South East Camper
Dutch Oven & Outdoor Cooking, Backpacking, Hiking and Camping
See our Adventures around the Carolina's and the South East United States
Dutch Oven & Outdoor Cooking
» A Brief History of the Dutch Oven » What Kind to Buy?
- Aluminum or Cast Iron?
» Seasoning Cast Iron
» Caring for your Cast Iron
» Cooking with Charcoals
» Why Use a Fire Pan?
» Open Fire Cooking
» "Old Black Magic" Poem
» Dutch Oven Recipes

Backpacking & Hiking
» The Origins of Backpacking
» Backpack Stoves
» Preparing Backpack Meals
» The "Leave No Trace" Philosophy
» Backpacking Recipes

Barbecue, Grilling & More
» Origins of Grilling & Barbecue
» Grilling Methods
» Knowing the Grills Temperature
» Grilling & Barbecue Recipes

Chatham Artillery BBQ
Chatham Artillery BBQ
Competition BBQ Secrets

» Camp eBook Cookbooks
» Link Partners
» Link Exchange
» Site Map

Favorite Charities
» March of Dimes - Please Help

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» "Coming Soon"

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North Carolina
» Crowders Mountain State Park

------ National Parks -------
South Carolina
» Kings Mountain Nat'l Military Park

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North Carolina
» George Poston Park

------ Private Parks & More -------
» Chimney Rock Park

Sierra Trading Post

Peak to Peak Trail and Wilderness Links
Peak to Peak Trail and Wilderness Links

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Welcome to South East Camper, We have upgraded our entire site to a blog format. We hope you like it. By setting it up as a blog it will be much easier to update. All the information seen on the old webpages will stay intact and will also be included in our New SouthEast Camper Blog. This has been a long time coming and since my last update. I have plenty of new recipes, pictures and more to add. I've moved into my new house and have settled in. It is time to build a fire and start cooking.

Welcome to South East Camper,

Dan and Katherine on Lake Murray - Columbia, South Carolina My name is Dan and my wife is Katherine.
(photo taken on Lake Murray in South Carolina)

We thoroughly enjoy the outdoors, especially backpacking, hiking and camping. Lately it's been day hikes with the grandchildren. Along with those activities you need to eat, so we took another one of our favorite things to do and that's cooking and brought it outdoors. We especially like campfire cooking and Dutch oven cooking using charcoal briquettes. Almost any meal that's cooked at home can be transformed with minimal effort and cooked outside. Many of the Dutch oven recipes here at South East Camper have come from the home.

to read more

Thank you,
Dan & Katherine

BBQ Chicken, Scallopped Potatoes & Mexi-Corn Cherry Chocolate Dump Cake Schredded BBQ Beef & Grilled Spuds Prepare to Smoke a Sirloin Tip Roast Sirloin Tip Roast Smoking Sirloin Tip Roast in Dutch oven with Chopped Onions
The weather finally broke and we cooked up a storm - March 2007 - Spring is here!

Pictures left to right: BBQ Chicken Legs with Scalloped Potatoes and Mexi-Corn.
Chocolate Cherry Dump Cake, Schredded BBQ Beef with Grilled Spuds.
Preparing to smoke a Beef Roast. Smoking the Beef Roast. The Beef Roast has been
smoked, but not quite done, will finish it and shred it in the Dutch oven.

Day hike at Crowders Mountain Day hike at Crowders Mountain Day hike at Crowders Mountain Day hike at Crowders Mountain Day hike at Crowders Mountain Day hike at Crowders Mountain
Crowders Mountain State Park - Gastonia, North Carolina - December 2006

-- Dutch Ovens --
* A Brief History of the Dutch Oven *

The Dutch oven was developed in the early eighteenth century in England and Holland. Some say the Dutch ovens got thier name from the casting process, by the peddlers who sold them or by the Pennslyvania Dutch who used them in everyday life.

When the first Europeans were coming to the America they brought Dutch ovens with them, even Christopher Columbus, had a cast iron pot listed on his manifest. The Pilgrims Dutch ovens were so highly valued in early America, that George Washington's mother supposedly had her Dutch ovens in her will.

Lewis and Clark brought Dutch ovens with them on their trek through the Lousiana Purchase and onward to the Pacific Ocean. The mountain men that followed them west used Dutch ovens for cooking and trading with Native Americans.

