Fire up the barbie!

Spring and summer herald the return of the barbecue in backyards throughout Canada, but this year the good ol' grill may be making a comeback like no other. That's because real barbecuing - not grilling with propane - is actually a pretty cheap way to cook dinner, and these days, everyone's looking to save a few bucks.

Bob Haselbach, Whistler's local barbecuing guru, is quick to point out that there's a huge difference between your average backyard grilling, which usually uses propane, and barbecuing low and slow - the proper way - over a charcoal grill.

"It's like comparing CDs to vinyl. CDs are really convenient, but vinyl sounds better," he said with a grin.

Haselbach has done his homework, discovering that historically, barbecuing has roots in the Caribbean, where soldiers gave locals the leftover cuts of tough, inedible meat. To make the meat palatable, the locals created the first jerk rubs and marinades, and cooked the cuts over low heat for a long time to tenderize the meats.

Using the traditional barbecuing methods, you, too, can turn cheap cuts of meat, like brisket and pork, into delicious, tender delicacies. Plus, a ten-pound bag of charcoal briquettes sells for just $8.49 at Canadian Tire right now. According to Haselbach, a 20-pound bag will provide enough fuel for about 30 meals for two.

"More people are getting into it; charcoal is making a comeback," Haselbach said.

But just because it's cheap doesn't make it easy.

"You've got to be patient. You've got to wait for the coals to get hot, and then once they're white hot and glowing, then you cook on it. If they're still black, you'll get a nasty taste," Haselbach said, making a face.

Propane grills are fine for people who want to grill things up quickly, but Haselbach finds the propane infuses the food with a strong taste.

"If you do get those cheap cuts of meat and you want to barbecue low and slow, you can. You've just got to change it from direct heat - because cooking on charcoal is direct heat, its direct cooking," Haselbach said.

In smokers he uses for competitions and in the kitchen at BBQ Bob's, they use water pans to deflect the heat and retain moisture.

"Usually, people are just in a rush, that's why they grill everything on high heat," he pointed out.

On a propane barbecue, Haselbach recommends turning the heat on low on only one half of the grill and putting a pan of water inside to try and trap some of the moisture, while putting the meat on the side of the grill that isn't over direct heat.


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