Chuck Fread, who's been grilling for more than 25 years, pulls dinner off his wood pellet grill Thursday in the back yard of his home. According to the National Barbecue Association's Web site, 81 percent of all American households owned a grill in 2007, and nearly half of those grilled one to two times a week during the summer.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Chuck Fread, who's been grilling for more than 25 years, pulls dinner off his wood pellet grill Thursday in the back yard of his home. According to the National Barbecue Association's Web site, 81 percent of all American households owned a grill in 2007, and nearly half of those grilled one to two times a week during the summer.

Area cooks take pastime outdoors

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— A wide medley of foods, from pork and pizzas to pineapples and potatoes, have crossed Chuck Fread's grill the past 25 years, he said.

For meat dishes, Fread said his methods for preparing a flavorful cut aren't complex, just a handmade marinade of teriyaki sauce and a dash of choice spices.

He estimated he's cooked about 2,000 steaks since he started grilling. Still, he said, grilling isn't limited to meats.

"It's for anything you enjoy eating cooked," he said.

In his opinion, indoor cooking doesn't compare with what comes from the grill. Stove cooking can make meat taste bland, he said, and a broiler can make it too dry.

Fread isn't alone.

According to the National Barbecue Association's Web site, 81 percent of all American households owned a grill in 2007.

Almost 50 percent of those households grilled outdoors one to two times a week during the summer, the Web site reported.

The grilling season has a noticeable impact on area businesses.

At Samuelson True Value Hardware and Lumber, grill sales increase between 60 percent and 65 percent between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, Samuelson employee Susan Chenoweth said.

Fread, an employee at MJK Sales and Feed, said the stores sells about 50 percent more propane during the summer months, beginning Memorial Day, than it does the rest of the year.

Brother's Custom Processing started seeing a spike in meat sales about two weeks ago, co-owner Dave Satterwhite said, adding that the trend probably will continue until Labor Day.

During those weeks, Satterwhite estimated meat sales increase by about 50 percent.

"Holiday weekends are always the busiest," he said.

Brisket and spare ribs have been popular cuts this year, he said, adding that steak seems to still be one of grillers' favorites.

J.B. Chapman, another area cook, said he prefers cooking on the grill.

"The flavor is the best," he said.

That's not the only appeal to cooking over a grate instead of cooking over a stove.

"I guess it's not only the flavor," he said. "It's the experience - the experience of summertime."

Chapman listed the events that usually accompany the season: Picnics, barbecues and informal gatherings with friends.

"It's a good time," he said.

Chapman, who has been grilling for about five years, said he cooks outdoors about four to five times a week.

Recently, Chapman started using a grill heated by wood pellets instead of traditional charcoal or propane models. The switch has allowed him to make meals that otherwise would have only been possible indoors.

In addition to serving as a grill, Chapman's pellet-fired machine does triple-duty as an oven and a smoker, he said.

Casseroles, pizzas and chocolate chip cookies are a few of the foods Chapman has prepared using the grill.

Fread also has had a conversion of sorts.

Earlier this year, he saw a pellet grill demonstrated at MJK. He bought one of the new grills in February, he said, and gave it a test run shortly thereafter.

Fread hasn't regretted his decision. He's used 40 pounds of wood pellets in the grill since he bought it three months ago, he said.

Unfortunately, the midwinter day Fread chose to try the grill was also the day the weather chose to dump snow on him and his new machine.

No matter. Fread kept on grilling through the storm, he said.

Seasons of the year don't determine when Fread does his grilling.

"It depends on the weather," he said. "If it's a sunny day and it's not too bad, I'll go out and grill."

Yet, in some cases, not even foul weather keeps Fread away from the grill. On several occasions, he said, he's started cooking an outdoor meal under clear skies only to finish the job in the middle of a snowstorm.

"That's what you've got to do," he said.

Comments

50cal 6 years, 7 months ago

I have started making my own charcoal MMM! I still can't beat the flavor of wood versus gas.

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lonelyone 6 years, 7 months ago

My parents put in a gas grill when I was a kid and we've grilled through every season since then. I got my husband hooked on grilling and we've been at it for 30 some years now. Nothing beats a good bbq'd steak in the middle of the winter! My Mom use to cook pineapple upside down cake on a gas grill so that pellet grill sounds interesting!

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