The Victoria Day weekend is just around the corner, the traditional weekend to break out your gear to get some shrimps on the barbie or just about anything else you want to throw on the barbecue. I like to keep up on the latest innovations in outdoor cooking, so that’s why I wandered into the barbecue section of Capital Iron in Victoria to have a chat with Mike Black.
Mike has run the barbecue department for the past 14 years and he’s not just concerned with barbecues, but everything to do with outdoor cooking, which has become much more popular over the past few years. As people watch more home reno and cooking shows, they see people with outdoor kitchens, and they come in and want something like what they see on TV. But I wanted to find out about some basic stuff first, like, how to take proper care of your barbecue. Start by cleaning the actual cooking grids, heat them up to burn off any old stuff, don’t use anything too abrasive if they are porcelain-coated, put some vegetable oil on anything that is cast iron. After the grill, Mike says there’s a bit more work to do. Clean your sear plates and burner as well. The sear plates are what's under the grill. "They took the place of the ceramic or lava rocks on old barbecues, but they still can get grease on them. Scrub them off, and also detach and clean your burners, and unclogging any gummed up holes in the burner."
(make sure you turn off the gas at the source before working on your barbecue!)
If it’s time to get a whole new barbecue, well, of course the sky’s the limit. I had my eye on a couple of portable wood-burning ovens that would make me the envy of the neighbourhood as I cook my pizzas and breads outside, but they range from $2600 up to $5000 dollars, smaller barbecues run the gamut from a couple of hundred dollars to a couple of thousand. Mike says the first thing to think about is how you actually use a barbecue on a regular basis. If you're only feeding a couple of people, you don't need a full sized 'cue. Will you ever use a side burner? What about an infrared burner or a rotisserie? Adding options adds to the costs, especially if you want quality: "You can get a shiny new barbecue with all the bells and whistles for only four or five hundred dollars, but it probably won't hold up as long as something like one of the brand names like Weber, Napoleon or Broil King. The burners will burn out more quickly and they won't be under warranty and you end up spending money on replacement parts."
I have to say, that after owning my Napoleon Barbecue for about 9 or 10 years now, which is one of the higher-end models, I’ll never go back to a cheaper brand, because it is still in pretty good shape after all that time. Mike says that’s what you need to think of when you make your investment.
I got a jump on the griling season this afternoon with some fresh Cobble Hill asparagus from the Pedrosa Asparagus farm, just picked this morning and cooked on a new kind of grilling stone Mike gave me to try that is made of basalt, it’s full of little holes and pockets but can get super hot without letting your food fall through the grill, and when you want to clean it you just turn it over and use the other side and the dirty side burns clean…great accessory for 50 bucks.