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Etiquette For Your July 4 Barbecue


And finally today, the Fourth of July is coming up. Hopefully you have some festivities in the works. So we thought it might be time to offer a little refresher course on barbecue etiquette for, you know, those people who think it's OK to hover over the host while he or - ahem - she is grilling and weigh in on how they should cook their meat - you know, those people.

Here to tell us barbecue do's and don'ts is Carla Lalli Music. She is the food director at Bon Appetit. And she's the author of "Where Cooking Begins: Uncomplicated Recipes To Make You A Great Cook." Welcome. Thank you so much for joining us. And congrats on the book.

CARLA LALLI MUSIC: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So if you watch the channel or any of the Bon Appetit YouTube videos, we know that you all have lots of conversations among yourselves in the test kitchen. Is this something you talk about - the hoverers, the...

MUSIC: Oh, absolutely.

MARTIN: You know, like, what are some of the other barbecue don'ts that come up when all of you all get together?

MUSIC: I think hovering is a big one, people who want to jump on the grill before they've been invited to, people who think they're helping out by bringing a side of beef that they figure you have room on the grill to just add that into your menu, any kind of, you know, presumptuous guests.

MARTIN: What about some barbecue do's? Are there some do's that you wish people would do that they perhaps don't think to do?

MUSIC: People are always going to offer you to bring something. What can I bring? And it took me a long time to realize, like, yes, take people up on that. So I think bags of ice are always a thing that you forget about and you need more than you think - extra bags of charcoal for sure, non-alcoholic beverages. You've got to stay hydrated if you're going to be out there sweating in the sun all day - cans of seltzer, things like that. And then if you have a very specific diet that you're on, you might want to bring your own dish that satisfies what you need to eat instead of putting that on the host.

MARTIN: Yeah. OK. On a happier note, you were recently heard on Bon Appetit podcast "Foodcast," where you talked about when you should really marinate your meat. Now, that was a game-changer. Tell us.

MUSIC: Yeah. So instead of marinating before, we have a story in the June issue that's all about marinate after grilling. And I love this for a couple of reasons. One is that by marinating after, all of the flavors of the marinade actually end up in the finished dish instead of getting sort of grilled into oblivion or poured down the drain when you're done marinating beforehand. But I also love it as a hostess strategy. You can grill ahead of time, have everything kind of ready and sitting in this marinade, and it just gets better.

MARTIN: It sounds good. But obviously, I just think it's important to point out, like, do not put your raw stuff...

MUSIC: Definitely.

MARTIN: ...In the same container, if I could say that, like, super-loud.

MUSIC: When you marinate after grilling, you actually make a marinade that doesn't touch any of the raw fish or meat.

MARTIN: Got it. OK. What about people who don't eat meat? There are a lot of people who really are trying to move more toward a plant-based diet. How do you manage that on the grill if you have limited grill space? Because, I mean, it depends on why you're not eating meat. I mean, if you're not eating meat because you have strong ideological reasons, you don't necessarily want that touching. How could you manage that? And what are some things that you should consider for the non-meat eaters?

MUSIC: Yeah. I love grilled vegetables. I love eating vegetarian meals. I'm not super-strict about if meat's been on the grill to then make something with vegetables. But some people don't want them maybe cooking at the same time, where they might touch or come into contact that way. So I would say one of the preparations I really love for summer are grilled salads. So this is like a grilled spin on your classic salads.

And on Bon Appetit, we have a recipe for grilled lettuces with creme fraiche and avocado, which is a spin on, like, a ranch dressing. We have a grilled cob, where some of the elements of the salad get grilled and then tossed together with the other stuff. There is a grilled bread salad, which is kind of like a riff on a Panzanella, a bread salad where you combine it with some grilled vegetables.

MARTIN: So finally, as I mentioned, you've got a new cookbook out, new-ish. It was out a couple months ago.

MUSIC: Yeah.

MARTIN: It's called "Where Cooking "Begins," and it's all about kind of simplifying, or at least your book is more about strategies so you don't have to be so wedded to the recipes. Can you just give us some words of inspiration, especially for people who might be a little nervous about tackling that first, you know, Fourth of July where they're hosting or, you know, something like that? Could you give us some strategies for how to make it a little less stressful and maybe more fun for the host?

MUSIC: I would just think about grilling as like any other type of cooking technique. It's really about time and temperature. So if you know how to cook at your stove, you understand high heat, medium heat, low heat, you can replicate that on a grill. It just has to do with how big a pile of charcoal you have and where it is in its lifecycle. So it's very hot at the beginning, and then it cools off a little bit. And then I would say simplify your seasonings. I have a whole section in my book that's all about salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice as being really essential and really fantastic.

MARTIN: OK. Carla, you know I'm putting you on the spot here now - OK. charcoal or gas?

MUSIC: Oh, this is a great question. I think that they're both great. I have charcoal. I love cooking over live fire. But if what you have is a gas grill and it gets you outside, enjoying cooking outside and making something that you love, then lean into your gas grill. It's all good.

MARTIN: That's Carla Lalli Music, food director at Bon Appetit magazine. She's the author of "Where Cooking Begins: Uncomplicated Recipes To Make You A Great Cook." Carla, thanks so much for joining us. Happy Fourth.

MUSIC: You, too. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.