Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Grill Propane Tank Infotisement and My Equipment Maintenance Philosophy

The Cody Enterprise1 article starts like dozens of others across America:
"Independence Day is the most popular outdoor cooking holiday of the year with more than two-thirds of Americans firing up the grill, smoker or fryer, according to the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association. A few simple steps can help you prepare your grill to make sure you have a safe backyard celebration.

"Make sure your tank is ready..." (Cody Enterprise)
So far, so good. Whoever wrote it packed a lot of information into those two sentences, without making the reader work at prying facts out of the verbiage.

Here's what's next:
"...Make a trip ahead of time to a Blue Rhino propane exchange outlet to help make sure you have enough propane so your party...." (Cody Enterprise)
My attention swerved, skidded, and came to a rocking stop.

It's not often that a news piece directs readers to a particular business. Possibilities popped to the front of my mind.
  • There's only one propane service within a day's drive of Cody?
  • "Blue Rhino" is a generic term for LP gas retailers in that part of Wyoming?
    • But it's capitalized
  • It's an advertisement?
    • But there's no "advertisement" label
You've seen things like this in magazines, sometimes in newspapers: It looks like an article, but extols the virtues of some product, brand, or service provider. Infotisements2 I've seen in print have the word "advertisement" somewhere along or near their border: in small print, but visible.

Nothing like that in the "Fourth of July" infotisement. Or around it, or anywhere on the page: apart from "Courtesy of ARAcontent" at the bottom of the piece.

I suppose I could be outraged at this 'violation of the public's trust,' but I like to think that most people are sharp enough to recognize the infotisement for what it is.

Plus, it's got some pretty good safety tips.

I'll Keep My Own LP Tank, Thanks

I'm not criticizing Blue Rhino, or any of the other companies that provide tank-swapping services.

I think I understand why people like to bring an empty tank in, turn it in, and walk away with a full tank. You don't have to wait for someone to fill your old tank, and there's the comfort - for some folks - of knowing that a 'qualified professional' has inspected and passed the tank they're using.

As for me, I'll do my own inspections. I've seen tanks on swap racks with the sort of corrosion and wear that I'd never tolerate on pressure vessels. Particularly ones that contained a potentially explosive substance. Since those had passed inspection, I've wondered what the sort of attention had been paid to the valves and overflow protection devices on the newer-looking tanks.

Fussy? Maybe.

As I said in another post, I'm not a particularly jittery advocate of safety. (June 16, 2009) But I do pay attention to the basics, like making sure that liquid propane will stay in the tank until I want it to come out.

I'd rather fill my own tank, but I don't see self-service LP filling stations so much now. Which may be just as well. But my trust extends to whoever fills the tank for me. Besides, if the tank got damaged, I'd see it, and know that it was time to turn it in for a new one.

My old tank would probably be repaired and re-sold - as a repaired tank, which makes good sense. Then it would be the new owner's concern, not mine.

That's the way I do things.

From the success of Blue Rhino and other companies, it's obvious that not everybody has my approach to equipment maintenance. Which is okay.

The main thing, as I see it, is to have fun grilling, enjoy the food, family, and friends, and not burn down your home in the process.

Related posts:

In the - news?
1The Cody Enterprise newspaper is published twice a week in Cody, Wyoming; and was founded by founded by W.F. Buffalo Bill Cody and Colonel John Peake in August 1899. Its online version has reader-submitted news, as well as the more conventional news, sports, obituaries, classified ads and op-ed content.

2"Infotisement?!" That's something that looks like an article, and may give some useful information, but is mainly intended to promote a product or service. An unsourced Wikipedia article says that a copywriter named Matthew McDermott first used it in 2000.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Grillings Just an American Thing, Right? Wrong!

I found out about a new-to-me show today: Licence To Grill, or LTG, hosted by Robert Rainford. It's on the Food Network Canada - and, since 2007, in Malaysia on the Asian Food Channel. LTG is available in Manilla, too: and probably elsewhere in that part of the world. (The URL for Asian Food Channel is www.asianfoodchannel.com - their pages weren't loading this evening, here in central North America, so you may need to be very patient.)

I suppose the basics of grilling - putting food over an open fire or hot coals until it's 'done' - show up in some form in every culture.

