Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Saturday, March 2

Gapers Block

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Tim / April 11, 2005 9:46 AM

variety of top quality meats; and ice, tonic, limes and gin.

daruma / April 11, 2005 10:11 AM

Easy on the lighter fluid!!

Steve / April 11, 2005 10:19 AM

What daruma said about lighter fluid. Outdoorsy stores sell little fire starters (blocks of wood shavings, and probably some other junk) that do wonders with coal. The true sophisticate uses the charcoal chimney, but I'm not of that ilk.

As a courtesy, I always use my big grill for carnivorous treats, and a smaller side grill for soy and vegi cooking. It means a lot to my vegetarian friends. Separate tools as well.

Ice. Lots of ice. Fast food joints will often sell it to you, and it's better than the store stuff since it's fresh out of the machine and not coagulated from multiple melts and refreezes. More important if the ice will be used for drinks than just as a cooling mechanism, I suppose.

*Sigh.* Now I miss the days when I had a nice big backyard for grilling. The sideyard just doesn't cut it!

Thurston / April 11, 2005 10:28 AM

Take about two or three spoonfulls of plain, flavorless yogurt and add to it a 1/4 or 1/2 teaspoon each of cumin and cayenne pepper and mix it up so it is kind of a reddish color. Slice up some peppers, squash and zucchini and roll them in the spicy yogurt until they are all coated, then wrap it up in some tin foil and throw it on the grill for 15 minutes or so. Savory as all hell.

Also, this is totally busted but if you need lots of ice and don't want to pay for it, bring some coolers into a motel or hotel and fill them up for free using their machines. I used to do this on road trips, regardless of whether I was staying at the motel. You can totally get away with it.

Tim / April 11, 2005 10:28 AM

Steve makes exellent points. There is no such thing as enough ice; And the two grill rule, we also employ the two grillrule. We are actually adding the 'Ranch Kettle' this year, 1104 sq. inches of grilling heaven. Three grills. Much as there is no such think as a "vodka martini", There is no gas in grilling.

Michael / April 11, 2005 10:51 AM

I live for grilling, so I will offer several of my time-tested tips:

Never pierce steak, or the juices will run, causing it to dry out. Instead, determine the level of "doneness" by poking the steak with your finger. Make a loose fist, and press the area between your thumb and forefinger--that's how rare should feel. Tighten it slightly--that's medium. And when you make a tight fist--that's well-done. (Although this method may sound odd or unreliable, this is how it's done in many steakhouses.)

Not only do I use a charcoal chimney, which is inexpensive, very reliable and doesn't require lighter fluid, but I also use Cowboy brand all-natural charcoal (rather than briquets) which is available at Trader Joe's for only $5 a bag. Unlike briquets, this product contains no petroleates, and burns quicker and hotter.

Many vegetables can be prepared directly on the grill without aluminum foil. Asparagus, bell peppers (slices) and onions (slices) can all be cooked in this manner after brushing with olive oil first. Corn in the husk can also be grilled after soaking in water for approximately an hour.

To get those cool "grill marks" on your food like you see in commercials and in restaurants, be sure to clean the cooking grate first and brush with olive oil.

Finally, if you do not have a brush handy for cleaning the cooking grate, crumpled aluminum foil works very well.

Shasta MacNasty / April 11, 2005 11:24 AM

All of this sounds WAY too good. I expect invitations to all your cook outs this Summer. Seriously... :)

Pete / April 11, 2005 11:30 AM

A fire extinguisher and the phone number for Linda's Pizza.

Jeremy / April 11, 2005 12:25 PM

Here's a cool tip I picked out of some grilling book. Instead of oiling the grate, using tongs, rub a piece of raw bacon across the grate.

Tim / April 11, 2005 12:56 PM

Another think we do is project a movie on an outdoor screen in the yard, there is nothing like a movie with a cookout. The first film this year is 'Philadelphia Story' and I think 'Titus' will be the following week.

paul / April 11, 2005 1:05 PM

I'll repeat - no lighter fluid, and use the cowboy all-natural charcoal. It's even cheaper at Lincolnwood Produce.

The secret to great bbq chicken - parboil the chicken pieces first, brown them on the grill, dip them in your sauce and brown them again. This method is the fastest, allowing your guests to eat juicy chicken with a carmelized skin, and you can join the party without having to worry about anything not being fully cooked and without having to guard the grill.

You might argue that chicken cooked slowly over precisely controlled coals in a covered grill is the best way - and you'd be right - but most bbq parties have at least one person who'll lift the cover every 20 seconds to see what's in there.

