Tag Archive for: grilling meat

A Brief History of the American Cookout

The tradition of cooking meat and other food over a fire in the backyard seems distinctly American. After all, it seems like every generation most of us can recall has been taking part in this unique pastime, particularly on summer holidays like the Fourth of July. But the roots of the modern-day cookout can be traced much further back. 

Cooking Over Fire – Just How Long Have We Been Doing It?

Humans have been cooking food since their discovery of fire, which would take us as far back as the Paleolithic era. Of course, there weren’t any fancy sauces or rubs in those times. No one had access to a Big Green Egg or Blackstone Grill. But, according to Dr. Richard Wrangham, Harvard University professor of biological anthropology and the author of Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, cooking food transformed the course of human development. 

According to Dr. Wrangham, cooking not only gave humans better food and nutrition. It also helped our brains and bodies develop, making us truly human. Some of this might have taken place in what is now North America. But what about the more recent version of the cookout in this country? Interestingly, the cookout has been here for hundreds of years. 

The Roots of the American Cookout

One of the first explorers to reach America in the late 1400s, Christopher Columbus, did so by way of the Caribbean. While there, the explorers came across indigenous tribes who used wooden frames to slow-cook food. The explorers brought the new cooking technique, which they called “barbacoa,” to the new world with them. The term eventually morphed into “barbecue” as it spread across the southern U.S. 

Of course, grilling and barbecue aren’t quite the same things. But cooking meat and other food over fire is something that has strong roots in this country. Jim Auchmutey, the author of Smokelore, notes that American militia began organizing group barbecues as far back as the Revolutionary War. 

Cooking over flames as a group activity in the U.S. became a way for people to gather and celebrate unified values. And this is one of the reasons cookouts became a traditional way to celebrate our country’s independence or Memorial Day. 

The Modern-Day American Cookout

As you can already see, cookouts in America have been closely linked to politics and war. In the 1800s, some politicians used these events to get close to potential voters by offering them free cooked meat and booze. Ronald Reagan hosted a massive Fourth of July cookout on the White House lawn for three years running. Even today, the Polk County Steak Fry, which is a giant cookout, is the largest organizing event for Iowa Democrats. 

After World War II, there was a massive migration of families from the cities to the suburbs that coincided with a period of economic prosperity. Many families build outdoor brick fireplaces, and gathering with neighbors became a priority in many communities. 

As an option to host as many people as possible in warm weather months, the popularity of backyard cookouts skyrocketed. Interestingly, the iconic Weber grill made its debut in 1951, just in time for the backyard barbecue boom. Major brands like Better Homes & Garden started publishing cookbooks for backyard grilling. And even I Love Lucy aired an episode that featured the characters building a backyard BBQ

Finally, more and more Americans began traveling for leisure to other areas of the country or outside our borders. When they returned home, many were eager to re-create some of the cuisine and culture they encountered in other places. This gave rise to the popularity of things like grilling shrimp, smoking spare ribs, creating beef teriyaki skewers, and backyard tiki bars. 

Let Nick’s of Calvert Help You Have an Amazing Cookout

Now that you know the history of the American cookout, you’re probably getting pretty hungry and thinking about when you can schedule your next barbeque. Nick’s of Calvert can help make your grilling experience an overwhelming success. As your hometown grocer, we offer a full-service meat counter, which is the centerpiece of our store. 

Nick’s is proud to deliver the freshest meats at the most affordable prices in the area. We offer only the highest-quality beef, pork, chicken, and seafood. And our store also offers catering, prepared foods, a line of signature products, and one of the largest varieties of beer, wine, and spirits in Southern Maryland. Contact us or visit our store today to get the assistance you need to make your next cookout a success. 

Food Prep – How to Stay Safe When Handling Raw Meat

There is nothing more delicious than a juicy steak, a homecooked chicken, or a pork roast that you leave simmering in the crockpot all day. Meat is rich in protein, and many families include it as part of a balanced diet. But if you handle and cook meat at home, you need to exercise some caution to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

The truth is that various types of bacteria can grow on animal products. Sure, there are safety concerns with just about everything you eat today. But understanding basic food prep with meat is vital. Here is what you need to know about the dangers of handling raw meat incorrectly and what you can do with your food prep to stay safe.

How Dangerous is Raw Meat?

Nothing about raw meat is safe. It can contain harmful bacteria such as Listeria, Salmonella, E. coli, and Campylobacter that can lead to food poisoning. When cooked correctly, those same bacteria are destroyed and are not a safety concern.

There is a common misconception that you are more likely to get sick from low-quality meat than you are from high-quality meat. If you fail to take the proper safety precautions, either can get you sick, which is why safe handling and proper food preparation are so essential.

Selecting Your Meat

Staying safe with meat begins at your local grocery store. First, never buy meat that is past its sell-by or expiration date. It is also a good practice to purchase your meat at a specialty store with a wide selection of meat choices or the same place you are buying your other groceries, so it reduces the time your food is out of the refrigerator.

Here are some other tips to help you select the best and safest meat:

  • Avoid any meat that has a strong odor, is discolored or brown, or feels slimy or tough.
  • Avoid any poultry that has a strong odor, looks faded, or feels slimy or tough.
  • Avoid any fish that has a strong “fishy” smell or an ammonia-like odor, is discolored or faded, or has slimy or squishy flesh.
  • Avoid any meat that is torn, damaged, or leaking packages since it is likely been exposed to harmful bacteria through the air.

Safe Handling of Meat

When you handle meat, always wash your hands first and continue to do so frequently. Use soap and water, washing your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds before and after handling meat.

The bacteria from meat can spread quickly and easily. To prevent this, separate your preparation area from your other food and cooking items. Be sure to keep vegetables separate from meat, particularly if you won’t be cooking them together.

If you have different types of raw meat that you are cooking, there is no problem if they touch each other as long as they are thoroughly cooked before consumption. The main concern is raw meat touching other foods, like a tomato, and transferring bacteria to those foods.

Always have a separate cutting board for meat. And clean all utensils separately once they have come into contact with raw meat. Use different utensils to serve your cooked food.

Cooking Your Meat Properly

We all have our preferences about cooking meat. Medium-rare to well-done is an age-old argument. But a big part of food safety is ensuring your meat is cooked all the way through.

Different meats have different minimum internal temperatures that are safe.

For example, the minimum cooking temperature for poultry is 165 degrees F and 145 degrees F for beef and pork. You can get a simple meat thermometer to gauge your progress.

How to Safely Store Meat

A big part of meat safety comes down to proper storage. In general, raw meat is safe to store in your refrigerator for about three days. If you plan to wait any longer before cooking it, the best thing to do is put it in the freezer. Frozen meat can last several months.

How you handle leftover meat after it has been cooked also matters. It may be tempting to take a few hours off to relax after all that food preparation, but it is safer to put your leftovers away as soon as possible after the meal. The less time your food sits at room temperature, the better.

Get Your Meat Questions Answered Quickly

Bacteria can grow quickly on bad meat, so it is never a good idea to take unnecessary chances. If you are ever in doubt about something you have in your home, it is best to err on the side of caution.

If you have questions about meat food prep, the highly trained butchers at Nick’s can help. We offer a full-service meat counter and take pride in superior customer satisfaction. We also provide a wide variety of some of the freshest meats at the most affordable prices.