by Susan Flynn
Summer’s simple pleasures are its greatest gifts – freshly picked strawberries, a bouquet of daisies from the garden and a backyard cookout with family and friends.
Jared Huizenga, a Worcester resident and president of the 525-member New England Barbecue Society, agrees wholeheartedly. Yet he knows that sometimes the food might not be as good as the company.
He’s seen overly eager cooks develop a bad habit of flipping a burger multiple times, when once is enough. “The real problem folks have with burgers is that they smash it down with the spatula, flip it and smash it down again. All you are doing is squeezing the juice out of it,” he says.
And, please, don’t ever stick a steak or sausage with one of those big forks. Use tongs instead (again, to keep the juices in).
We recently got Huizenga to spill the beans on some juicy topics.
1 What other mistakes do novices make?
Inability to control flare-ups is a common problem. For example, people put their chicken wings that have been marinating in oil and sugar directly over a high heat source and they end up black on the outside and raw on the inside. I almost always use a two-tier system, where half of my grill is loaded with coals and the other half has no coals at all. After you get a nice color on your food, move it over to the side with no coals to finish the cooking process. If you are using gas, make sure you have a grill with at least two separate burner controls.
2 What food do you toss on the grill that most people wouldn’t?
Pizza can be great on the grill. A lot of people start with a thin crust of dough and go really light on the toppings, light on the sauce, and a little cheese. Cook it on low-medium heat and the outside of the crust will get really crispy. It adds a real nice flavor. The key is to make sure you have a nice clean grate; use some Pam spray or brush the grate with oil.
3 How did you get so involved in grilling?
I grew up in the Midwest where pig roasts were pretty common. My father also operated a butcher shop, so we always had some type of meat around the house. After college, I moved to Massachusetts and stumbled upon the New England Barbecue Society, a not-for-profit group of barbecue enthusiasts. My wife, Suzanne, and I started competing in grilling and barbecue contests and it’s definitely turned into an obsession. Believe it or not, some of the best barbecue competitors in the world are right here in New England.
4 What’s the best way to improve flavor?
The best advice I can give is start with good products. If you start with a cheap steak that has been sitting on the supermarket shelf for three days, you may end up disappointed. Find a local meat market and talk to the butchers there. Once you develop that relationship, you are more likely to get good products.
5 Are you a rare, medium or well-done type person?
For burgers and steaks, I like medium-rare. Most professional barbecuers are biased. Well-done, especially if you have a nice piece of meat that you spent $20 to $25 a pound for, is really a shame. n
Susan Flynn is the associate editor of the Boston Parents Paper.