Spring has officially arrived, and while the winter weather may not be gone in parts of the country, for many Canadians, barbecue season is fast approaching.

Maybe it never left. According to the Barbecue Industry Association (now part of the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association) www.hpba.org , more people are barbecuing year-round than ever before.

The association is getting ready for its annual Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Expo, which will be held April 10 to April 13 in Anaheim, Calif. The show features products from more than 400 hearth and backyard living manufacturers, and if last year's show in Salt Lake City is any indication, there will also be a lot of Canadians among the 10,000 who will attend. The show is for the trade only, which is a shame because the outdoor exhibits feature some delicious barbecue treats.

There's a continuing trend to outdoor living rooms that are becoming almost as well-equipped as most kitchens. Even in cold-climate locations, homes are being designed to take advantage of the outdoor weather, with elaborate built-in barbecue, clean-up and storage facilities, as well as outdoor hearth products.

Here are some other barbecue trends:

  • Men use gas and charcoal barbecues twice as much as women, but if it's an electric barbecue, it's likely a woman who will do the cooking.
  • The most important features in a gas grill, according to buyers, are a large cooking surface, shelves, a grease catcher and a fuel gauge.
  • The most popular barbecue foods are still hamburgers, steak, hot dogs and chicken. But other foods that are becoming more popular for the barbecue are ribs, corn, other vegetables, fish, other red meat burgers, vegetable burgers and whole turkey.
  • About 17 per cent of gas grill owners now use smoking wood chips to enhance barbecue flavour. The most popular flavours are mesquite and hickory.

    The Canadian Standards Association www.csa.ca says that every year, there are safety problems with gas barbecues because of improper lighting techniques and lack of maintenance. The beginning of the season is a good time to review some common-sense safety tips for lighting and transporting barbecues.

  • If you haven't used your barbecue for awhile, make sure the burner holes and tubes connecting to the burners are free of rust, grease and dirt. A blocked burner can create a gas backup and cause a fire at the control panel.
  • Remember to check all connections for leaks, by spreading soapy water on all fittings. If bubbles appear and grow larger, or if more bubbles keep appearing, there's a leak.
  • Always use and store the barbecue outside.
  • When transporting propane cylinders, make sure they are in a secure upright position with the valve plugs in place. They should be in the trunk with the trunk lid secured partially open, or on the floor of the back seat of the car, with all the windows open.
  • If you use a charcoal barbecue, make sure the barbecue lighter is kept in a safe place where children can't reach it. Store the lighter indoors -- the weather can damage the plastic and cause the lighter fluid to leak out.

    And once you're ready to cook, keep these food safety tips in mind:

  • Meats for the barbecue should be kept refrigerated until it's time to cook them. Keep uncooked meat on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator until it's ready for use.
  • If you're using frozen meat, thaw it only in the refrigerator, not at room temperature. You can also thaw it under cold running water or in a microwave oven. Frozen meat can also be placed directly on the barbecue.
  • Make sure the centre of all ground or stuffed meats, and poultry and fish, reaches 165 F by using a meat thermometer. Cook the red colour out of hamburgers -- only rare roast beef and beef steaks can be safely eaten if the meat is still red.
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    Fred's Avatar
    Fred replied the topic: #14120
    Love a good BBQ in the summertime!! Southerners are the best with barbequed food and recipes.