What I hadn't realized was that there was enough interest in the sort of grilling I'm familiar with, sticking a disk of ground meat or a flattish slice of meat on a rack over a fire, would be all that interesting to people on the other side of the pacific.

Food Network Canada says that "...Rainford demonstrates the how's and why's of perfect grilling...." Me? I settle for re-learning how not to burn the burgers after each transition from winter to summer and back again. I do appreciate Rainford's willingness to show how to grill relatively simple fare like burgers, steaks, and kebabs.

Speaking of kebabs: My oldest daughter gave me a set of skewers for Father's Day, so it's only a matter of time before I try my hand at kebabing - or whatever it's called - again. I haven't done that since September of 2007.

Vaguely related post: In the news:

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Going to Grill on the Fourth of July? You Might Want to Read This

I enjoy grilling year-round, which takes care of some of the seasonal maintenance issues that come with grilling. From what I read, some folks in America start grilling around July 4th. Which I see is coming up: fast.

There's some pretty good advice out there, so instead of repeating it, I'll just link to a few items in the news.

There's Sparkling Clean - and Easy Griller Clean

Although I make sure that the working parts are reasonably clean, I'm not all that fastidious about scraping every bit of material off the inside of my grill. That's partly my disinclination to do what I see as unnecessary work. And, partly my preference for the flavor that grilled food gets, if you let it.

It took several weeks, before food from our first grill lost that new-car taste. The family's current one didn't take as long to break in: but even there it went through several cycles of use before the burgers were obviously not cooked on the stove.

Don't Eat Burned Meat

I know: you've probably read that grilling, along with everything else on Earth, causes cancer. I discussed this in the safety section of the Easy Griller website. When I dug past the 'scare' articles and read what people who had done actual research had to say, it turns out that it's the burned-to-a-crisp meat and fat that have carcinogens.

So, unless you burn your food to a crisp or eat the debris that collects at the bottom of the grill (disgusting thought), you should be okay.

Related posts: In the news:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

New Jersey Townhomes May Ban Grilling

In a culture which finds it necessary to warn consumers that a clear jar of peanuts contains peanuts, when the peanuts are clearly visible, and the label already says "PEANUTS," I suppose this sort of thing makes sense.

The Hermitage Townhomes Complex is discussing whether or not to allow residents of the townhomes to cook outside, using barbecue grills. The fire marshal said to have the grills a certain distance from the houses, which put the grills in the back yards.

That's not enough for the housing board. They think grills are unsafe, and want them banned.

Grillers of the World Unite! You Have Nothing to Lose But Your Fire Permit!

The residents didn't see it that way, and raised a fuss.

It's anyone's guess how this will come out.

The housing board has a point, in a way. a few days ago, someone let a barbecue fire get out of hand. About $10,000-worth of car and house got cooked, instead of the meal. And, fire can spread easily in townhouses.

It's not just a safety issue. The housing board is afraid that all those people grilling in their back yards will bring down the property values.

Maybe the board thinks that most people are afraid of barbecue grills and the fires they cause. Or, maybe it's a class distinction thing.

I rather hope that the folks living in Hermitage Townhomes Complex get to keep their grills.

Related posts: In the news:

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Competitive BBQ? Teams??

"Grill Girls"
Episode GXSP01H Food Network

"Move over Master of the Grill. All over America, there's a new chef (wo)manning the fire and she s discovering the thrill of the grill! We follow an all-women s barbecue team hoping to make a name for themselves on the BBQ circuit...."

I did a little checking around, and discovered that there really are BBQ cooking team competitions. Also, that Lee & Bobbie McWright are fairly well-known BBQers, and that the ABS cooking team used to be called the Music City Pig Pals. (The Smoke Ring forum)

There's more about the McWright's at Music City Catering, Pleasant View, Tennessee.

I love grilling - but as a competition? I suppose there could be the BBQ equivalent of a drag race: see who can carbonize a rack of ribs first. Or maybe see who makes the loudest "whoomp!" when the gas ignites. No, that last one would be a bit too risky.

A strange picture came to mind: two teams, facing each other in the field, pushing a grill back and forth, each trying to score a touchdown. I've probably watched too much Monty Python.

I think I'll stick to burgers on the weekend, with the occasional steak, chicken and/or whole potatoes.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Don't Set Fire to Yourself or Your House: Good Advice from the NFPA

If you've read the "Extreme Safety: Above and Beyond the Call of Reason" page on Easy Griller, you know that I'm not a particularly jittery advocate of safety.

