Keepers Of The Flame

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They are ordinary men -- engineers, roofers, stockbrokers -- when they hear words like "porterhouse," "baby-backs" or "marinate" they become the grillmeisters.

When these men are barbecuing, and the scents of spices and smoke and meat roasting combine into a single, mouth-watering aroma, this becomes the grillmeister's imperative:

Don't touch my grill!

"Nobody messes with my grill," Paul Pfeifer said. "I'm the person cooking. I'm preparing for people. If someone touches it, they could screw it up."

"They might break it; they don't know how to work it right," said Jason Petersen. He grills for his family every chance he gets.

But more importantly, "When somebody says, ‘Let's barbecue,' that means that friends and family are coming over and there'll be a good time," said Pfeifer.

Tastes vary when it comes to choice of grill, what food is cooking and what seasonings are used.

Petersen, the keeper of the flame in his family since marrying Juliedon 11 years ago, likes his New York strip marinated.

"I can't tell you what I marinate it in," he said with a laugh.

Pfeifer is a self-described "rub man."

The recipe is a family secret, but he was willing to share what it does for the meat.

"I think the rub puts a little crust on the steak or the ribs and holds in the juices and the flavors," he said. "Then if you want (the meat) wet, you can dip it in a little barbecue sauce, otherwise the flavors are great without it."

Charlie Adcock, local butcher and owner of Charlie's Old-Fashioned Sausage and Fresh Meats, said he sends out about 80 percent of the meat he sells with his special recipe of blending salt and fine quality spices.

Adcock usually cuts steaks about an inch thick -- great for medium rare barbecuing.

"Steaks cut too thin usually get overdone and dried out (when cooked)," Adcock said.

"Always look for good marbling in beef. They are little fat pockets and they explode when you cook the steak. The (fat pockets) make the meat swell up."

The three steaks Adcock recommends in order of preference are porterhouse, T-bone and ribeye.

Adcock also makes 35 different kinds of bratwurst out of lean pork so they can go directly on the grill and do not need to be parboiled first.

He also makes big hot dogs that are enclosed in natural casings.

The decision to use charcoal briquettes or a gas grill is another personal choice.

Pfeifer is so serious about his barbecuing that he and his wife Barbara designed an outside kitchen where he can use his infrared rotisserie for a whole chicken as well as flame-broil steaks.

"We've got 862 square inches of cooking surface," he said with pride.

When using briquettes that include a lighting material, an electric charcoal starter wand for around $15 may be purchased to light briquettes cleanly.

Because no lighter fluid is necessary, the meat has only its natural flavor and that of the charcoal.

Mesquite, hickory and applewood chips are available for grillers who want those flavors smoked into the meat.

Good tools are another grillmeister essential.

A good spatula has a front that is sharpened and a tenderizer on the left hand side -- you can use that to scrape some extra scales off grilled fish, Pfeifer said.

He grills his salmon with a little dill, a little butter and a little lemon wrapped in foil.

For grilled chicken breast he uses spice and slow cooks them.

He has a stainless steel tray to grill vegetables.

"My wife puts the secret spices on the vegetables," Pfeifer said. "I don't even know what those are."

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