Grilling for Dummies

I’m going to start this story with a personal note to my Women’s Studies professor from college: Please do not continue reading. OK are we good? Are we alone now? Because I’m about to venture into some serious damsel-in-distress territory here.

I can’t grill.

From May through September, I depend on Andy – my totally evolved, equality-minded husband – to be my dinner hero. I know I’m not alone – I know that this scenario plays out in backyards across the country and that the Weber remains a shady, unknowable realm to even my most kitchen-savvy women friends. But come on, this is 2011. How is this OK?

I know what you’re thinking – how exactly is it a bad thing that for four months out of the year, someone else is responsible for feeding Phoebe, Abby and me? (And feeding us well, I might add.)  I can only respond with this anecdote: Remember last year how I miraculously arranged my work schedule so I could take a two-week beach vacation? The girls and I headed out for the first week, then Andy joined us for week two. Fun, right? I thought so too until Night One, when I found myself setting the oven to 425° to prepare Abby’s favorite baked drumsticks. This is not the way to cook in the summer. On vacation. In South Carolina. In August.

And the thing is, as you hopefully know by now, for the rest of the year I cook like crazy. All year long I take pride in making sure something special is on the family dinner table. I can cook a piece of salmon to perfection, braise a pork shoulder to meltiness, and spin a lone, sad onion into a delicious, healthy meal. But all of this is cooking — cooking that allows me to control heat the post–Industrial Revolution way, with a knob clearly labeled “Low,” “Medium,” and “High.” I’ve always been a little terrified of fire. I get dizzy and starry-eyed watching Andy (my hero!) calmly rearrange yogurt-marinated chicken on the Weber, which, in my panicked hands, I know would probably just turn to rubber.

My fear of falling into tired gender roles and lifeless chicken was recently trumped by something more terrifying: Being cut out of the family memories. It dawned on me that while I am usually inside washing greens, puttering  through other totally un-badass tasks, my husband is outside, presiding over the grill, refereeing a game of tetherball between Abby and the dog, kicking a soccer ball with Phoebe, and generally being present while all the late-sun-tinted summer memories are unfolding by the second.

I didn’t want to watch from the window anymore. I wanted to be the hero. So I made the chicken. With a little coaching from Andy — but for all intents and purposes, all by myself.

Please pick up a copy of Bon Appetit — where this story runs in our July “Providers” column — for a grilling tutorial. You can head over to the website for the yogurt-marinated chicken recipe. (A new one! Not the lemon-pepper DALS VIP.) Photo by Mark Peterson for Bon Appetit.

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Amy P.

Yeah, I always left the grilling to my husband, partly because I wasn’t confident about gauging doneness and feared I’d overcook the meat, partly because who wants to stand next to blazing heat while it’s blazing hot outside?

But in the end what it took for me to get on the grill was for him to be late home from work and me to be impatient and raging hungry. And you know what? It wasn’t so hard. It feels empowering as a woman to realize that you can grill too.

Nice yogurt chicken recipe, BTW! We’re coincidentally eating a very similar preparation ourselves tonight. I like your tip for pounding the chicken thin, probably easier to evenly cook that way.


What a funny post – and so true!

A close group of girlfriends and I have scheduled weekly play/grilling dates so that the kids can run around and I can give some basic grilling instructions. It really is the easiest way to get a great meal on the table in the summer, more moms should learn – we don’t need to wait for the husbands to get home!

And P.S. I’m in South Carolina at the beach right now and you’re right! Firing up the oven is the last thing I feel like doing – wow is it HOT!


OK, I, too, should learn to grill. But I think I should do it when hubby is not around, because I’m with you on having him take on the cooking in the summer months (and those times in winter, too, when we just need to have some of that good grill taste). If I learn to grill, what motivation will he have left to pick up a spatula??

(he does do killer omelets, too, so all is not lost).


…I have never left the grilling to my husband. He works crazy long hours. I do prefer gas to charcoal for ease of use though and I realize that some people do not consider that “grilling”. Grilling is easy and fun, you will love it!

Nicole Hunn

So true.
Grilling began and ended for me in the same day. It was 1996, and I was in my second year of law school. I learned that there is strict liability (meaning, you don’t have to prove fault, only that something happened and someone was hurt – fault is assumed) for propane tank accidents. And then, when I was sitting for the Bar one year later, one of my law school professors died from a propane tank explosion! Forget it. I haven’t touched a propane-powered grill.
I prefer a charcoal grill (seems more contained, less potentially explosive in a hair-trigger sort of way), but they take time, you know?
I need an in-between solution.