The Dutch oven was a big part of the chuck wagon and cowboy life during cattle drives of the late 1800's.

"These Dutch ovens were in many cases the only cooking utensils used by the early settlers. The meat, vegetable, or bread was put into the pot, which was then placed in a bed of coals, and coals heaped on the lid." It was featured in an article about Abraham Lincoln in McClure's Magazine in 1896 by Mrs. Ott, of Petersburg, Illinois.

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* What kind to Buy? Aluminum or Cast Iron …. *

Before you buy, decide what kind Dutch oven cooking you want to do and the size that best fits your needs. If this will be your first Dutch oven a 12" Dutch oven will do the trick as most recipes are made for this size.

As with anything check your Dutch oven for defects and blemishes. The legs on a Dutch oven should be straight. The lid should fit easily with a small amount of play. The lid should be able to be turned without sticking. I've found good cast iron Dutch ovens at yard sales and flea markets.

See the chart below for sizes and weights.

Cast Iron Dutch Ovens:

Diameter Weight (lbs) Capacity Serves
5" 1 qt. 1-3
8" 2 qt. 2-6
12" 18 6 qt. 6-16
12" D 19¾ 8 qt. 6-22
14" 24½ 8 qt. 8-25
14" D 27 12 qt. 10-30
16" 33 12 qt. 12-40

Aluminum Dutch Ovens:

Diameter Weight (lbs) Capacity Serves
10" 4 qt. 2-8
12" 6 qt. 6-18

("D" = Deep, 1½ to 2 inches deeper than a regular oven)

The cast iron Dutch oven has been around for a hundred years or more and about 20 or so years ago came along the aluminum ones. The aluminum ones weight in at about two thirds less than cast iron, so if weight is an issue, than aluminum is just fine. Besides being lighter aluminum has other advantages, like being easy to clean, can be washed with soap and does not need to be seasoned. The draw backs are in cooler weather aluminum does not retain its heat like cast iron and because of this the browning of foods is harder.

May your coals burn hot and your kettles be black.

Dan & Katherine

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* Seasoning of Cast Iron Dutch Ovens and Skillets *

This will be the only time that that you will ever use soap and water on your cast iron. Clean your new cast iron with hot soapy water to get the film off that was applied for shipping and storage. Scrub your cast iron and rinse thoroughly, then dry completely.

Place your cast iron in the oven and heat it up warm to the touch. This will finish the drying process and will open up the pores in the iron to receive the wipe down of a good vegetable oil. Wipe your cast iron with a thin coating of oil and put it back into the oven, turn the temperature up to 350° and bake it for an hour. It will smoke during this process depending on how much you oiled it. After an hour turn off the oven and let the cast iron cool to the touch, but still warm and repeat. Do this process for a total of three times and your new cast iron will be ready for cooking.

Resist cooking anything acidic like tomatoes until you have used your cast iron four or five times. Many acidic foods will eat the finish of newly cured cast iron.

The more you use your cast iron the darker it will get. You should not need to season your cast iron again, unless a rust spot appears or it goes rancid from lack of use or long term storage.

I love my cast iron and use it daily for all my cooking needs indoor or out.

Dan & Katherine

Old & Neglected 10 inch Dutch Oven Old & Rusty Lid for a Dutch Oven Well Seasoned 10 inch Dutch Oven
Old neglected & rusty 10 in. Dutch Oven and Lid, Scrubbed,
Cleaned and Seasoned, Just like new.

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* Caring for your Ovens and Skillets *

A good Dutch oven or cast iron skillet will last a lifetime if properly cared for. Once your cast iron is well seasoned clean up is a snap. After cooking, wash it out with hot water (NO SOAP!) and dry completely inside and out. While it is still warm wipe it down with a thin, thin layer of oil, it should have a nice shine. Don't over do it as pooled up oil will turn rancid and become hard and varnish like.

Store your cast iron in a moisture free, low humidity place. If it's going to be stored for extended periods, place a paper towel in it to absorb any condensation or moisture that may occur.

Now for aluminum oven, just scrub and dry, that's it.

I keep all my ovens in carry bags to keep the oiled finish from getting on everything and collecting dust and dirt during storage or transport.

These small steps will ensure a lifetime of service from your cookware.