I think that's partly because I remember a world where transparent jars of peanuts didn't have a 'warning - contain peanuts' label. Growing up next door to regions where being stupid sometimes resulted in your body being recovered next spring may have contributed.

Given the legal and cultural system that makes it necessary for manufacturers to warn people that a see-through jar of peanuts, labeled "PEANUTS," contains peanuts, I didn't know what to expect from an outfit with "protection" in its name.

I was pleasantly surprised at "Grilling" (NFPA (National Fire Protection Association)). The page has some common-sense "safety tips" about how to use propane and charcoal BBQ grills without setting fire to yourself or your house.

There's a collection of "Facts & Figures" that shows why being careful with grills - particularly the ones that use liquid propane - is important. ("...Although gas grills are used roughly 1.5 times as often as charcoal grills, they were involved in five times as many fires...."

NFPA's page has links to audio recordings, and (in principle) a video about grilling safety. In practice, if you start at NFPA's page, you'll drop into the second of two videos.

I figured, if there's a video #2, there was probably a video #1. And, sure enough, there is. I put both of them here, from NFPA's YouTube account.

Together, they take less than six minutes to view, and have some pretty good, common-sense advice, like:
"...If you see a white fog, or smell gas, it's a sign of a leak. It's very unlikely, but if it should happen, just call your local fire department for help...."

"...Now, grills are not inherently dangerous, but any time you work with fire, there are risks...."
The second video discusses some safety aspects of charcoal grills. And, gave a good reason for keeping high-velocity kids and grills away from each other. Emergency rooms report that children younger than five account for about a quarter of burns from hot grills.

Finally, the NFPA videos give the viewer credit for some sense. Not once does NFPA's Principal Gas Engineer, Ted Lemoff, say 'don't pour gasoline on a burning grill.'

"Grilling Safety Tips - Part 1"

nfpadotorg, YouTube (June 01, 2009)
video 2:52

"Grilling Safety Tips - Part 2"

nfpadotorg, YouTube (May 22, 2009)
video 2:58

Monday, June 15, 2009

Chicken Grilling Recipes That Really Work: But First - - -

My oldest daughter told me about a way to grill chicken the other day. It involved beer - or soda pop - but she figured it might work with fruit juice, too.

I haven't tried this. If you have, I'd appreciate a comment on how well it worked. Or didn't.

You take a whole chicken (plucked and prepped - like you get at a butcher's) and a can of beer. Or soda pop. Or, maybe, fruit juice.

Open the can, and sit it (open side up, of course!) on the grill. Then, you fit the chicken, tail end down, over the can. How you're supposed to balance the thing is your problem - my daughter didn't mention how that's supposed to work.

Light the grill - or, if you're really macho, set the thing up over a grill that's already hot - and wait for the bird to get grilled all the way through.

You've read all the FDA warnings about salmonella and food poisoning. I assume you're neither a fool nor an idiot, so we'll move along.

If everything went right, you've got a grilled chicken that's absorbed some of the beer - or soda pop - or fruit juice - flavor. Sounds delicious.

My daughter thinks cranberry juice might eliminate the need for cranberry sauce. Which gave her an interesting thought: "I wonder if it would work with turkey?"

You'd need either a huge grill or a really small chicken - or turkey - to close the top, using this method. Which would let most of the smoke escape. I grill with the top down, except when I have to move the food, to make the most of the smoke's flavoring potential.

As I said, I've never tried this: but it sounds good.

One more thing: I'm not at all sure what will happen as fat from the grilling bird drips into the grill.

There's a description of one of my early experiences with grilling chicken in "Fireball Fryers, on Easy Griller's Safety page.

And Now, Chicken Grilling Recipes that Really Work

Or, as Rocky the Flying Squirrel said, "and now, for something you'll really like!" There's 199 of them, starting with Chicken with Feta Cheese and Blackberry Vinaigrette, Grilled Chicken Breasts, Greek Chicken, Pepper Jack Chicken, Lip Smacking Chicken Drumsticks, and (I'm not making this up) Thyme for Chicken.

They look good, sound fancy, and seem to be more trouble than they're worth: but some people like to put effort into food preparation.