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Five Ideas for the Family Grill-master

5:57 AM, Jun 17, 2011   |    comments
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Call it the Father's Day predicament. We want to honor the fathers in our lives. But on a nice June weekend, we often want to celebrate with a cookout, so Dad ends up manning the grill and cooking his own dinner. Is that fair? Perhaps not. But here are five ways to sweeten the deal and lighten the load for the hard-working grill-master at your house:

1. Double down.

Just because your dad has a grill doesn't mean he doesn't want, even need, another. "Consider making him a multiple grill owner," suggests Steven Raichlen, author of The Barbecue Bible and several other books on grilling. If he has a gas grill (about 70% of U.S. grill owners do), consider giving him a charcoal grill. Along with the added cooking surface, Raichlen says, you'll get a better smoker than you get on any gas model. You'll also be giving Dad the not-to-be-underestimated gift of literally playing with fire.

2. Be the safety inspector.

If Dad is about to fire up that gas grill for the first time this year or if he hasn't had a chance to inspect it lately, offer to do the honors. Inspect hoses for cracking, brittleness and leaks, and make sure there are no sharp bends in the tubing. Check for propane gas leaks as well. If you find problems, don't use the grill (another good reason to have a spare). A full checklist is available from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (cpsc.gov). The commission also lists grills that have been recalled.

3. Do the cleaning.

Flipping burgers is the fun part. Less fun: cleaning the grill. Here's how, from Raichlen's site, barbecuebible.com: Before cooking, get the grill hot (very hot if it's already quite gritty) and brush the grate with a stiff wire brush. If you don't have a brush, use a ball of aluminum foil. Now, dip a pad of paper towel in oil and, using tongs, rub it over the grate. If you want to use spray oil, pick up the grate and spray it. Never spray into the lighted grill. Clean and oil the grate again after cooking.

4. Be the (friendly) food police.

At this cookout, Dad should get whatever he wants - big slabs of red meat included. So skip the nutrition lectures. But don't take a holiday from food safety. Whisk away dishes and utensils used for raw meat and supply the cook with clean replacements. Make sure he has an instant-read thermometer to check for doneness. And share this piece of good news: Whole pork cuts may now be cooked to a mere 145 degrees, the long-accepted temperature for beef steaks, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Chicken still needs to reach 165, and beef burgers should reach 160, the USDA says.

5. Get him a toy.

If he has all the basics - at least one grill, a wire cleaning brush, spring-loaded tongs and a food thermometer - consider getting him a cool accessory. Raichlen likes (and sells) beer-can chicken roasters, jalapeo pepper roasters and rib racks that allow huge feasts to be cooked on small grills. A pair of suede grilling gloves and a chimney starter for the charcoal grill can be nice additions, too, he says. "Just don't get him an apron that says 'Kiss the cook,' or one of those funny hats," Raichlen says. "Let him keep his dignity."

USA Today, Kim Painter

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