Dan & Katherine

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* Cooking with Charcoals *

How many charcoal briquettes do I use?

Where do I put them?

Well, that depends on what you're cooking and after some time you will do it without thinking about it. Do not be scared, it will start to come naturally.

The rule of thumb is 2 times the diameter of your Dutch oven:

If you are using a 12" Dutch oven you would start with 24 briquettes. Then divide it back by two to have two amounts 12 & 12. Then take two from one and add to the other for a group of 10 & 14. Use 10 on the bottom and 14 on top of your oven for general cooking. Remember this is just a rule of thumb for starting. If you are frying foods then add more to the bottom. If you are baking add more to the top. Then by adding and subtracting briquettes is just like turning the heat up and down on your oven at home.

If you are frying bacon or meats start with 8 or 10 coals underneath and add more if needed. Lay the coals out in a circle evenly spaced with the oven legs with two or three spaced in the center. After a short while give the oven a quarter turn to spread the heat evenly. The coals could be laid out in a checkerboard pattern, what ever suits your fancy. Have fun with it. When sautéing remove a few charcoals after you have the heat you need for a slower, lower cooking temperature.

For baking it is different, lay out about 4 to 6 coals the same as above, then lay coals side by side around the rim of the lid and a few in the middle next to the handle. While baking spin the lid a quarter turn and the entire oven a quarter turn for even heat distribution. When cooking biscuits or breads they can be put right on the bottom of the oven. When cooking something like stuffing, which has more moisture a few more coals could be added to the bottom, but be careful. As for pie it is best to bake it in a pie tin and on a trivet staying off the bottom and it will bake more like your oven at home.

The following is not etched in stone, but is a good starting point:

Quantity of charcoal = 2 times the Diameter of the Dutch oven = 325º ±.
With each additional charcoal adds 10-15º to Cooking Temperature.

Bake = coals in rings 2:1 ratio top over bottom
Stew or Simmer = coals split evenly
Broil = coals in checkerboard 2:1 ratio top over bottom
Fry or Boil = all coals on the bottom

Of course the number of briquettes used will vary depending on the size of your Dutch oven, more for a big 16 incher and one or two for a 5 incher.

The dutch ovens lid can be used as a griddle if turned over, use a lid stand turned over to accommodate the lids handle. Then place coals / briquettes undeneath and cook away. It can be used for scrambling eggs, pancakes, french toast, bacon and more. The advantage of this is that the lid is slightly bowl-shaped, so even if it is not level your food will not run out.

Stack Cooking with your Dutch OvensStack cooking is the practice of stacking your Dutch ovens one on top of another, starting with the largest to the smallest and cooking a different item in each one. This conserves fuel, but you must be careful. The disadvantage of stacking is that if the bottom oven needs to be checked, all the Dutch ovens on top of it must be moved first. It make a good site and everyone will be amazed.

In my world lighter fluid is a NO-NO!

Charcoal StarterI use a chimney starter to get my charcoal briquettes started. All you need is old newsprint, roll the paper from the edges towards the center like you were making a pillow and put in bottom of chimney. Then add the desired amount of briquettes plus a few spares and light the paper. If it's windy or your briquettes are damp add a small amount of vegetable oil to your paper. If you are cooking a dish that will take longer than 1 to 1½ hours, put a few briquettes in the chimney, add one or two hot coals, then top off with more and you can keep coals going all day.

Remember, if you have a chimney starter, charcoal and paper you can cook anywhere and no messy fluids the tote around.

Dan & Katherine

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* Why Use a Fire Pan? *

A New Oil Drain Pan used as a Fire Pan The best way to build a minimal impact campfire is to use a self-contained unit known as a fire pan. A fire pan is a metal tray or pan, like a metal oil drain pan (new of course) or a hub cap at least three inches high.

It seems that everywhere you look these days at all the outdoor recreation areas there is an old rusted , metal fire ring of some sort, old blackened rocks with mounds of ashes and half-burnt wood, YUK! and the ground has been sterilized.

The use of a fire pan can reduce the impact of fire on the ground, rocks and vegetation and it's relatively compact size encourages the burning of less wood. A fire pan user can easily dispose of the ashes without leaving behind the eyesore of old coals and blackened rocks. In the "Leave No Trace" style nobody will know a fire was ever there.

