The Modern Outdoor Cooking Landscape

As the mercury rises in coastal Delaware, residents and visitors eagerly embrace the great outdoors, basking in the sun’s warm rays. With the changing seasons, an age-old tradition beckons them — cooking with flame and coals, venturing beyond the confines of their kitchen. Since the earliest days of civilization, harnessing fire for cooking has been integral to human survival. Fast-forward to the present, and it has evolved into a national pastime. In this era of readily available information and the convenience of online shopping, cooking enthusiasts now have a vast array of equipment options, techniques and recipes to explore.

Gone are the days when outdoor cooking consisted of grilling burgers and hot dogs on a simple charcoal grill. While that classic American summer menu remains a beloved choice, countless avenues exist to explore. Even with simple preparations, using the highest quality ingredients is crucial. For instance, I adore the offerings of Hickman’s Meat Market, which offers freshly ground beef and hand-crafted hotdogs and sausages with natural casings. New plant-based burgers and hotdogs can be tasty alternatives that cater to non-meat-eating friends.

“Gone are the days when outdoor cooking consisted of grilling burgers and hotdogs on a simple charcoal grill.”

The modern outdoor cooking landscape is a hotbed of innovation and creativity. Cutting-edge grills, ovens and smokers have become the centerpieces of patios and outdoor kitchens, fueled by gas, wood, pressed wooden pellets and various charcoal options. These culinary marvels boast temperature controls, multiple cooking zones, infrared technology and even built-in rotisseries, providing aspiring cooks with the tools they need to achieve culinary excellence.

Techniques have also advanced, offering outdoor cooks a variety of possibilities beyond traditional grilling. Smoking, a slow and low method of cooking that imparts incredible flavor to meats and vegetables, has garnered a devoted following. Pitmasters meticulously tend to their smokers, skillfully using carefully selected wood chips or chunks to create mouthwatering masterpieces. The gentle kiss of smoke permeates the food, resulting in tender, succulent dishes that leave taste buds yearning for more. 

There are also so many regional styles of BBQ to choose from. Of course, Delaware being the land of more chicken than people, I love our unique BBQ chicken that can be purchased from roadside stands all over Delmarva, specifically from the Kiwanis Club or on Route 16.

In addition to grilling and smoking, outdoor cooking enthusiasts can now experiment with roasting, baking and stir-frying. These versatile setups open up a world of culinary exploration, transcending the boundaries of the traditional kitchen. The possibilities are endless, from succulent roasted chicken and fish to crispy wood-fired pizzas. Among my favorite tools to create an outdoor feast with are my wood-burning pizza ovens and my Japanese-style Binchotan charcoal grills, which provide me infinite joy and limitless potential for culinary delights.

As the days grow longer and temperatures continue to climb, the allure of outdoor cooking becomes irresistible. It presents an opportunity to reconnect with our primal roots and embrace the elemental power of fire and its tantalizing aromas. Whether you’re a seasoned pitmaster or just beginning your outdoor cooking journey, there has never been a better time to explore the vast world of flame-kissed cuisine. So, fire up the grill, gather your loved ones and savor the delights of outdoor cooking. The experience will ignite your senses and create lasting memories.

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