Saturday, November 14, 2009

More on Outdoor Cooking

Several days ago, my son-in-law went hunting, and he shot a deer. It was an eight-point buck. Deus Ex Machina is tanning the hide. I helped build a frame to stretch it on.

Other than the hide, the nice thing about having hunters in the family, especially my daughter’s husband, is that we always get a share of the kill – which is fair, because we always share our domestic meat with them. This evening, they took home a package of bacon, and they’ve already taken a couple of chickens.

So, for dinner last night I made deer burgers. Yes, it’s November, and yes, to do the burgers justice, I grilled them outside on the gas grill. I mean, you can’t just fry deer burgers. A good burger is grilled over a low flame to seal in the juices.

We have this crappy little grill. I mean, it works, but only just. Because it sits outside, rain, snow or the occasional sunny and dry day, all year long with no cover, we’ve had to replace a few pieces that rusted … and then there was the time that I left it on the “ignite” setting for a wee-bit too long, and it caught fire. The front still bears the scorch scars.

But it works.

And it serves many functions. Last winter, during the power outage, we used it as cold storage.

The winter before that (before we had our new and improved woodstove), when we lost power, we used our grill to cook all of our meals. We even baked muffins and cooked eggs in the shell on the grill outside, in the bitter cold.

Our grill is an oft-used appliance. In fact, we’d probably use it more than we do if the igniter weren’t broken (I think I may have melted it). Lighting the gas grill with a match is kind of scary. As such, during the summer, whenever we end up at one of those home improvement stores, I always gravitate toward the grills. I like the ones that look like the Viking grills. They’re sleek and sturdy. I think it’s probably that stainless steel veneer.

Our grill is just a grill, and when we lost power and had to depend on it for most of our cooking needs, we realized how limited it was. Yes, we did cook muffins and eggs, but the muffin bottoms were a little singed, and because our grill is pretty small, we could only cook so many things at a time. It’s barely big enough to fit one of our home-grown chickens. Some of the Viking gas grills are huge and have some incredible features, like ovens and warming trays. Heck, they’re even fancier than the stove I have in my house.

We’re hoping to build an outdoor kitchen area somewhere on our property (and we haven’t decided if it would be better to put it in the front, where there are no gardens or farm animals, or in the back where there’s a bit more privacy). Our neighbors gave us a sink. I’d love to be able to get a Viking grill, or something like it, for a lot of reasons.

The most practical reason is that a gas grill would be much easier to use than an open fire during sugaring season, as cooking with gas provides a more consistent heat. Our current grill is just too small to do the job. One year we borrowed a turkey fryer from a friend, which worked pretty well, but we really needed a larger surface area. We’ve found that a more shallow pan with a larger bottom works better than a deep pan, like used in a turkey fryer. Unfortunately, our little gas grill is just too small for the size of pan we’d need to most efficiently boil the sap.

The most impractical reason is that they look cool, and even with my wanting to make us poor, there’s still a little bit of that suburbanite lingering.

We’ll keep looking for the best solutions, though, and maybe next summer, we’ll get started on that outdoor kitchen … after we build the new duck coop, and the wood shed, and the ….


  1. It's funny. Husband and I were on this very topic this morning. I would love an outdoor brick oven. But even more would I love a sauna with an oven that could be used to both heat the sauna and function at least as a cooktop, maybe with one of those stovetop oven box thingies that would let me bake bread. *Sigh* There's just no way either of those things is going to happen within the next year. They're too far down the list of priorities at the moment. Maybe in 2011...

  2. I have been daydreaming an outdoor oven/fireplace/bbq grill. I doubt I could talk the hubby into it though. *alas*