How to use a Fire Pan:

  1. Elevate your fire pan on bricks or rocks so the heat does not sterilize the ground or damage vegetation.
  2. Burn all your wood or charcoals down into a fine, white ash.
  3. Dispose of ashes by burying them in small hole or by scattering in a manner that won't leave them visible to others.
  4. I suggest the garbage (after they have cooled) or pack them out.
A Commercial Fire Pan is now available and very convenient for camping, also a Metal Cook Table is excellent for Dutch Oven Cooking. The use of these save the ground and your back, it keeps you from a lot of bending over.

A Metal Cook Table A Portable Fire Pan

For backpacking a lightweight stove is the lowest impact way to cook your meals as opposed to building a fire.

Please, Enjoy the Outdoors Responsibly

Dan & Katherine

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* Open Fire Cooking *

Preparing a place for open fire cooking should be away from overhead power lines, tree limbs and dining canopies, basically anything overhead and within 20 feet of your campfire placement. You should only set up a fire pit in a place where it will be permanent.

There are three types of layouts we like for open fire cooking.

A Cowboy Cookset used for Outdoor Cooking 1. An oval shape ring of medium sized rocks with a cowboy cookset at one end for hanging your ovens and a fire at the other end making more coals to cook with. This is the ideal setup for your cowboy cookset and Dutch oven cooking if you have a place in your yard. By hanging your ovens on hooks of different lengths is how you control the cooking heat. The longer the hook the higher the temperature and the shorter the hook the cooler, it's like turning the heat up and down. Your friends will be surprised.

2. In the ways of the old west would be to dig a rectangular hole 18 inches wide, 12 to 16 inches deep and as long as needed to fit your cook set. What I like about this type of pit is laying five or six steel rods (rebar) across the pit spaced evenly apart to support your skillets or other cookware that cannot be hung from the cowboy cookset. After the fire has gone out the hole can be filled back in just like the cowboy cook would do on the cattle drive.

A Keyhole Fire Pit for Outdoor Cooking3. A keyhole fire pit looks similar to its name. It is a large flat rock standing vertical in the back. (See sketch) Then lay out medium sized rocks in a line on both sides of the flat rock to resemble a keyhole. Make it as wide as needed for a cooking grate. Build a medium fire in the area in front of the flat rock and as you make coals push them up against the rocks to hold in more heat. Push more coals up against the flat rock tapering down towards to front. The back of the campfire will be your high heat area and front being your low heat area giving better heat control. The cooking grate can be used for quick grilling, holding a fry pan and making coffee.

A campfire for keeping warm and a campfire for Dutch oven cooking are two different things. To keep warm you want that roaring fire that continues to burn with medium high flames. For open fire cooking you want to start with a roaring fire and continue to feed the fire for a while. The purpose is to feed the fire with as much wood to make the amount of coals you will need to cook over. The fire will die back as the wood burns leaving you with hot coals. These hot coals are what you want to cook over, not over fire itself. It is best to keep a fire going to the side, continually making more coals for all your campfire cooking needs.

As soon as we can setup our cowboy cookset in the new space, we will replace the campfire cooking sketches with real pictures. (The sketches are compliments of my grandchildren)

Dan & Katherine

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-- Backpacking & Hiking --
* The Origins of Backpacking & Hiking *

Man has been roaming the world for millennia and carrying their possessions with them. A Traveler and his dog in the Old WestThe military used hiking as a form exercise and training, so I guess we have been hiking for a longtime. The modern term of hiking has come to be known as an outdoor activity that is done while visiting a national park or camping. The National Scenic Trail Act of 1968 made large areas of land available for recreational use by the public. This greatly contributed to the growth of hiking. The act help set up the myriad of trails crossing this great country.

Short hikes taking less than a day have become known as "Day Hikes". These day hikes only require some water and maybe a snack. These longer hikes require additional gear and food for extended stays outdoors is where the term "Backpacking" was developed. To some you must spend at least one overnight stay to say that you are backpacking. Many backpacking trips are just weekend events while others can last for weeks or more.

The original idea of backpacking will never be known. In today's world backpacking is known as a cheap affordable way to see the world. Many people backpack to see the country on a small budget, but many more do it to escape the daily routines and see nature up close.

