Outdoor BBQ – A Classic Family Tradition

Outdoor BBQ – A Classic Family Tradition

Backyard barbecues are a hallmark of summer. Any get-together involves food cooked out on the grill, accompanied by cold drinks, sunglasses, lawn games and laughter. Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day–all are celebrated in this fashion. For many, summer does not truly begin until they attend their first backyard cookout.

The tradition of the backyard cookout became popular in the 1950’s, when companies such as Weber began making grills that were convenient and practical for home use. Prior to the grill, outdoor meals had to be cooked over an open fire or in a large pit, so cookouts were large affairs or an activity for camping. Grills allowed for small-scale cooking with consistent results. Since homes were smaller then, the backyard cookout allowed people to have a large number of guests without crowding them all into a house. It also kept all of the heat and odors from cooking from getting inside the house.

Most cookouts had traditional menus: hot dogs, hamburgers, steaks, ribs and chicken pieces served with cole slaw, potato salad, chips and dip, and corn on the cob. Today, many people have expanded the definition of foods for grilling to include fish such as salmon, whole rotisserie chicken, kabobs, shellfish and vegetables. Attached gas burners on today’s grills mean that food that could only be prepared indoors has come outdoors.

There are many chefs who specialize in grilling and have written books and hosted shows dedicated to cooking just about anything on the grill, including baked goods. These men and women have made grilling into an art form and have spurred the popularity of the outdoor kitchen. These multi-function centers take all of the features of a kitchen–refrigerator, sink, grill and cooktop–and bring them outdoors. The development signaled a new focus on gracious outdoor living. Today’s backyard get-together is as much a dinner party as it is a cookout. These changes mean that the meaning of term backyard cookout has changed from the most casual of get-togethers to a catch-all term for nearly anything, as long as it is served outdoors.

Even with the upscale alternatives available nowadays, there’s something to be said for a hamburger fresh off the grill with ketchup and pickle, some potato salad, a piece of corn on the cob and a cold beer, eaten at a picnic bench while wearing shorts and a t-shirt or a swimsuit, surrounded by family, good friends and laughter. The classic backyard barbecue will always be around as a piece of Americana that cannot be matched nor can it be replaced.