Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 04.15.06
Stanstead, Quebec


Barbecuing ~ It's really quite simple

Can you smell it? It's in the air. Even if you're inside right now, you can smell it in your mind's eye, or rather your mind's nose. It's the smell of spring: searing animal flesh - barbecue.

Some people long for baseball season, others barbecue season. They can't wait for that first hunk of meat cooked outdoors on the grill, that first bite of burger, that first thrilling risk of salmonella poisoning.

I cooked my first steak a week before we put the clocks forward, which is like the spring training of barbecue season. I ended up barbecuing in the dark, but that was okay. I was guided by the porch light and the flames shooting out of the propane connection.

Some people might worry about flames emerging from the bottom of their barbecue and smelling propane in the air. Not me.

These are my barbecue's quirks that I alone know how to master.

This is why barbecuing is my domain, just as I control the finicky DVD remote because I'm the only one who knows you have to squeeze the top, press the button, and fiddle with the little infrared bulb all at the same time.

I don't take care of the barbecue as the owner's manual suggests. It stays out uncovered all year round. The manual says that in the spring you're supposed to inspect every part and clear away any debris or spiders' nests that may have accumulated over the winter.

My opening routine consists of clearing off the snow and lifting the lid. As for spider webs, I figure I have a pretty good solution for clearing those away: 15,000 BTUs.

Purists will say I'm abusing my barbecue, that it must be carefully maintained and kept as clean as your kitchen stove. To them I say "Pish-tush!"(but not to their faces). The whole beauty of barbecuing is that you don't have to clean anything.

What about the grill? you ask. You have to clean that, right?


This is a common misconception about barbecue maintenance.

There is no need to clean the grill after use.

That leftover layer of grease, fat, and crusted barbecue sauce protects against rust and/or spiders. The next time you warm up the barbecue, lingering bacteria are destroyed by our good friend fire. Any remaining residue is then scraped away by the only cooking tool the barbecue chef really needs, the wire brush.

The act of barbecuing is itself quite simple.

    With one hand, fuss over the meat, moving portions from intense burning hotspots to mildly warm dead zones until all portions are equally charred black on the outside and "done enough" on the inside.

    With the other hand, hold a beer. Complain frequently to those back in the house about "poor heat distribution" to make this seem like work.

There are two types of barbecues, those whose automatic starters break after 25 starts and those whose automatic starters break after 40 starts.

Either is equally effective in convincing you that it really doesn't matter whether you leave the barbecue out in the rain. Eventually you will end up using the "drop match and run" method of lighting your grill.

You may notice that I haven't addressed the propane-versus-charcoal debate. That's because as far as I'm concerned, there is no debate. Always choose propane.

Then, once you neglect your barbecue to the point that it performs not so much as a propane grill but a propane torch, gut it and convert it into a charcoal-holding receptacle. Repeat every five years.

Finally, remember that barbecuing is an idiosyncratic process. And if you ever get in trouble, there's always a handy number to call. It's 9-1-1.