Some people hike to enjoy nature, some people hike to achieve inner serenity, some people hike for the physical and mental challenge.

Dan & Katherine

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* Backpacking Stoves *

There is some question as to who invented the pressurized burner stove. Most give credit to F. W. Linqvist, who in the 1880s was granted a patent for a kerosene-fueled burner. Some say that he bought the design, but later went on to develop the Primus brand of stoves we see today. W. C. Coleman was perfecting the two burner camp stove in the early 1920's. This is when the Coleman Company began according to historians and by 1972, Coleman was making small single burner multi-fuel backpack stoves.

The simplest stove is a burner with fuel that burns till the fuel is gone or snuffed out. The two most popular are solid fuel (Hexamine tablets) and liquid fueled (methylated spirits).

The modern backpacking and camp stoves are pressurized burner stoves that operate on almost any flammable liquid like white gas, unleaded gas, alcohol or kerosene. A Pressurized Liquid Fuel Backpack Stove These stoves need to be pressurized by a hand pump on the fuel tank. The liquid fuel stoves are popular for backpacking in United States as they generally operate well in cold weather. The liquid fuel costs less than gas fuel and readly available. The disadvantages to liquid fueled stoves require priming, thus some skill is needed to operate them. Using liquid fuel stove in a tent is difficult or even dangerous. The fuel does not burn as cleanly as gas fueled stoves.

The newer, more compact and convenient stoves are gas. A Compact Cartridge Style Backpack StoveThe gas stove runs on gas filled cartridges of propane, butane or a combination of both. These stoves have the greatest variety of styles and sizes. The gas fueled stove has many advantages; the fuel burns cleanly. They are simple to use, open and adjust the valve and light. The disadvantage is gauging how much gas you have. They do not operate very well in colder weather.

The use of backpacking stoves widely spread as backpackers became aware of the impact they had on the envioment. Before the 1960s backpackers would build a fire with what was available, fallen limbs and leaf litter. This left black fire marks on the ground that could take years to recover. These scars from fires in heavily used areas led to even more backpackers using protable stoves.

Camp stoves and backpack stoves differ greatly as to size and function. A camp stove is usually propane or liquid fuel with multiple burners like at home, often having a lid for a windscreen or storage. Camp stoves cook more traditional type meals requiring longer cook times. A backpacking stove is minimal in function and scale. Most backpacking stoves are designed for heating water quickly or very quick type frying, making them excellent for simple backpacking recipes.

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* Preparing Backpack Meals and Backpacking Recipes *

Freeze drying is a dehydration process used to preserve foods. The process makes them more convenient for transport and long term storage. Freeze drying works by freezing the food and then reducing the surrounding pressure and adding enough heat to allow the frozen water to be transformed from a solid to a gas, then the gas is removed. Today there are hundreds of freeze dried backpack meals that can be purchased at any outdoor outfitter or through the internet.

Dehydrating or drying is another way of preserving foods by removing the moisture at a low temperature, usually between 90 & 145 degrees, which prevents or limits the spoilage due to microorganisms and decay. The drying of foods in the sun and wind has been around since the ancient times.

Both of the these forms of drying foods are great for backpack meals. The use of a home dehydrator is more economical than purchasing freezed dried meals. Both backpack meals and backpacking recipes can be assemblied at home and rehydrated on the trail saving time and money.

All the campfire cooking and Dutch oven recipes ingredients can be dried and sealed for your next backpacking or camping trip. Get your favorite recipe and prepare it, dehydrate it, seal it and your ready, Yes, dehydrate the whole meal. For example, make your mom's tomato sauce with meat, garlic, onions etc. Dry it. The sauce will be like fruit leather. Tear it into pieces and seal in a ziplock. Cook your pasta and dry it, this sounds weird but it takes less time to cook than it would normally. Break it up and seal it. On a day hike or backpacking trip bring your water to a boil, add your homemade backpack meal and simmer. All you need is ten minutes for really good eats.

We have dried things and prepared them on the trail that you would not believe, spaghetti, burrito meat, chicken and tuna, not to mention vegetables.

Dan & Katherine

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* The "Leave No Trace" Philosophy *

Plan Ahead and Prepare

Read and understand the regulations and concerns of the area you are visiting. Restrictions are based on past abuse by others and the special conditions or needs of that area.

