As I recall from my American History class, America declared its independence from England specifically so the settlers could light firecrackers and barbecue meat without fear of repercussion.
Those are truths that are self-evident, and that’s why we celebrate the 4th of July from early afternoon until late at night. We need plenty of time to cook the meat properly — i.e., slowly — and to enjoy the sights and sounds that beckon once the sun has set.
With all of that in mind, let me offer my best 4th of July safety tip: Don’t place any firecrackers on your barbecue grill!
A few other holiday barbecuing reminders…
1. Different fuel, different flavors. Most of us use Kingsford charcoal or a similar product when barbecuing, and that’s certainly a go-to choice. But when you fire up the barbecue tomorrow, mix in a few chunks of wood (preferably oak) with the briquettes, and you’ll be amazed by how the flavor spectrum of the food expands. By the way, a chunk of oak is preferable to oak chips because the chips tend to burn very quickly… which leads us to our next reminder…
2. Take it slow. High-quality barbecue requires time to cook — around six hours for ribs, and around three hours for chicken. Pulled pork or brisket can take up to 16 hours. The time varies by the food and the temperature of the grill, of course, but the point is this: Barbecued food tastes better when it has been slow-cooked.
3. Spice it up. You really don’t need anything more than salt and pepper to enliven the flavor of the meat being barbecued, but there’s nothing wrong with adding additional flavors. Identify spices you like, sprinkle them on the meat and get ready to delight your senses.
4. The sauce question. If you’ve added spices to your meat, you really don’t need sauce. Then again, many people define barbecue by the sauce, so go ahead and add some. But do it at the very end of the cooking process, and don’t add too much; otherwise, it will obliterate the flavors of the spices.
5. Beer alternatives. Beer is the choice of many barbecue fans, but there are tasty options for wine lovers. In an era when vintners are toning down the flavors that oak barrels provide, the smoky trait imparted by some barrels can be a real complement to barbecued meats. That includes a rich, buttery, smoky Chardonnay paired with grilled chicken. Among red wines, Syrah often has a smoky quality, and Zinfandel has luscious fruit flavors that meld nicely with the char of grilled meats.
On the 4th of July — when we celebrate life, liberty and the pursuit of barbecue happiness — take time to toast our independence with a glass of wine.