Likely the last barbecue for a while, maybe for the season

Here’s a fun story and a few tips for barbecuing along the way.

I found a couple nice steaks in the markdown section of our local store some time ago, and last night seemed to be the best time to bring them out. There’s rain in the forecast for many days ahead.

In times past, I’d barbecue at least a couple times a week, but that hasn’t been happening for us, for a while.

So now, a barbecued dinner is even more special.

I use a chimney starter and Weber’s starter cubes, or newspaper if I run out of starter cubes. This gives me a quick, nice clean fire, with none of that horrible, gosh-awful lighter-fluid taste. That stuff just can’t be any good for you.

Even so, it took a while for my charcoal to get going; I realized it was maybe a little damp. I often buy a few bags of charcoal at a time, and keep all except one in the garage. That one bag gets to live in a fairly-good-sealing box on the deck. But even then, moisture can invade it. Damp charcoal is tough to get going well, and even then, it doesn’t have the heat output that good dry charcoal will have. My next step will be to use a garbage bag and keep the deck charcoal in that.

A quick aside: I can save a little of my charcoal from one fire to the next by just closing down the vents in my Weber. This practice saves some small amount of charcoal, and the hold-overs stay dry. But I know a guy who takes the charcoal and drops it into water, in an effort to save money. And then because he’s destroyed the charcoal’s ability to make any heat, he has to saturate these mushy blobs of wet carbon with lighter fluid. I try to gracefully decline any of his offers of “barbecue”…

My favorite way to cook potatoes (we had Yukon Golds around) is to use a Weber foil drip pan (they’re strong, inexpensive, and they come in packs of 10). I prep the potatoes by just giving them a good scrubbing, then dry them off. I sprinkle a few pinches of Stephanie Izard’s Rub #1 on them and give them a liberal coating of oil, letting it just run off and into the bottom of the foil pan. The steaks also get the same treatment – couple pinches of Rub #1 rubbed in, and an oil coating, then they’re ready to go.

Hey waitasec, you say. Aren’t you supposed to oil the grill grates like they do all the time on TV?  No! Weber specifically instructs for their kettles (like my good old Platinum here), that you oil the food, and not the grate. I’ve followed this advice for years, and have yet to have any problems. All I do is heat the grate for a couple minutes, then brush it with the grill brush before I start. The grates clean up perfectly, and our food comes out great this way, plus I’m not taking chances with singeing my hair off.

Sorry in advance for the crummy cellphone pics, but that’s what I had at hand. Here we are, ready to go:

I believe strongly in a two-level fire, and once the coals were dumped out and raked out, I put the potatoes in to start cooking. In goes a handful of smoke chips; I don’t bother to soak them either. What a rebel, eh?

Set the timer for 45 minutes…

Time to turn over the potatoes, and add another handful of smoke chips. Steaks go on to sear, 3 minutes per side. This next snapshot was at flip-over time. (Had to give up and use the flash, but it lets you see how the two-level fire works.)

Well, you might say, what about that big flame at the left? Is that a flare-up? Isn’t that going to wreck your steaks?

Nope. With a Weber kettle, open flames can’t exist with the lid on. That’s why they’re so good at smoking and adding smoke flavor. If you have flames, just put the lid back on.

I moved the steaks off the direct heat to oven-rest over by the potatoes for another five minutes, then all was ready for the table.

Today it’s raining hard, and it will be raining for probably another week. So the other half of this dinner will be enjoyed tonight, while we watch it rain.

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