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CHEF'S TABLE: Grilling, barbecue aren't the same thing

'From Texas to the Carolinas to Tennessee, barbecue is in the blood. Just don’t invite them for a barbecue and serve up the hot dogs,' says food columnist
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“To all the grills I’ve loved before.”

Spring is in full swing and I’m ready! Sun's out, buns out! Burger buns, that is.

Time to throw back that cover, lift the top and fire up the barbecue grill!

But wait. Which is it?

A barbecue or a grill? Well, they are two very different things, because there's grilling and then there's barbecue.

Grilling is when you crank up the heat, make it really hot and sear a steak, sear a burger, cook a chicken breast, etc.

Barbecue is the art of going low and slow. That means lower heat and much longer cook times. Think pulled pork, barbecued chicken and fall-off-the-bone ribs.

Many of us use the terms “barbecuing” and “grilling” interchangeably. For example, you’ve likely invited the crew over for a backyard barbecue, when really what you’re doing is serving up your famous burgers and grilled chicken. To get technical, that’s not actually a barbecue.

Although barbecuing and grilling both refer to cooking food outdoors over a heat source, they aren’t interchangeable terms for the same cooking technique. The most important factors that differentiate the two are the type of heat used and the total cook time. Barbecue requires a temperature range of 225°F and 275°F, and requires the food be surrounded by wood smoke for part of the cooking time.

Now that that’s settled, welcome to the party!

As you know, it's not only a cooking method but the term barbecue is also widely used to refer to social events, where friends and family gather outdoors to enjoy the seasonable weather and great food. Both the specific types of food served as well as the details of the gathering vary across the country, primarily by region.

Our friends in the south have so many great barbecue traditions and styles. From Texas to the Carolinas to Tennessee, barbecue is in the blood. Just don’t invite them for a barbecue and serve up the hot dogs!

This month, Tennessee hosts one of the largest barbecue competitions of the year — the legendary Memphis event in May, a contest that draws teams from all over the world to celebrate the love of low and slow. A trip to this event is on my bucket list for sure! Maybe next year.

Here at home, when the sun comes out and the weather gets warm, it can be tempting to fire your grill up as soon as soon as possible, but after sitting idle through the winter, your barbecue will appreciate a little love before you stoke the flames.

Take advantage of the barbecue safety and maintenance tips provided by Barrie Fire and ensure you and your family practise safe barbecuing.

By running through a few simple tests and doing a spring cleaning, you can extend the life of your grill and improve the quality of your food.

Here’s how to get your barbecue ready for grilling season:

Test for gas leaks

Gas leaks can be caused by something as simple as a loose connection or a damaged gas hose.

To check your grill for gas leaks, follow these steps:

Mix a 50/50 solution of soap and water.

Brush the solution onto your gas hose and any connection points.

Open your gas supply. If there are leaks, you will see bubbles forming at the source of the leak.

Close the gas supply.

If you see bubbles, determine where they are coming from. If they are coming from the hose, replace the hose.

If you see bubbles coming from a connection, disconnect and reconnect your hose to make sure things are fitting properly and that connections are not cross-threaded.

Run the test again. If you still see bubbles, tighten the gas hose and regulator. You can tighten the regulator and gas tank using your hands, but you should use a wrench to tighten the gas hose and manifold.

Check your burners

During the cold, winter months, spiders like to make a warm and cozy home in your grill’s venturi tubes.

These tubes supply heat to your burners, and if spiders or other insects have infiltrated your grill, they can obstruct the flow of gas and cause uneven flames or even flashback fires.

If you find a blockage in your venturi tubes, you can clean them out using a special venturi brush.

Check your propane tank

Propane cylinders must be inspected and re-certified every 10 years. Check your propane cylinder for date of manufacture.

To check if your propane tank is full, place it on your bathroom scale. A full 20-pound tank will weigh between 37 to 38 pounds, while an empty tank will weigh closer to 18 pounds.

Clean your grill

Your grill needs a thorough spring cleaning before you light it up for the first time.

Scrub the cooking grates, heat plates and warming racks with a grill brush, then wash with warm, soapy water.

Dry thoroughly and apply a coating of vegetable oil to your cooking grates to create a non-stick coating.

This is very important for cast-iron pieces, which will rust if not treated properly.

Remove the grease tray and wash with warm, soapy water.

Wipe down the inside of the grill cabinet to remove any food particles or other debris.

Rinse the outside of your grill with a solution of vinegar and water. For tougher spots, use a specially designed grill cleaning solution.

Job feels to big and greasy for you? You could always call in the pros. The Canadian BBQ Boys run a mobile residential barbecue cleaning service. They're ready to take care of the dirty work for you.

Once your grill is in tip-top shape for the season, there’s no stopping your culinary masterpieces all summer long.

Or if you want to experience the pure bliss of something cooked low and slow, but don’t have a smoking barbecue, check out some great tips and tricks on how to get the best of both worlds and smoke on the grill.

Courtesy of our local experts at Napoleon: Whether you are going to be grilling or barbecue the philosophy is simple. Start with the freshest ingredients you can find and then you've got two choices: long, slow cooking over indirect heat, or red-hot and smoking for fast grilling.

Steaks, burgers, brisket, or pork butt — I’m ready for it all!

I wish you all a safe and happy season grilling and chilling.

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Daniel Clements

About the Author: Daniel Clements

In his bi-weekly Chef's Table column, Daniel will be looking at everything from local crops and trends in the business to seasonal delights and the local restaurant scene
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