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Digital Subscriptions > Cottage Life > May 2017 > THE ULTIMATE COTTAGE BBQ GUIDE


Cottage grilling, how do we love thee? We count the ways. Plus, answers to your burning questions and seven back-pocket recipes from Canada’s top grill masters


Our most profound realization as cottagers: there is nothing more central to the cottage experience than the evening barbecue. In other words, city grilling is not cottage grilling.

In our BC (before cottage) years, my partner and I had a house in the city that possessed many elements of a cottage— a large cedar deck, an outdoor dining table, a barbecue, and even a water view if we opened the lid of our hot tub. And we inhabited this city house quite like a cottage, cooking on the grill nearly every night and preferring to eat outside, even in temperatures requiring a coat, though we had a perfectly good table inside.

Yet, in this BC era, when we grilled constantly for friends, we didn’t have “barbecues.” We had dinner parties. And the guests who came to these dinners paid about as much attention to our barbecue as they did to our kitchen stove. Even when my partner, Nance, a.k.a. the grill mistress, had our ‘cue fired up and smoking hot, guests exhibited not the slightest fetishistic interest in it, never asking how to turn it on or inquiring what its best features might be and whether it had any particular hot spots and exactly where those might be. They did not open and probe inside every lid and compartment that could be opened and probed and then exclaim, “Oh, I can’t wait to get my hands on it!” Certainly, they didn’t arrive hours early, just to stand around it.

But transport these same guests to a cottage deck, and suddenly they’re drawn to the primal propane fire as a moth impales itself on a light. They call weeks ahead, begging responsibility for a few meals, then ransack the Internet for recipes that can be cooked entirely on the grill—as if we had no indoor oven at all. When they arrive, the barbecue becomes the centre of cottage consciousness— guests begin obsessing about how the evening meal will unfold before breakfast is even finished. What time shall we gather for drinks? When should we fire up the ‘cue and begin prepping? When’s the sun setting, meaning, how do we time the entire process so we’re eating at that magic hour of light but before the mosquitoes show up for their pound of flesh?

It’s as if the day stretching ahead were long hours to be suffered with swimming, beachcombing, and kayaking until the main event, that most essential experience of a cottage day, is again at hand, blissfully with a grill fork in it.

But as cottage newbies, we are unaccustomed to pressing the starter button on the barbecue and igniting a deck full of sun-baked loungers into hyperactive sous-chefs eager to sous and to chef.

“What can I do? Shuck? Husk? Peel? I know, I can barbecue!” What I’d really like to do is pat them on the head and tell them to go lie back down, that it’s okay, we’ve got it.

How often should I clean my barbecue, and how?

You really should be spot cleaning yours every time you use it. Cooking this weekend’s chicken on top of the remnants of last weekend’s chicken is gross. And a dirty barbecue attracts both bears and grease fires. At a minimum, scrape off the grates, and inspect your grease tray or pan. “It doesn’t need to be spotless, but if it’s looking full, you need to scrape it out,” says Mike Rumolo, a co-owner of Dickson Barbeque Centre in Toronto. If you notice what looks like black paint flaking off the underside of the lid, it’s probably carbon buildup. Scrape it to loosen, and wipe away. Careful if you use a barbecue cover. A damp cover on a damp barbecue encourages mould, says Jo Carroll, the owner of BBQ B Clean in Vancouver. “The barbecue needs to be dry. Which is hard when it’s raining every day,” she says. “We had a lot of rain last year, and we saw many more mouldy barbecues.”—Jackie Davis

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About Cottage Life

Time to fire up the grill! Cottage Life presents The Ultimate Cottage BBQ Guide, featuring answers to all your burning questions and recipes and pro tips from 7 of Canada’s top grill masters (including one burger that’s pure insanity). This issue is chock full of everything you need to get ready for the season: you’ll find a deep dive into the growth of vacation rentals—and how cottage country is responding; building and renovation secrets from one of cottage country’s most loved go-to guys; and 9 boating mistakes to stop making this summer (dead batteries and bad gas, we’re looking at you). PLUS, a propane tank storage project, tips and products for the workshop, and a peek into a 150-year-old barn that gets a new life as a bunkie.