Give your food a quarter turn on an oiled grill before you flip it for those perfect presentation marks and serve them with the side you cooked first up.

Also skip the marshmallows for afterwards (remember, they're not vegetarian) and try some bananas, mangos, pears or other fruit sliced an inch thick and sprinkled with some sugar so they get a nice carmelization.

Andrew / April 11, 2005 1:12 PM

Fresh pineapple slices on the grill = yumminess.

I second all the good advice here. I also recommend I'm Just Here for the Food by Alton Brown -- excellent grilling advice in there, along with lots of other cooking mthods. He shows you, for instance, how to use a blowdryer to turn your grill into a blast furnace for cooking.

Blake / April 11, 2005 1:14 PM

What's essential for a good BBQ? My presence!

Cinnamon / April 11, 2005 1:16 PM

For dessert:
Slice a fresh pineapple into thickish rings. Brush with rum. Grill for about a minute on each side. Yumminy yum yum.

If you buy fresh herbs for using in your marinade, don't throw away the sticks or leftover bits. Sprinkle them on your coals. Some of the smoke will infuse whatever you're grilling and that way nothing goes to waste.

Don't squish your burgers. Make the patties the shape you want them to be on the bun, and a little bit thinner and let them cook halfway through before flipping and then let the finish cooking before removing to a bun. Stop the squishing and the constant flipping.

robin.. / April 11, 2005 1:23 PM

gosh, i haven't had a grilling area in so long, but i'll echo other comments: no lighter fluid, but a charcoal chimney (just like dad!); and no constant monitoring and fussing about--just leave things be long enough for the grill to do that voodoo that it do.

The Chad / April 11, 2005 2:49 PM

Get as many "Trixies and Chads" as possible and pile them onto an unstable wooden porch on the back of a Lincoln Park apartment. Begin grilling and watch the immature ex-frat boys get rowdy and pound a lot of Miller Lite while the trixies giggle about the latest Kate Spade bag they bought.

AG / April 11, 2005 2:59 PM

I only buy my hot dogs & smoked sausages from Bobaks, on 55th & Archer. If you wanted tubular meat done right, you gotta get it from a Polish guy.

Joe D. / April 11, 2005 3:36 PM

Who's up for a friendly game of Wiffle-ball?

Tim / April 11, 2005 4:17 PM

A good host monitors all guests glasses for fullness. Which brings us back to ice.

Leelah / April 11, 2005 6:30 PM

Friends. It's no fun to grill alone...

Perch / April 11, 2005 6:38 PM

Ivy-laden Old Style fan cans!

Bratwurst soaked in beer, onions, and butter.

And bringing the busted old boom box out from its exile of doing bathroom duties to pump up the jams.

Mkrmaer / April 11, 2005 8:28 PM

1st floor apartment!

Shylo / April 11, 2005 9:16 PM

One of my clients is a flavor company. I've learned that many times when you see those "grill marks," it's because a chemical has been added to the meat with a brand in that pattern. When the chemical is exposed to heat, char marks appear.

Isn't science wonderful?

mike-ts / April 11, 2005 9:34 PM

Tip 1) Lawn darts! I'll pitch, you catch.

Tip 2) Staying out of Hammond Indiana.

From the Hammond Times:
"Bacon was getting ready to cook using her hardwood-fired outdoor smoker March 3 when two men from the city of Hammond came and told her to put out the fire. A neighbor had complained, and unbeknownst to Bacon, all it takes is one phone call from an unhappy resident to stop a grill from burning. Bacon is potentially facing fines of $2,500 per incident if she refuses to comply with city orders to keep her grill cold and empty."

article on-line:

Mike / April 12, 2005 9:01 AM


I thought Indianans were the wild out-there libertarian ones, what's up with that? Next thing you know, you won't be able to dump bleach in your backyard in Gary.

Erica / April 12, 2005 9:49 AM

Cooler full of beer. Something light, crisp and cheap.

Stuff to throw on the 'cue:
Shrimp skewers, preferably saturated with some sort of spicy/lime-y marinade and coated with Cajun spices.

Zucchini and squash sliced and drenched in Italian dressing or marinade.

Big 'ol burgers made with chunks of onion and seasons.

Beer brats.

Salmon in tinfoil with a few slices of lemon.

Potatoes, green peppers and onions slathered in butter in a tinfoil pouch over the fire.

Andouille sausage.

