With Father’s Day approaching fast and furious, I started thinking about what an interesting supporting role grilling has played in my family life.
I remember catching and grilling fish with my grandparents on a little green lake in Wisconsin when I was only 5 or so years old…watching my parents fire up a smoker before daybreak at our home in Texas during my teen years…Grilling not-so-gourmet burgers with my brother in the backyard of our New Orleans college apartment…Experiencing the sites and sounds of Memphis in May from the back porch of my in-laws’ home on the banks of the Mississippi…And so on.
Today, barbecue and grilling play an even greater part in my family life as my brother, father and kids join me in cooking various contests across the country. And in my spare time you can find me and the family sitting in our backyard, testing out new recipes for Kingsford.com and Grillocracy.com on my various smokers and grills.
So as the country prepares to spend this Sunday celebrating all things dad, I wanted to share a few tips and tricks for making your holiday grill out a true family affair.
You see, many people consider the grill to be “dad’s domain.” But it’s also important to find ways to incorporate your son, your daughter, your dad or even your grand dad in to the cooking process, especially as everyone’s schedules grow increasingly hectic. Here’s a few ideas to get you started, as well as a hot dog grilling video starring my oldest son Colin when he was 5 (he's now a teenager!):
- Thanks for the memories. Ask your parents and grandparents to share some of their favorite recipes on the grill. Maybe it’s a top secret sauce, perhaps the perfect way to grill a steak sandwich, or perhaps it’s that overcooked and over sauced chicken you remember so well from family barbecues long ago. Just because you’re king of the grill doesn’t mean that you have to stop learning, especially from those who inspired you in the first place.
- Fire safety. As with anything hot, you want to teach your kids to act safely when near the grill. Create an imaginary or physical safe zone of a few feet around the grill which they cannot pass unless with an adult. When using the grill, it is best to provide them with extra long tools to work with such as tongs and spatulas so that they do not need to get as close to the hot metal.
- Start out small. Just because your kids aren’t ready to jump up and run the grill doesn’t mean they can’t play an active role in the cooking process. Think of dishes that would allow them to add ingredients or even customize their own dish such as grilled flatbread pizzas or quesadillas with a topping station. The look on a three year old’s face when he or she thinks they created dinner is simply priceless!
- Flipping out. As your children get a little older, begin to introduce them to the actual grilling process through a series of smaller assists. Can you add cheese to this hamburger? Can you turn this hot dog with these tongs? And so on. As they become more comfortable with the grill and can show their respect for the heat, you can start to introduce more challenging tasks like flipping chicken breast or moving a steak from the hot zone of the grill to a cooler one.
- Have fun. Ultimately grilling is about having fun while hopefully sharing some great dishes with friends and family. Make sure your children are actually enjoying themselves during the cooking process and that they don't feel overwhelmed. In all likelihood they will have mistakes on the grill just as we all have, but celebrate their accomplishments no matter what the end product looks or tastes like and they'll likely to come back for more!