Yes, I am a total stalker and am delighted that you have posted the “other” yogurt chicken recipe! I was going to give you a little nudge soon, since in the original lemon-yogurt post you mentioned other variations and my attempts at variety have not been successful. Thank you–I can’t wait to try it this weekend!


I remember, as a girl I was perfectly capable of making a camp fire, roasting my own marsh mallows – women claiming back the hearth fire and the fun that comes with it :-)!!

Barnadine the Pirate

I am the only one who cooks in our family; the boys are too little and my wife — I am not exaggerating here — cannot make toast. We don’t have a grill, but if we got one, should I insist that she become the family griller and give me a three-month hiatus from kitchen duty?

Anne Marie

Aw. So dang cute and may I compliment the cute mamma in a skirt while she barbeques? This ain’t no man presiding over the cue! I love your post and will check out the next Bon Appetit.

P.S. One of my all time favorite grilled pizzas is plain carmelized onions over dough that has been brushed with olive oil. Delish!

Jacquie | After Words

I recently reclaimed grilling for myself too, but I have to confess that it’s made that much easier by a gas grill. If we’re talking about charcoal, I’m happy to delegate. (I’ve been making the lemon pepper chicken about once a week since Memorial Day–in fact it’s on the menu tonight–so I’m eager for a variation!


One night at my grandmother’s last summer, we came back from the store and started marinating and prepping until my aunts and I realized that we had no men among us. Not one of us had ever attempted the grill on our own. It was a sad realization and what ensued was not exactly the best tasting dinner, but definitely a funny Lucy-Ethel type episode. I love this post and am proud of you for conquering the grill and the inspiration for us to do the same!


Our family usually falls out along stereotypical gender roles, so I was THRILLED to leave the grilling to my husband, since that was basically the only time he cooked. Then one night, he was running late, so I had to do it myself… And unfortunately, I was deemed to be a better griller than him!!! So now, dinner is ALWAYS my job, whether it’s on the grill or not. If I were you, I’d leave Andy as the chief griller and just head outside to join the fun, forgetting the side dishes inside!

Torrie @ a place to share...

I have the same kind of husband and the exact same scenario going on over here.

I will definitely be picking up a copy of that issue… (I need to start subscribing!) in a few minutes, as I am headed off to the store. You’ve inspired me.

(but I’m still afraid =))

…I’ve experienced this situation with gardening too! My husband is the “garden manager” (well, manager… and all other positions too), and although it allows me some alone time to get things done inside, I realized that I’m totally being cut out of the summer gardening memories!!


I really find your columns in Bon Appetite so charming. I loving hearing both voices coming through…fun. Still reading the blog but now looking forward to a new Bon Appetite each month as well.


Yep, same affliction round these parts. But it wasn’t really the grilling that terrified me…it was getting the coals going. Maybe even more pathetic? Anyway, we got a bbq chimney and I’ve since conquered a portion of my bbq issues. Your article might just help me take it to the next level…thanks!

ps- I read your newsletter, do I win the wine?


I can’t start the grill! My husband always starts it. I don’t know how to turn on the gas and I’m afraid I’m going to explode myself. Once he starts it I’m good. Then he has to turn off the gas. I’m so pathetic! My goal this summer is to learn how to do it!

PS: I read your newsletter, do I win the wine?



I really enjoyed and related to this post! I finally grilled (on a charcoal one!) for the first time this past Mother’s Day. I had always relied on my soon-to-be ex-husband for grilling but I was determined to have a grilled steak and s’mores for my special day! I instructed my 5 year old to stand a safe distance away from with the phone in hand to call 911 in case I blew myself up. And fanning those flames proved to be quite a workout for me. However, it was so worth it because I enjoyed my meal, the kids loved their s’mores and I felt so empowered!

“PS: I read your newsletter, do I win the wine?”


Good for you! I have to admit that your post made me realize my unrealized fear of the grill… Something I have probably put off because of our apartment’s “no grill” policy, but we are about to move to a house soon! Perhaps there is some time to educate myself and become a little ba.

PS: I read your newsletter, do I win the wine?


I definitely don’t think you’re the only one that has a harder time on the grill! There are so many of us! =) (including me)


You’re so funny! Of course you can grill. In my family, my mom is the BBQ master, not my dad (though they can both make a perfect campfire). My mom has also always cooked on wood fires (no charcoal for us or, gasp! propane!) so that is what I saw growing up. If you wanted to grill, you busted out real wood, an axe, made some kindling, lit the fire, then waited for the perfect time to put the meat on. A lot of work? Maybe, but not really. And you can imagine how good her BBQ tastes… 🙂