Beginner’s Guide to the BBQ


I didn’t always love to barbecue but I loved what came from it. Grilling wasn’t part of my New York chef school training. I grew up in a home with a mom who’s an incredible cook and a dad who takes his barbecuing seriously. I had been spoiled with barbecue dinners 365 days a year. Now I’m at home on the grill, watch out Rob Rainford and Ted Reader!



You aren’t going to burn the house down.

You need to go to the gas station to get new propane tanks, and always have a spare (unless you are plugged directly into the house). If you love old-school charcoal, you need time. Channel your inner camper and tend to your fire.  Summer at the cottage is the perfect time to experiment with charcoal and enjoy the smoky flavoured ritual. For more, read New York Times' food guru Sam Sifton’s article on choosing charcoal or gas. For those with a smoker or Green Egg, I’m coming over.  That requires next-level time and patience.

I’m going to assume most of you urban dwellers are not using charcoal.  Learn how to change the propane tank.


1.     Turn the tank off (look at the arrows!) and turn the knobs off.

2.     Unscrew it.

3.     Screw the new one on.

4.     That’s it. 


Clean your Grill

Would you cook your eggs in a dirty pan? After each grilltime, leave the heat on, lid closed. Burn off the bits. Turn it off and clean with a heavy duty bbq scrub brush with a long wood handle. No melting plastic. With the heat on, use a scrub brush. Hit your favourite BBQ store or hardware store and talk to the experts. And don’t forget to empty the catch all pan underneath.

Prep your Protein

Have your proteins on stand-by at room temperature, don’t jolt them from the fridge.

Know when it’s ready

Balance the touch and feel with the approximate time it should take. Fish is about 7 minutes per inch of thickness whereas a thick boneless leg of lamb will take 30 minutes or so. Touch it: a gentle touch of the steak will tell how done it is. If it feels like the inside of your thumb when relaxed, it’s rare. If it feels like the top of your hand, pour them a drink and load up on veggies because that meat is well done. And while grilling, practice the art of patience with a single flip, none of that back and forth.

Take a Rest

Factor in the time you need to let your protein rest and the juices recess. Carving right away will let the moisture and flavour escape.


Now that local veggies are sprouting up and in abundance, throw everything on the barbecue, including radicchios and lettuces to green onions to broccolini to asparagus. Use a veggie grill basket for the smaller veggies.


RECIPE: Grilled Lettuces (SERVES 4)


4 heads endive

2 heads radicchio

3 tbsp (50 mL) olive oil

2 tbsp (30 mL) balsamic vinegar

1/2 tsp (2 mL) hot pepper flakes

Salt and black pepper to taste




1.     Preheat grill to medium.

2.     Cut endives in half. Cut radicchio in quarters. Carefully brush lettuces with oil.

3.     Grill lettuces, turning once, for 6 to 8 minutes or until crispy and just turning brown. Remove to a platter. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with hot pepper flakes and salt and black pepper; gently toss.

4.     Serve immediately.

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