Ahh, summer, with its long sunny days, trips to the beach, and time spent outdoors with friends and family. But nothing evokes images of the fleeting summer months more perfectly than the amazing aromas of freshly cut grass, flowers in full bloom and, of course, the savoury smells of the backyard barbecue.
When our long, frigid winter finally comes to an end, Canadians can’t wait to fire up the grill, throw on some fresh fish, meat or veggies, and invite friends over for good food and good times. In fact, barbecuing is becoming much more than a seasonal affair in our local neighbourhoods. Many people are looking to invest in a high quality grill that can be used year round, providing a backdoor extension to the kitchen.
If you’re thinking of investing in a new Q, give a thought to the hottest grilling trend this year. It recalls the bygone days of wood, charcoal and slow cooking, all of which means bigger flavour. Whether you know it by the name of Kamado Joe, the Broil King Keg or the Big Green Egg, porcelain cookers have taken the barbecue world by storm, encouraging home chefs to embrace a slower, more versatile style of cooking that doesn’t necessarily mean instant gratification, but definitely means great taste.
What are the overall benefits? Well, let your taste buds decide. “Charcoal is a whole different ball game,” says Anna Chafe, president at Dolphin Pools & BBQs in Newmarket. It’s a slower cook, but it pays off in taste, with the unique smoky flavour of the wood. Just try a steak or pork on a charcoal or slow roast grill to see for yourself.
The popularity of barbecue-style restaurants and Ribfest festivals across the province has inspired a huge influx of customers wanting to try to reproduce their own perfect pulled pork or ribs in their own backyard, says Chafe. And now it’s possible with the right tools, patience and easy-to-use smokers. “If you want to do a lot of slow-cooking, and spend the day cooking a roast, a pig or a turkey, you’ll want a charcoal grill,” she says.
And the cost is relative. You may pay more for a Big Green Egg or porcelain barbecue, but the warranty is for life.
More people than ever are also willing to invest in an accessory grill, owning a quality gas grill but also a charcoal grill or smoker. Then you can use whichever one makes sense based on how much time you have and what you are cooking. “I think more people are becoming foodies, and they’re enjoying cooking,” says Ron David, owner of Topfire Fireplace & Barbecue in Aurora. “It’s a creative process. They want to get a good grill so they can explore those possibilities.”
While you can’t beat the authentic flavour of the charcoal barbecue, you can purchase an optional charcoal grill to stick inside of your gas grill, says David. The Napoleon gas grills are another tempting option, with infrared and dual function burners, which are perfect for boiling a pot of water or cooking with a wok. “Generally, gas is faster and more convenient,” David says.
He adds that a good quality barbecue is built to withstand use all year round, even throughout our bitter winters. The key is to avoid getting distracted by all the bells and whistles. “You go into some stores and they have all these features, but the quality isn’t there,” he says. “Really look at a barbecue. Take it apart – take out the grills and sear plates. Look at what those items are made of.”
With outdoor living growing in popularity, the barbecue is becoming an essential feature of any backyard. And a wide-range of options brings a wide-range of tastes to explore.
Dolphin Pools & BBQs
Topfire Fireplace & Barbecue
By Allison Dempsey and Charlotte Ottaway