It's time to get out the grills and start barbecuing.
For some tips on how to make the backyard barbecue easy and delicious, the News-Review asked Boyne Mountain's executive chef Jeff Minkwic. Minkwic hosts at least 25 cookouts for hundreds of people each summer at the Boyne Falls resort.
Other tips from the chef:
Prepare for a barbecue the day before by baking chicken, depending on how thick it is, for about a half hour in the oven at 350 degrees.
For thicker vegetables, such as thick asparagus, parboil for about two minutes either the day of the barbecue or the day before.
Braise ribs at 350 degrees in about a half-inch of water with foil covering the top of the baking dish for up to an hour and a half or until tender, on the day before the barbecue. The length of time for braising is determined by the thickness and type of ribs. Braising in a baking dish covered with foil helps to keep the rib flavor. Then, add favorite spices, or rub and chill in the refrigerator overnight.
"Be careful with rubs and spices, because it is really easy to overdo it," Minkwic said. "Use them sparingly."
Then, when the barbecue starts, be sure the grill has both a hot and a cooler spot, by placing all the coals on half of the grill.
"I usually start things on the hot spot to sear meat or chicken, and once seared, move it to the cooler spot to finish cooking," Minkwic said. He pointed out that preparing the meat or thicker vegetables in advance, allows the item to cook more evenly on the grill, without the outside being charred and the inside being raw. He uses barbecue sauce as he finishes steak, chicken or ribs on the grill.
To make custom barbecue sauce, start with a commercial sauce. Minkwic likes Sweet Baby Rays. To two-parts commercial sauce, he adds one-part molasses and one-part dill pickle juice to get the taste he likes best.
"Really, you could do whatever flavors you like, just remember to use two-parts the commercial sauce and one-part acidic and one-part sweet to start. Then, you can add the ingredients you want to suit your taste," Minkwic said.
To cook any vegetables on the grill, people should always coat them in oil. Minkwic uses olive oil. Then, the traditional seasonings are kosher salt and black pepper. He likes to grill asparagus, peppers, and zucchini.
For grilled corn, once again, Minkwic suggests preparation a day in advance. Put equal parts of sugar and salt in a water to make brine. Then soak the corn in the brine with husks on for 24 hours. Then, grill either on the grates or directly on the coals. Minkwic prefers placing the corn on the grates. The corn will be done when the outside layer is charred. But, because of the all-night soaking, the inside will still be moist, not dried out.
Minkwic's favorite steaks to grill are rib-eyes, because of the flavor imparted by the fat content. He recommends steaks 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick for the novice. "If you get the really thick steaks, usually they end up really charred on the outside and raw on the inside," he said. He likes to buy a whole rib and cut his own steaks.
Minkwic loves to grill sea scallops, which he coats with oil or the mayonnaise/oil mixture and places directly on the grates. He also coats fish with the mixture and places it directly on the grill, once he's made it nonstick.
"If people want to start something like spare ribs directly on the grill without braising in advance, I'd continuously use a vinegar and water basting to make the ribs tender. It makes it a lot more work as you barbecue to have to keep basting," he said.
As people barbecue, they should be careful not to burn the sauce. That's why it is important to have both a hot and cool side of the grill.
"If you are grilling things of different thicknesses, you just move things to the cooler side, so they don't get overdone while waiting for something else to finish," Minkwic said.