Camp and / or travel in smaller groups. They are quieter and have less impact on your surrounding area.

Avoid the popular areas during heavy use times.

Learn how to properly store your food to protect it from bears and other animals.

Repackage food to minimize waste.

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

Damage to land occurs when visitors trample vegetation or communities of organisms beyond recovery. The resulting barren areas develop into undesirable trails, campsites, and soil erosion.

In high-use areas, campers should concentrate their activities where vegetation is already absent. Minimize resource damage by using existing trails and selecting designated or existing campsites.

In more remote, the less traveled areas, campers should generally spread out. When hiking, take different paths to avoid creating new trails that cause erosion. When camping, disperse tents and cooking activities and move camp daily to avoid creating permanent looking campsites and dead zones. Always choose the most durable surfaces available: rock, gravel, dry grasses, or snow.

Pack Out, What You Pack In

This simple saying motivates backcountry visitors to take their trash home with them. It makes sense to carry out materials taken there by you and others. Minimize the need to pack out food scraps by carefully planning meals. Accept the challenge of packing out everything you bring. If you see something on the ground and you know it does not belong, be nice, pick it up and pack it out.

Dispose of Waste Properly

Backpackers & Hikers create body waste and waste water that require proper disposal.

Our waste water contaminates natural water sources. Strain food particles from waste water and pack it out, properly dispose of dishwater by dispersing at least 200 from any water source, lakes, streams, etc. Use biodegradable soap 200 feet or more from any water source.

The proper disposal of human waste helps prevent the spread of disease and exposure to others. Dig a small hole 6 to 8 inches deep and 200 feet from water, trails, and campsites are often the easiest and most practical way to dispose of feces. Cover hole back with dirt and cover with leaves to minimize any sign of man.

Leave What You Find

Leave rocks, plants, animals, archaeological artifacts and other objects as you find them. It may be illegal to remove artifacts. Minimize site alterations, such as digging tent trenches, hammering nails into trees, tying ropes to trees, permanently clearing an area of rocks or twigs.

Remember to: "Look with your Eyes, Not with your Hands"

Minimize Use and Impact of Fires

Use lightweight camp stoves, instead of fires, because the naturalness of many areas has been degraded by overuse of fires and the increasing demand for firewood. If a campfire is constructed, use an existing fire ring in a well-placed campsite or to use a fire pan or mound fire. True Leave No Trace fires show no evidence of having ever been constructed.

Respect Wildlife

If enough people approach or interfere with wildlife, it can be disruptive to animal populations. Do not approach wildlife, use binoculars, no matter how small, it is still a wild animal. DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS!

Be Considerate of Other Visitors

By following hiking etiquette and maintaining quiet allows visitors to go through the wilderness with minimal impact on other users. Choose hiking, backpacking, and camping gear and clothing that are natural earth tone colors like green, brown, tan, or black and reduce your visual impact. Most people get back to nature for solitude and others like the sounds that nature provides. Refrain from radios and televisions or use headphones please.

It takes all of us to keep the things we love intact, so future generations can enjoy them too.

Dan & Katherine

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-- Grilling & Barbecue --
* Origins of Grilling & BBQ *

The history of grilling begins shortly after the domestication of fire, some 500,000 years ago. The backyard ritual of grilling as we know it, though, is much more recent. Until well into the 1940s, grilling mostly happened at campsites and picnics. After World War II, as the middle class began to move to the suburbs, backyard grilling caught on, becoming all the rage by the 1950s.

In suburban Chicago, George Stephen, a metalworker by trade and a tinker by habit, had grown frustrated with the flat, open brazier-style grills common at the time. Once he inherited controlling interest in the Weber Bros. Metal Spinning Co, a company best-known as a maker of harbor buoys, he decided the buoy needed some modification. He cut it along its equator, added a grate, used the top as a lid, and cut vents for controlling temperature. The Weber grill was born and backyard cooking has never been the same.

If man has been grilling since the Stone Age, he had to wait a good long time before he got his first taste of 'barbecue.' Just how long is a matter of debate, but the word's etymology has been traced via the Spanish ('barbacoa') to a similar word used by the Arawak people of the Caribbean to denote a wooden structure on which they roasted meat. (The Arawak's other contribution to the English language is the word 'cannibal'.) Only the sense of a wooden framework survived the word's transition to English; the context was lost. So, in the 17th century, you might use a 'barbecue' as shelving or you might sleep on a 'barbecue' -- but you definitely weren't cooking with one.

