An Outsider’s Counterpoint – ‘Admit It: Grilling Is Good’

by Jim Casey

Columnist Josh Barro penned an article on on July 1 titled “Admit It: Grilling Is Bad.”

For starters, I won’t admit it. For enders, I’ll take my stance to the grave.

As intended, the incendiary column (see what I did there?) generated a significant amount of interest on social media just in time for the July 4th weekend. You can check out Barro’s Twitter line for the gist, or buy a membership on the site for his anti-grilling opus. Actually, his title succinctly sums up his stance, as does his first Tweet: “Your grill is filthy, has poor temperature control, and for some idiot reason has the heating element below the food so fat drips into it and catches fire. There’s a better way to cook: In your kitchen.”

Look, Barro is entitled to his opinion. There’s no reason to name-call, as social media warriors are apt to do.

However, allow me to retort for all the grill-loving guys and gals.

Get Fired Up

I routinely bounce between a number of outdoor cooking vessels, including a large Green Egg, a Weber gas grill, a homemade 55-gallon barrel smoker, a 10×8 cement block pit, and my true passion, an open fire pit for cowboy-style cooking.

Now, I don’t have a kitchen capable of cooking a 100-pound pig, hence the cement block pit. So I could bust Barro’s mythical stance right there, but I won’t.

Or, I could tell him about the sensible way to blacken fish, which, if he is doing in his kitchen on a cast iron skillet, he’s really just blackening his house with smoke. The side burner on a gas grill is clutch. And yes, cast iron is king. But maybe Barro has restaurant-quality ventilation in his home?

Or, I could tell him the reason he keeps burning his chicken on the grill, which he mentioned, is because he doesn’t take the time to pound it even, or maintain a consistent temperature, or slow-cook it. It’s grilling, not rocket science, but it does take some preparation and attentiveness.

Or, I could tell him that he can develop complex flavor profiles over an open flame, with the addition and manipulation of smoke. Try charring some Romaine lettuce, asparagus, artichoke, or your favorite veggie over an open flame. Unbelievable.

Don’t even get me started on steaks, or ribs, or wings, or brisket, or pork chops, or burgers. All—and I mean all—are superiorly prepared over an open fire, in my opinion—not an indoor heating element.

Whole hog in the kitchen? Not in my world.

The Call of the Wild

But what it really boils down to—and perhaps that’s Barro’s specialty in the kitchen (boiling)—is this: you either want to be outside or you don’t.

If you don’t want to be outside, stay in the kitchen and cook. I have no problem with that. It is convenient. Or order-in, that’s really convenient.

But, Mother Nature is a magnetic force that constantly pulls me . . . winter, spring, summer, and fall. And while I spend the majority of my workdays in front of a computer, my weekends and off-hours are usually enjoyed around some form of outdoor fire. It’s part primal, and it’s part palatable.

If grilling has a magnetic pull on you, answer the call. Daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly. No one’s judging, here. And, in this article, no one’s “pretending.”