Most American males think they know their way around a barbecue. Experience has shown me that this is not always the case. Case in point: My dad used to make what we laughingly referred to as "Hockey Puck Burgers" that when served were black on the outside and frozen on the inside. That's what happens when you throw a frozen burger patty onto a white hot grill.
Looking back at my father's exploits on the backyard grill, I came to realize that while I hate to admit it guys, many American males haven't got a clue as to how a barbecue really works. Let's start off with the fact that a gas-fired barbecue is in reality a grill. If it doesn't involve charcoal, it isn't real barbecue.
Speaking of charcoal, this is the second mistake many men make...They don't give the coals enough prep time before tossing on a match. I can still remember dear old dad standing there hosing down his coals with lighter fluid, amazed that the neighbors didn't alert the fire department, or NORAD for that matter, since his efforts usually produced a breathtaking mushroom cloud of flame and smoke.
With the fire is properly banked, you should take a metal spatula and push the coals into a flat round disk. Keep them in that Vesuvius-like cone-shape and you will burn everything in the center of the grill, while undercooking everything on the grill's periphery. Like it or not, caveman, heat control is what great barbecue is all about.
Once you get your coals leveled sufficiently, it is time to throw a couple of handfuls of wood chips that have been soaked in water for at least an hour. Far from putting the fire out, what this will do is bank the flames yet further while adding that smoky flavor all true barbecue aficionados crave.
If you start seeing billows of black smoke emanating from under the lid, or even worse, flames, you have 1 of 2 problems: Either you have too many coals, or the meat is too close to them. Either way, you just lost style points and your meat will most likely turn out like a piece of burnt rubber. So, unless you are planning on competing with my dad to see who can turn out the world's best Hockey Puck Burgers, all I can say is grill it, don't kill it.
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