Like so many of the most recognizably "American" of foods and food ways - hot dogs, Thanksgiving dinners, even milk on breakfast cereals-barbecue goes back to 18th-century colonial America, specifically the settlements along the Southeastern seaboard. The direct descendant of that original American barbecue is Eastern Carolina-style pit barbecue, which traditionally starts with the whole hog and, after as many as fourteen hours over coals, culminates in a glorious mess of pulled pork doused with vinegar sauce and eaten on a hamburger bun, with coleslaw on the side.

As the settlers spread westward, regional variations developed, leaving us today with four distinct styles of barbecue.

  • Carolina-style has split into Eastern, Western, and South Carolina-style, with variations largely in the sauce: South Carolina uses a mustard sauce; Western Carolina uses a sweeter vinegar-and-tomato sauce.
  • Memphis barbecue is probably what most of us think of when we think of BBQ-pork ribs with a sticky sweet-and-sour tomato-based mopping sauce.
  • Texas, being cattle country, has always opted for beef, usually brisket, dry-rubbed and smoked over mesquite with a tomato-based sauce served on the side, almost as an afterthought.
  • Kansas City lies at the crossroads of BBQ nation. Fittingly you'll find a little bit of everything there-beef and pork, ribs and shoulder, etc. What brings it all together is the sauce: sweet-hot, tomato-based KC barbecue sauce is a classic in its own right, and the model for most supermarket BBQ sauces.
  • Source "Food Network" (I did research on this and could not write it any better, Thank you, Food Network)

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    * Grilling Methods *

    The grilling methods noted below are for charcoal style grills with lids.

    Direct - This method works by placing your food on the cooking grate directly over the coals or campfire. This type of cooking is true grilling because involves the quick searing meats locking in juices and flavors. Foods requiring short cooking times are best using this method. Be sure to stay close by as foods cook very fast and beware of flare ups.

    Indirect - This method is closer to roasting or baking as you would do in your oven at home. For indirect cooking your coals should be piled at one side or two smaller piles at each end of your grill. Place a drip pan with a small amount of water at one side or in the middle depending on what style of indirect cooking you prefer. Indirect cooking is great for foods that will take longer than 15 to 20 minutes, usually an hour or more like chickens, roast and loins. The foods can be places over the coals for searing and applying grill marks then moved over the drip pan for slow cooking. During the indirect cooking wood chips can be added to the coals for smoke or additional flavors can be added to the water creating that special moister heat.

    Multi-Level - This type of grilling is good for when cooking meats that require a quick sear then finished with a lower heat. This is done by stacking the coals thicker at one end of the grill and thinner towards other end creating multiple heat zones. This is a great way of cooking for large crowds where the food can be seared, cooked and then remain warm at the low heat end of the grill until needed.

    Understanding these methods of grilling styles, Direct, Indirect and Multi-Level are essential for creating wonderful grilled meals. There are foods when both direct and indirect methods are appropriate. The direct method sears the food creating a flavorful crust, followed by indirect to prevent burning the outer area of the food while cooking evenly.

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    * Knowing the Grill's Temperature *

    "The Old Hand Test"

    The universal way to measure the temperature of the grill would be to hold your hand about three or four inches above the grate then count how long before you're forced to remove it.

    At two seconds or less (400 to 500 degrees) the fire is hot and great for steaks and shrimp, three seconds (350 to 400 degrees) is a medium high heat and great for most fish, four to five seconds (300 to 350 degrees) means a medium range heat which is perfect for poultry and vegetables, seven to eight seconds (275 to 300 degrees) the temperature is low for grilling more delicate vegetables and fruits. Anything after that is the low and slow heat for barbecue about 255 degrees, which lends itself to large roast, brisket and pork shoulders requiring hours of cooking.

    The thermometers that come on most grills measure the oven temperature inside the grill when the lid is down. If cooking over direct heat with the lid down a temperature reading would be of reflected heat, not the actual grilling temperature on the grate where the food sits. The top side of the food is cooked at the grills oven temperature, while the bottom side next to the fire is grilled at higher temperatures.

    Be careful and don't touch the grate.

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