Eating outdoors from early spring to late fall has become increasingly popular in the last few years. Previously, the picnic meal for which we had to make many preparations and to go some distance was the only type of outdoor eating we considered, except for an occasional lawn party. While we still like picnics, we often prefer a buffet meal served on lawn, porch or terrace, cooked at least partially over an outdoor grill. When we have even the simplest of facilities for the preparation of outdoor meals, we like to use them for entertaining guests informally. Sometimes, only the meat itself will be prepared on the grill, while other dishes may come from the house kitchen in covered casseroles when the meat is ready for service.
If you are an addict of the outdoor meal and like to plan family (as well as guest) meals frequently during the season, a special cupboard in the kitchen should be set aside for storage of necessary equipment. Even more convenient is a large bench-like covered box that can remain on the porch, or if mounted on large wheels, be conveyed to the outdoor dining area. It should have compartments with special places for the skillet, coffee pot, and the cutlery, and for plastic or paper dishes, picnic silver, paper napkins and towels, fireproof gloves and holders. There may even be a compartment for a bag of charcoal or briquets and the newspapers that will be needed for kindling. Iron skillets and stainless steel cutlery should be chosen. The skillet or any other iron utensil should be lightly greased after it has been cleaned with paper towelling and washed, to prevent its rusting if stored outside the house.
The grill itself may be anything from an easily contrived fireplace constructed with the aid of a few bricks or stones and a metal rack, to a sturdily built “barbecue.” In addition, there are traveling grills designed for outdoor cooking that may be used on the terrace or on the lawn. When we picnic in the woods or on the beach, we may depend upon wood picked up nearby, hoping it will be dry enough to catch fire. Often, however, a bag of charcoal will go into the car, in case we want to be sure of having a fire ready in short order. Charcoal or briquets are almost always used for the home “cook out” or grill. With the aid of a few pieces of newspaper, the fire will start quickly and will burn to the glowing coal stage in twenty minutes or so.
Our usual choice for meat is steak (an expensive cut if we can afford it, or a lesser cut which we tenderize in advance), hamburg patties, chops, ham steak, frankfurters, kabobs or chicken. All of these will cook comparatively quickly. When steak, which has a good deal of fat, is cooked over an open fire, a pot of water should be at hand and the coals sprinkled when they burst into flame, as they will when the fat melts and drips on the fire. Sprinkling salt over the coals will also reduce the flame. Chicken takes some time longer than the other listed meats. It should be grilled at some distance from the coals so that we will be sure that the flesh is thoroughly cooked by the time the outside is browned. It should be brushed with fat and basted occasionally during the cooking.