Iíve got to get a new grill. Mine has burned its last burger, charred its last hot dog. Iíve replaced every part in it that can be replaced. But when the lid fell off last week, I realized there was no way to put it off. I hate the thought of having to break in a new grill. Is there any relationship closer than a man and his grill? A wife? Children? Parents? Friends? Sure, theyíre all important, but a grill Ė thatís something special, something unique. After years of grilling I had finally figured out all my grillís hot spots, remembered where to put the patties for people who like their meat bloody, where to put them for those who like it crusty. I knew exactly how long it took to warm up, exactly how long things took to cook. Like snowflakes and gas prices, no two grills are exactly alike.
So I went to my big-box stores to see what was new in the world of backyard cookery. There seem to be only two sizes of grills now: the family-reunion size or the divorced-man-living-alone size. The family-reunion grills are the size of a car, all stainless steel with six burners that can put out more heat than a volcano. On the sides are extra burners for I donít know what. As much as I would love to own one, itís more than I need. They are the little red sports cars of grills and they cost about the same. They look great and will surely impress the neighbors. But how often are you ever going to use this contraption? All winter it will sit there lonely and unused. When it rains, when youíre on vacation, when you come home tired from work most weeknights, it will just sit there. On the summer holidays youíll get invited to parties, youíll bring a dish to pass, and the power grill will sit there, gathering spiderwebs and earwigs.
I know there are Bobby Flay grilling fanatics out there who use grills every day, but Iím not one of them. I want to make things as simple as possible, not as complicated as possible. Itís why I have become a hot-dog fanatic. First, you donít have to make them; itís all done for you. Second, you donít have to ask people how they would like their hot dog cooked. Youíre not going to need any cute little flags that say ďrareĒ or ďmedium.Ē Everyone is going to get their hot dog cooked the same. Third, you canít make a mistake. Theyíre done when they get some grill marks on them. Itís hard to overcook them.
If you think theyíre too common, you can fancy them up by getting gourmet hot dogs, putting them on fancy buns, slathering them with fancy condiments or any combination of the above. You can top them with sauerkraut or chili or a thousand other things. Face it: hot dogs are the perfect food. You can even cook them inside without splattering grease all over the place. How the hamburger became so popular, Iíll never know. No doubt the big hamburger chains spread the ugly rumors that hot dogs are all pig snouts and tails but as I recall, itís hamburger meat that always seems to be getting recalled, not hot dogs.
So I donít need a huge grill to cook my hot dogs. The other choice out there is a little ďcampingĒ grill, but those are hardly bigger than a frying pan and 50 times harder to clean. Besides, I need enough room to grill my corn next to my hot dogs.
I finally found my new grill at a small store, the same brand I used to have with the same dials at the same size. The only thing that wasnít the same was the price. It was now twice as much as I paid for it years ago.
Jim Mullenís new book ďNow in Paperback!Ē is now in paperback. You can reach him at jimmullenbooks.com.
Copyright 2011 United Feature Syndicate