The Eugene climate has been doing its best to fight through the rain and offer some cloudless days lately. Thankfully, those rare afternoons of clear weather are becoming more common. Eugenians are expected to see a spike in sunshine beginning on Friday and carrying on through next week. You know what that means — perfect weather to break out and break in your barbecue with a good old-fashioned cookout. But before you get too ambitious, let’s cover a few basic ground rules to save your guests from charred meat and a visit from the fire department. 

Get a grill

Are you missing the most important part of this event — an actual grill? Grills are available for cheap at stores like Walmart. You can find a functional charcoal or gas grill for less than $100, and you are set to start cooking.

Preheat the grill

I know the anticipation of showing off your dad-like grill skills might leave you impatient, but before you strap on your white New Balance shoes and retire your sunglasses to the top of your hat, make sure your barbecue has time to preheat. The flames might feel hot, but the grates take extra time to heat up. Meat placed on the grill too soon sticks and shreds when you try to pick it up and causes problems for temperature control.

As spring weather becomes the norm, be prepared for any barbecue. (David McSpadden/Flickr)

Beware the flames

Similar to a child’s enchantment with fire, college students have another level of excitement when large flames start leaping out of the grill. But beware: it might look badass but big flames are almost guaranteed to make bad meat. You won’t appreciate the gross residue left on your food quite as much as you appreciate an enthusiastic fist bump from your fire-fascinated friends. Keep the flames to a minimum and move your meal to a cooler side of the barbecue to let the flare-up diminish.

Direct vs. indirect heat

If you use too much direct heat while grilling you will quite literally encounter a hot mess. The key to perfectly grilled food is temperature control. Failing to regulate the heat will leave your meat with a burnt outer layer and bleeding center. Create a two-tone fire by designating one side of the grill to be for direct heat, leaving the other side for the cooler temperature of indirect heat. With a gas barbecue this is as easy as lighting the burner on one side and leaving the other side with little to no heat. When using a charcoal grill, make sure to evenly distribute the coals on one side of the grill leaving the other half empty. Indirect heat can create an oven-like atmosphere and is perfect for large cuts of meat.

Let the food sit for a bit

Let the meat sit for approximately ten minutes before serving. I know your guests might be antsy to eat, but urge them to play another round of Cornhole and have some snacks while the meat rests. Cutting into your food too quickly will cause all the liquid to bleed out, which makes it dry and lack flavor. The delicious juices make for a much more tender and rich meal; resting allows time for those juices to be absorbed and distributed throughout the meat.

Provide other entertainment and snacks

Now that we have those tips and tricks out of the way, you are ready to take on the art of grilling. Invite your best buds and tell them to bring their lawn chairs; break out the snacks, drinks and music — it’s time for a classic backyard barbecue.

Need ideas on what to make? Here are some delicious recipes:

Guacamole Burger

Sausage and Peppers Foil Pack

Grilled Chicken Tacos with Avocado Crema

Blue Cheese Burger with Caramelized Onions and Crispy Rosemary

Grilled Teriyaki Steak

Bacon Cheeseburger with Sweet Potato Chips

Shortcut BBQ Ribs


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