), and prime rib.
As far as store-bought or restaurant barbecue, I really enjoyed the old Emil Villa’s chain of restaurants. Another favorite is Tony Roma’s, with an honorable mention to Back Forty. And the award to the best home barbecue goes to a long-lost relative, Uncle Harry. The most creative barbecue honor goes to the Indy 500, which serves the largest and tastiest turkey legs I have ever seen.
How hot is your barbecue? The internet revealed a rather primitive and brainless method for estimating the temperature. If you can hold your hand over the fire for 2 seconds, the temperature is 375 degrees or hotter. Three seconds is medium hot (350 to 375). Four seconds is medium (300 to 350), and five seconds is low (200 to 300). I suggest not doing this at home, boys and girls.
Another trend in barbecue is adding as many strange or interesting ingredients as possible. Have you ever roasted a chicken sitting on a can of beer? Have you seen Jack Daniels flavored barbecue sauce in the store? I see nothing wrong with the reliable old gas grill, and avoiding the awful taste of the charcoal lighter fluid. Enjoy your “Q” today!