BYOM: Bring Your Own Meat
BH: Bloody as Hell
BTC: Burnt to a Crisp
Table Scrapper: The bum who feeds off of others' food and drinks at a BYOM cue
The Indolent: The guy who wants to man the grill but when given the responsibility, finds it too much work and wanders off into a conversation leaving the food to burn.
The Iron Chef: The guy who ends up manning the grill and becomes a sort of perfectionist about the grilling to the point where he's totally in a zone. He will accrue braggers rights as a grilling expert in the future.
The Isolationist: The person who brings enough food for themselves and demands space on the grill to cook it to their liking at the time of their preference.
The Flame Rush: That period of time at a BYOM event where everyone all of the sudden has something on the grill cooking at different times at different levels of heat. This time is very stressful for the Iron Chef, but a challenge he lives for.
The Snobus Herbivorous: The vegetarian who won't eat anything that touches the grill because someone's meat might have touched it. They won't even touch the awesome grilled veggies you bought special for him or her.
Protein Packer: The Atkins dieter who has one of each type of meat and refuses the buns.
The Snobus Carnivorous: The guy who brings the filet mignon or Atlantic salmon.
The Slackus Carnivorous: The last-minute guy who brings a month-old package of already-open hot dogs and has the gall to offer you one.
The Freezer Burner: The guy who brings frozen chicken and it takes forever for his stuff to cook.

JT / April 12, 2005 10:27 AM

I'll 2nd/3rd, whatever, some of the previous comments:

Essentials include friends, good frosty beverages, and lots of food. My husband, who doesn't so much as microwave his own Michelena's unless he's hungry enough to chew off his own leg, grills the best damned burgers around. (Big fat YES YES to Cinnamon -- don't squish and torture them!) He uses salt, pepper, garlic and Worcestershire, and G-d only knows what else.

I'm a big fan of "packet" veggies -- toss asparagus, peppers, etc. into a packet of foil with some butter, garlic, salt & pepper. Pierce packet a couple of times to allow steam to escape, then toss onto grill. Yumminess.

My other favorite thing to grill is flank steak (two steaks for like $15 at Costco). Marinate until completely satisfied with any variety of yummy things (garlic, red wine, pepper, teriyaki, honey, plum sauce, etc.) and grill to perfection. Slice and serve with little rolls for a buffet of loveliness along with myriad sauces such as horseradish, various mustards, etc.

Shit, now I'm hungry. And Shasta, you can come for a BBQ any old time.

roderick / April 12, 2005 11:25 AM

Gapers Block grill-out get together?

Sides people! Nothing like a good German potato salad or tangy pasta salad to balance out the meat. I'm as carniverous as the next guy, but I do love my starches on the sides.

By the way, I love being the "Iron Chef" as described in Erica's comment.

Michael / April 12, 2005 11:43 AM

Roderick -

Good suggestion. The people have spoken, GB staff. We are now awaiting the announcement of a GB grill-out this spring/summer--sounds like there are certainly enough grillers amongst us readers to pull it off. So get to plannin'!

Andrew / April 12, 2005 11:52 AM

Don't think a cook-out hasn't crossed our minds. We'll keep you posted.

Bill V / April 12, 2005 11:55 AM

Variety of meats and veggies, light sauce and spice (except for bbq, layer it on baby). Please don't overcook!

Eamon / April 12, 2005 1:29 PM

I'll tell you what: if someone puts together a Gapers Block cook-out, I'll bring one of my deep fryers.

Naz / April 12, 2005 1:34 PM

Eamon - that would actually be awesome - some sweet potato fries on the side would be grand.

miss ellen / April 12, 2005 1:47 PM

wow, this is getting REAL good. the GB staff is listening!

i might have to get my p's baggo set for this one :D it's ain't a BBQ w/o baggo (at least, down on the south side).

Eamon / April 12, 2005 1:48 PM

Fries? No, my friend, I do a little somethin' with sweet potato in the fryer that is guaranteed to blow your mind.

Michael / April 12, 2005 1:53 PM

Miss Ellen -

If you need a partner...I'm your guy. Until someone proves to me otherwise, I am the self-proclaimed Northside baggo champ.

Garioca / April 13, 2005 11:57 AM

My basic rule is low and slow - keep the fire as low (cool) as possible and let the food sit on there a long time. Otherwise you might as well just grab a propane torch to cook the food.

This also allows the grillmeister time to grab some cold ones and mingle with the guests.

And keep it simple! Two or three grills going simultaneously doesn't sound like fun (unless there's a grillmeister for each grill).

FlowFeel / June 14, 2005 9:04 PM

Try eggs on your burger - seriously! So good.

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