BACKYARD BARBECUES Summer cooking is truly grilling

Cooking on the grill has become more popular in the past few years.
There's nothing like aromatic, juicy and flavor-packed food cooked outdoors on a grill. The only thing that tops cooking outside is eating under sunny skies.
No matter what the weather, Jeff Limbian simply loves to barbecue -- during the week and on weekends. "There's nothing like barbecuing in the summertime," he said. "But I've also stood in 3 feet of snow and under an umbrella in the rain to barbecue. In the winter, it's a great taste of summer."
A family affair: Like father, like son applies to this family gusto for grilling. "My family always barbecued, and I remember standing at my father's side by the grill when I was young," said the Youngstown lawyer who has 20 to 25 years of barbecuing under his belt. "My dad [John Limbian, also of Youngstown] likes to cook."
The Limbians opt for barbecuing with charcoal. "We prefer the taste," he said. Adding to the flavor is a sweet and tangy sauce made by his mother, Anita Limbian.
Different dishes: While Jeff Limbian makes baby back ribs, filets and chicken on the grill, another appetizing option is shishkebobs, made with lamb and big chunks of pepper, onion and tomato.
An unusual item is Romanian mititei, which Limbian described as a cross between a hamburger and a meatball. It is shaped like a hot dog and made of beef, pork and lamb.
Limbian said he likes to keep it simple, even when he has cooked for a crowd of up to 75 people with three grills going. "And everyone got it medium," he said with a laugh.
When there's a spill or a chunk of hamburger slips to the ground, Maggie, the family beagle, "takes advantage of the situation," Limbian said.
He said a challenge in barbecue equipment is finding a good brush -- one that doesn't leave bristles on the meat as sauce is applied.
Another barbecuing enthusiast is Gary Jones, manager of Youngstown Propane Inc., located in Canfield and Austintown. "There's nothing like the taste," he said. "I like the atmosphere that barbecuing creates, and it makes cooking fun."
Simply grilling: There are many accessories that make grilling user friendly. "Now it's easy to do a lot of things on the grill," Jones said. Rotisseries, side burners and steamers make it possible to cook the whole meal on the grill and never use the kitchen, Jones added.
Upper-end grills, costing $450 to $3,000, are geared to those serious about grilling. "There are people who grill five or six nights a week," Jones said. "They need something that will last and offer good service, and they're willing to spend more money for that."
Jones said he likes grilled steaks and fillets, but a pork loin is great as well. He said he recently made chicken fajitas, cooking the chicken on the rotisserie and the peppers and onions on the griddle.
There are many success stories on the grilling front, but Jones said his most awkward moment at the grill was the day he ran out of propane. "Now that's pretty embarrassing when we have the store," he said.
A matter of taste: The flavor of the food is why Greg Voytilla, Struthers, has been experimenting on the grill for the past 10 years. His specialties are ribs and chicken.
"If you start off with a better cut of meat, you'll end up with a better taste," he said. "When you have a better cut, you can avoid it drying out."
Though he's tried making barbecue sauce, he likes the convenience of bottled sauces and the varieties available.
Voytilla also prepares vegetables on the grill and is looking forward to the summer explosion of fresh produce. "When you're cooking vegetables on the grill you just have to remember to slice them thicker," he advised.
He brushes on olive oil, pepper, oregano and a bit of basil then grills vegetables such as zucchini for five minutes on one side then for three minutes on the other.
Corn on the grill is another option. Voytilla said he dabs corn on the cob with butter then wraps it in aluminum foil. Another technique is buttering the corn and grilling it in the husk.
Though some people have grilled too close to the house and burned or melted the siding, Voytilla said he's avoided that pitfall.
Tales of disaster: Sylvia Lewis, owner of Lewis Grill and Fireplace Shop, Boardman, said over the years she's heard many stories of such mishaps along with those of bumble bees, mice and other assorted creatures making their homes in grills.
"Sometimes tiny spiders spin their webs in the burners, and you have a back flash as the web burns up," she said. That's why it's important to read and understand the operating manual and practice safety precautions.
In the grill business since 1969, Lewis said the popularity of grilling everything from soup to nuts has skyrocketed. "Gas grills have made it so convenient to cook outdoors," she said. "It's ready to go and heats up quickly. And with everyone's lives so busy, it's an easy and quick way to cook," she added.
New additions: Grills also have improved over the years. Some options are rotisseries, back burners and steamers. In addition to accessories, the number of cookbooks devoted to grilling has increased greatly and the variety of sauces and marinades offers something for everyone.
It's the "juices and smoky flavor of something cooked on the grill" that people love, Lewis said. "You can even bake a cake on the grill," she said.

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