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charcoal barbecueOutdoor cooking is the perfect solution for summertime hot weather meals, and often just a great excuse for a backyard barbecue party.

Whether your barbecue is a simple metal charcoal grill or a super state-of-the-art gas grill and smoker, these recipes for marinades, barbecue sauces and other ways to turn a simple hamburger into a fancy feast will have your guests raving about your skills as an outdoor chef.

Fish, meats and vegetables all taste great cooked on the barby, and what a great way to keep the kitchen cool! Lobster, grilled shrimp and grilled salmon are also among the healthy, low fat and low cholesterol alternatives for backyard meals.

Sausage, steaks, hamburgers and hot dogs, chicken, barbecued spareribs and pork tenderloin all taste better with the grilled flavor that only comes with an outdoor barbecue.

Barbecue basics

barbecued ribsStarting with the equipment, basic barbecue setups can range anywhere from $100 for a portable hibachi grill, to several hundred dollars for the classic tripod" kettle" barbecue seen in most suburban backyards.

From there, pricier models may range into the several thousand dollars and up, featuring every gizmo imaginable (including the built-in beer bottle opener.)

In addition to having a place to fire up the charcoal, the following basic barbecuing tools also come in handy.

Note that since using a fork to flip meat over on the grill has been shown to cause loss of the flavorful juices, it is not included on this list. Use a a pair of tongs instead.

Fuel - Gas for a gas grill, and charcoal for a charcoal grill. You'll also need lighter fluid for the charcoal -- along with tinder (such as dry twigs, bits of cardboard or wood sticks) to help the charcoal catch fire faster. And don't forget the kitchen matches.

Long-handled tongs - As mentioned above, forget the fork. This is the only tool you need for turning meat over on the grill.

Long-handled spatula - These come in handy for flipping burgers and grilled fish.

Long-handled basting brush - For applying sauces during the last few minutes of grilling.

Long-handled wire brush - For cleaning the grill.

You'll also want to keep paper towels nearby for those accidental spills, along with a roll of aluminum foil for wrapping up baked potatoes or other vegetables, and wooden skewers for shish kebab,

A word about safety : Along with observing other barbecue safety tips you'll be glad you had a small fire extinguisher within reach if the flames get out of control (yes, it's been known to happen.) Especially when kids are in attendance, make the grilling area off-limits and in no uncertain terms impress upon young toddlers the concept of ...."HOT!"

Grilling tips and tricks:

Art, meet science

Beef, chicken -- and especially pork -- benefit from a good soak in marinade overnight before grilling. A good marinade lends delicious flavor while the natural acids help make meat all the more juicy and tender.

shish kebab, ready to barbecueMany commercially-prepared marinade use tomatoes and vinegar as a base, but go ahead and experiment with your own signature marinade. Make sure it includes something savory (onion, garlic, or your favorite spices) and sweet and sour (pineapple marmalade or orange juice and honey, for example) for the perfect meeting of acidity and flavor. You know you're doing it right if friends and family ask for the recipe.

Shish kebab!

Shish kebab pieces won't stay still? Thread shish kebab pieces twice to prevent them from spinning. To prevent barbecue skewers from burning, soak them in water for about a half hour before grilling. If combining onions and green peppers with hard root vegetables (like potatoes), parboil them first so that everything cooks evenly.

Mmm...barbecued chicken

Just like turkey brining, soak chicken in a salt bath overnight to get the juiciest, most flavorful meat on the grill. Rule of thumb: use one cup of salt to every gallon of water plus any additional spices to taste. Sear on high heat to seal in the juices, then lower the heat until chicken is done. To avoid a black, thick goo on your masterpiece, don't overdo it with barbecue sauce. If you like your chicken smothered in it, brush on the sauce only in the last few minutes of grilling.

More about grilling and barbecue recipes around the Web:



Outdoor Grilling - Check out safety tips, plus recipes and easy ways to bring out the flavor in barbecued meals, plus a couple of good ideas for marinades - from the University of Illinois Extension.

BBQ Recipes - Barbecued Ribs, Chicken, Pork and Fish - Food Network - Check out barbecue rubs and sauces, fish bastes, recipes for cornbread and cole slaw, plus how-to's for building your own barbecue pit, tips on indoor winter grilling, related videos, and more.

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