Grilling Etiquette

The Grill party was in full swing, the host, Charlie, left the grill for a couple of minutes to get some marinated fish from the refrigerator. When he got back, he was dismayed to find one of his guests, Hank, flipping the steaks on the grill. Fuming, Charlie grabbed the fork from Hank and hissed "never use a fork to flip meat". He picked up the spatula and said angrily "this is what a proper grilling chef uses".

Needless to say, Hank was never invited to one of Charlie's cookouts again. He violated one of the rules of grilling - never touch your host's grill, even if you are trying to be helpful.

In our society there are written rules and there are unwritten rules. The unwritten ones usually relate to the way to behave in the company of others and will differ from region to region and from one sub-culture to another sub-culture. So, if they are unwritten, how does one find out? Unwritten is not a literal term, it really indicates that the rules of behaviour have not been set out in some form of law. So you can find out by reading around, by talking to others and by observing the behaviour of others in social situations. Also, just apply common sense, for example, if Hank had thought about things more carefully, he would have realised that what he did was a breach of etiquette - if you were invited to dine at a neighbor's house, you would not even consider going to the kitchen and taking over the cooking!

So what other unwritten rules apply to backyard grill parties of tailgating parties? Firstly, one cause of angst is should you invite your neighbors. The answer is "only if you really want them to be there". Truth is they may not really want to come but feel obligated because you, their neighbor, asked. A lot of it will depend on how well you know them and your relationship with them. Secondly, as you are the chef, you should try to get the timing right. It is not always practical to get the food ready for everyone at the same time, there may not be room enough for everything on the grill. Do at least try to get as much of the food ready at the same time, it is bad form to have most of the guests waiting round for the food to cook. The solution is easy. If you have a lot of guests - get a bigger grill or get a second grill. Finally, it is almost inevitable that someone at your grill party will be a vegetarian so always have something for people who eat neither fish nor meat. You can always check with guests a few days before to see if they eat meat and fish or neither.

If you are going to a cookout, here are a few things to bear in mind. It is generally acceptable to take your own barbecue sauces, everyone’s taste is different, but take enough for yourself plus a bit more so that others can try it if they want to. Generally speaking, the host will provide the food but any extra sides will always be welcomed. You could always check with the host a little in advance to find out if you are expected to take your own main. If you are vegetarian, then asking the host if they would like you to provide your main will always be appreciated, especially if they are not used to catering for vegetarians. The same sort of thing applies to beverages, the host will inevitably supply some but any extra will always be welcome. If you are attending a communal barbecue, never flip someone else’s meat or fish unless you have asked them beforehand. They know exactly how they like it cooked, you do not. Lastly, the nature of grilling means that not everyone’s food will be ready simultaneously. It is perfectly acceptable to begin eating even if others do not yet have their food. If you wait for the others, yours will be cold.

Infringements of grilling etiquette will not cause WW3 to break out but it could cause some complaining. But now you have read this article, the complaints will not be about you!

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About The Author, Kev Woodward
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