There is no such thing as grilling season in our household. It’s a year-round affair for us.
I’ve grilled in the pouring rain. I’ve chipped a sheet of ice off the grill to get her fired up. I’m happy in 100+ degree heat. I’ve grilled burgers, hot dogs, brats, steaks, ribs (of many creatures), pork loin, pork tenderloin, pork chops, big chickens, little chickens, chicken breasts, leg of lamb, rack of lamb, lamb loin, lobster, crab, an ocean of fish, oysters, shish kebab, veggies, fruit, liver (bleck), and anything else we’ve stumbled across. If you have any new ideas, I’m game.
I like to grill.
Reasons why grilling is awesome:
- We save an incredible amount of money versus going out
- It allows me to do my part for cooking
- It’s the best way – by far – to cook many kinds of food
- It’s a great way to entertain
But it’s not all filets and fine wine. There are some drawbacks:
- See aforementioned rain, ice, heat, etc.
- The stakes are high – if you screw up an expensive cut of meat, you feel quite the fool
- There’s a possum who frequents our backyard, and one of these days he’s going to hide inside the bottom of my grill and scare me
- My 4 year old answers the question of “what’s your favorite food?” with “rack of lamb”, which sounds a bit pretentious
In general, the pros heavily outweigh the cons.
I feel like cooking is an art, whereas grilling (at least with a gas grill) is a science. Once I’ve mastered a dish, I almost never screw it up. And the perfectly timed script I follow for well-known meals means I’m free to drink beer, hang out with my kids, and maybe even watch football, all while “working”. Outsourcing this effort, if you can call it that, to a restaurant (with a rather high markup) doesn’t make much sense to me.
Do We Really Save Money Grilling?
If we went out to eat what we serve off our grill, we’d break the bank. From that perspective, you could say we save thousands of dollars each year by grilling. But in reality, if we couldn’t grill, we’d never eat so fancy so often, so it’s not quite that simple.
It’s better to think that we’re able to enjoy really fine dining whenever we want for less than the cost of Burger King. We could save even more by eating lentils, or ramen, or gruel, but that’s taking the whole savings idea a little too far.
If we were super wealthy, we’d probably eat very similarly to how we eat right now, so perhaps that’s the best measure that we’re “getting rich with grilling”.
Grilling also teases the ol’ discussion of frugal versus cheap. A really cheap person would never order steak in a restaurant. A frugal person might, but once he learns he can cook it just as well at home (and save the 300% markup on wine to boot…), he’s going to be firing up the grill.
The Real Reason Grilling Is Great
When I was growing up, we ate every meal together at the table, and almost all of them were home-cooked. It felt like we were outliers then, and that was in the 70’s and 80’s.
We’re doing the same with my family, and it has to be even more rare nowadays. It helps that my wife also grew up with family meals and wanted to keep the tradition, but the real reason it‘s possible for us is because my wife is an awesome cook. Other than hard-boiling eggs and making goulash (both of which I dominate), I’m best kept out of the kitchen. Thankfully, we have her expertise to draw upon, and it makes every meal special.
It does lead to a bit of imbalance, though – before dinnertime she’s doing whatever it is that cooking-oriented people do, and I’m staying out of her way. We have a great meal, but it’s a lot of work for her on many a weekday night.
But on nights when we have a bit more time, and definitely on weekends, we go to the grill. And that is my realm – my wife pretends she doesn’t even know how to light the grill to make me feel manly.
Because there’s no rush and I’m able to help, it’s a lot more relaxing for everyone, and it feels like the family event stretches to include all of the preparation activities. We’ll all hang out as the meal is prepared and cooks, and since my wife is relieved of the main dish, she’s able to have fun creating appetizers (this is indeed fun for her), hanging with the kids, and even (shhhhh) enjoying a glass of wine. My sons have their roles too: they’ll demand to inspect what’s cooking on the grill, study it carefully, then declare, “Yum!”. Then they go back to playing.
Eating at home gives us better, healthier meals, saves us a ton of money, and provides another great time to connect as a family. Grilling takes that to a new level because I can help and we can go with really high-end fare with just a modest increase in cost. You’d be insane to take two young kids to a really nice steak restaurant, but you can get all of the good, and none of the bad, of a great restaurant experience with the help of your grill.
The Kitchen Is for Experts. The Grill Is for Everyone.
Eating great food at home can only happen if someone knows what they’re doing.
Learning how to cook really well is, I suspect, a major effort and investment of time. If you don’t know how, I certainly can’t help (unless you’re a big fan of goulash…).
But grilling is for everyone. Even newbies can learn how to grill the most exotic of fares fairly easily. There are tons of great recipes that go way beyond hot dogs and burgers, and once you’ve mastered a portfolio of them, you can start a rotation of restaurant-quality awesomeness at a fraction of the cost.
That is, of course, where I’m headed with this. My favorite grilling recipes are going to start pouring out on this site like sausage out of a meat grinder (inconsistently, with numerous stoppages along the way). If I can share some hard-won knowledge I’ve picked up over the years, that’ll be great, and if I can learn something from you, noble reader, even better!
Are you a novice, a casual dabbler, or a true aficionado of the grill? What’ll be making its way on your grill for this Labor Day weekend?
Picture courtesy of Romi