The story of chocolate, as far back as we know it, begins with the discovery of America. Until 1492, the Old World knew nothing at all about the delicious and stimulating flavor that was to become the favorite of millions.

The Court of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella got its first look at the principal ingredient of chocolate when Columbus returned in triumph from America and laid before the Spanish throne a treasure trove of many strange and wonderful things. Click here

Growing the Cocoa Bean  |   Varieties of Cacao  |   Crop for Shipment  |   How to Make Cocoa Powder
Bean to Chocolate  |   What is Conching?  |   Automation Does the Job  |   A Sanitary Atmosphere
Eating Chocolates  |   Growing Chocolates  |   Chocolates just for kids


Planning The Perfect Barbeque

So you believe you're ready for a great weekend featuring your own unique talents at the barbecue grill. Before you even think about throwing a slab of meat on smoldering briquettes, there are important steps to follow in preparation for that special cookout; steps that could make the difference between success and failure! You gotta have a plan! Nothing great has ever been accomplished without some kind of a plan! You should have everything in order before you start, getting all your ducks in a row as it were. Outdoor grilling can be an awesome experience but you have to get it right the first time, because each time you step in front of the grill, spatula and tongs at the ready, you're putting your barbequing reputation on the line. The beginning of any weekend grill fest starts with a quick look at The Weather Channel. It's best to consult weather experts on such an important matter a couple of days before the big event. It wouldn't do to put in the time on strategic planning, only to be forced inside at the last minute by a steady rain.

We, who have survived many battles fighting the rain on Saturday afternoons, think of such things as this! Next you have to decide just who will be invited and how many there will be at your cook out. This is a critical part of the planning exercise. The number of people attending dictates whether you will have steaks, burgers or chicken! It would cost a small fortune to provide enough steaks for twenty people. Odds are there would be someone in the crowd that you didn't really like, anyway, so why would you feed this person a sizzling, delicious and scrumptious steak? Barbequed chicken or hamburger is the answer. They're both reasonably cheap! Either chicken or a lot of burgers will satisfy a lot of people. There is no need to spend a lot of money on meat for someone you don't really like.

Either one of these meat ideas will satisfy a crowd without breaking the budget. Basically what it comes down to is this: Do you like the people in your party enough to buy rib eye steaks for everyone, or would it be better to have a lot of hamburger meat or a box of chicken quarters to throw on the coals. Whatever you decide, this is one of the first steps in planning for the backyard cookout.

After the difficult decision of deciding on the meat that the occasion deserves, you can then decide how much to buy at the market. IMPORTANT! Before you get too far along in the planning, it's wise to decide on the appropriate time to serve beverages. Adult beverages should be left in the cooler until after the flames have died. The festivities should never be interrupted by the sound of fire engines.

I've heard that sound before at one of my cook outs and it's not pretty! You've selected the meat and now you have to determine how much you're going to buy. If you buy too little, your guests will think you're a cheap skate. If you buy too much and have a lot left over, they'll think you're throwing money away and you're just showing off. Of course the amount of meat you buy depends on the number of people invited to your cook out. A rule of thumb I use is to multiply the number of people times one and a half if it's chicken, burgers or steaks.

Sometimes there are leftovers. If such a thing actually happens, that's great. Almost anything off the grill tastes great the next day, unless it's smoked sea urchin, but then no one in their right mind would serve smoked sea urchin in the first place. Yeech! Hamburgers: I like to keep my burgers simple. I usually sprinkle a little salt, pepper and finely ground garlic on the meat about an hour before I start cooking. Although that's exotic enough for me, some folks like to stuff them with all kinds of things such as onions, peppers and even cheese.

I'm old fashioned. I think cheese should remain on the top of the burgers where they belong. Burgers can be cooked to all degrees of readiness; I like mine cooked well with just a hint of pink in the middle.

Pepper and salt to taste. (Try using garlic salt on the burgers instead of regular salt. It adds a little character to the meat.) Chicken: For me, a good hot marinade on the chicken I cook on the grill is a must. Some folks however like it mild, so I always have some of both sauces ready to use after the cooking is done. You can make your own sauce or buy it at the store.

The hotter marinades you usually have to make yourself. I know you can't please everyone but your friends will continue to come over for a free meal if you don't sear their esophagus with a fiery chicken leg hot off the grill! Give them a choice! Cooking chicken over a charcoal grill is not difficult. The fire can't be extra hot because flames from the fat dripping onto the coals will burn your chicken to a crisp. Better to keep the fire at medium heat and add charcoal as you go along to maintain the proper temperature. When a meat thermometer is stuck between the joints of a leg quarter reads 175 degrees, it's time to take the chicken off the grill.

When the leg pulls easily away from the thigh, I say it's done. That's the lazy way of doing things. Steaks: It's easy to mess up a good steak by cooking it too much.

Don't do that! A good sprinkle of garlic salt, a little pepper and you're off to the races. Throw the steaks on the grill and cook them one side for about two minutes them flip them, sealing in the juices, making the meat more tender and delicious. Depending on how thick the steaks are, cook them five to six minutes on one side. Leave them on longer if you want them well done. While there are many kinds of grills to choose from, I prefer to use the old fashioned charcoal type.

I get a sense of history every time I smell the smoke emanating from burning charcoal. Maybe this was how they did it back in the old west when cowboys huddled around the campfire after a hard day on the range punching cows. The cook, who had cool nicknames like "cookie" or "biscuit" would divvy out steaks, biscuits and scalding black coffee to the cowhands. Those were the good old days.

Bob Alexander is the author and owner of this copyrighted article. He is well experienced in the art of barbeque cooking, outdoor activities and leisure living. Visit his sites:


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