So you’ve decided to grill out

When the mercury crests the triple-digit mark the idea of actually cooking a meal becomes, at best, abhorrent. It’s already 100 degrees outside, why would I turn on the small box in my kitchen that produces hundreds MORE degrees of temperature? And for what, dinner? I can get dinner any number of places that won’t result in my spontaneous combustion; so why should I have to boil my own kitchen to get the same result?

But after completing the circuit of Marshalltown area restaurants, and after the people at the Hardee’s drive-thru have begun to recognize your voice, it might be time to consider doing some actual cooking.

And by “actual cooking” I mean grilling out.

Who doesn’t love a good grill out? It takes the best part of cooking (food) and combines it with one of summer’s great activities (standing around) to produce the kind of unique experience that only a cheap package of hot dogs and rapidly warming beverages can provide!

Now, a summer grill out isn’t all fun and games and wondering when the burgers will be done; there is a lot that can go wrong when you fire up the grill. Worry not, dear readers, as I’m more than happy to walk you through the potential pitfalls of cooking outdoors.

Other people

Before you buy any groceries, before you plan the meal, before you even check to see if you own a grill, think about who you’re going to invite.

Had you not planned on inviting anyone? Were you just firing up the grill to make a couple burgers or a steak for yourself? Too bad, buddy! The second a piece of meat hits an open flame a flood of hungry neighbors, visiting friends, long-lost relatives and people who wandered in off the street will cascade down upon your simple grilling endeavour.

Within minutes your back yard will fill with paper plates, empty cans, and one of those bag tossing games that nobody actually buys but somebody always owns. Be prepared.


After coming to terms with the fact that other, hungry people will be arriving shortly after the first burger begins to sizzle, you need to determine what you’ll be serving.

Meat. The answer is meat. Some kind of meat, maybe a few kinds if you’re so inclined.

After selecting your entree, just make up the rest. Chips? Sure. Potato salad that’s just a flimsy excuse to eat three cups of mayonnaise? Gross, but … fine. Crudités? Acceptable, but only if you call it “veggie plate.”


What type of heat source will you be using? While there are a few options, I’ve watched too many episodes of “King of the Hill” to not give the nod to sweet lady propane. Taste the meat, not the heat!

Actually grilling

So you’re back yard is filled with strangers and you’re suddenly in charge of 16 different, exceedingly bizarre and specific burger orders (make mine pink on the edge but well done in the middle!) and you’re finally ready to grill.

This is, far and away, the best part of grilling … maybe even better than the eating.

Standing at the grill is like taking control of the steering wheel to your own back yard.

Stand tall and resolute, and remember that none of these guests, despite their continued insistence, can force you to deviate from your grilling plan.

And, oh, how they will try. Do you think the hot dogs are ready to be turned? Do you think there’s too much char on that burger? Do you think that chicken should still be pink in the middle?

These are not your concerns. Your only concern is the grill, and keeping any potential usurpers from unduly flipping your burger.

I just want to watch TV

So you’ve been standing watch at your grill for hours, the remaining meat has been cooked and all you want to do now is sit down with some peace and quiet.

Just one problem: all these people are still here.

So, how do you politely tell the throngs of hungry hangers-on that it is now time to leave your house so that you can finish the only plan you had today: to watch the season finale of “Veep,” and eat a burger.

Well friendos, there is now a solution thanks to, of all places, the Iowa Legislature! I know, I was surprised too.

You want to clear the crowd after a grill out? One word: Fireworks.

But won’t loud bursts of light just attract more people to the grill out? Sure … if they were real fireworks.

Go buy one of those “almost fireworks” kits that used to be the only way we had to celebrate the Fourth of July. Tell the crowd that the fireworks show will begin in five minutes. As they hastily rearrange their chairs and bag games into a semicircle, emerge proudly from your garage with a large box labelled FIREWORKS … maybe draw some explosions on the box to really sell it.

As they wait with baited breath, open the box and triumphantly hold up a box of “snakes.” The sheer depth of the crowd’s disappointment will be audible.

Within minutes you’ll hear a smattering of excuses to leave, ranging from the obvious “my spouse or child is sick” to the Midwestern classic “Welp! Looks like we better get going.”

Put your burger on a bun and turn on HBO, because your house is empty and its time to watch TV.

Happy grilling.


Copy Editor Wes Burns is a Sunday columnist. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don’t necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. Contact Wes Burns at 641-753-6611 or