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Grilling steaks, frying turkeys

Posted: October 23, 2014 9:21 a.m.
Updated: October 24, 2014 1:00 a.m.

It’s said that Bear Bryant, the legendary football coach at Alabama, once remarked, “Every man thinks he knows how to do two things perfectly: grill a steak and coach a football team.”

Amen to that. How many men do you know who aren’t absolutely convinced that if Steve Spurrier would just let them call plays for one quarter -- just one quarter -- that they’d have those Gamecocks whipped back into shape in no time?

And Dabo Swinney up at Clemson? Shoot, most guys are sure they’d have the Tigers in the BCS playoffs if they could just tinker around with the team a bit.

If you ask a typical football fan -- we’re talking males here, OK? -- whether he’d be any good at coaching, he’d rub his chin thoughtfully, stare into the distance and answer, “Well, I’ll tell you this. Vince Lombardi and Knute Rockne wouldn’t have had much on me.”

And he would have been serious.

Even so, coaching’s a distant second to cooking when it comes to men’s opinions of their own skill level. Show me a guy who’s ever thrown a slab of sirloin onto hot coals, and I’ll show you somebody who thinks he’s Julia Child.

Of course, a few fellows actually know what they’re doing when it comes to finding their way around a kitchen or a grill.

But most guys aren’t quite that adept. My dad used to grill steaks every Saturday night, just before Gunsmoke and Perry Mason came on TV. When we had guests, he’d carefully go around the room asking everyone how they wanted theirs cooked, then he’d go out and do them all the same -- barely medium rare, the only way, in his opinion, a steak should ever be eaten.

Grilling used to be the most macho way of cooking, but no more. Frying turkeys has replaced it as the good-old-boy, stand-around-with-a-few-beers, have-a-good-time culinary experience.

A friend of mine brought over some fried turkey a few years ago, when it was still a novelty. That juicy, tender meat combined with the crispy skin -- yes, I know it’s not healthful but it’s darned good -- had me licking my chops.

“Hey, how long do you fry these things?” I asked, thinking that perhaps I’d try one the next week.

“That one there weighs 12 pounds. It’s a four-beer job,” my buddy replied.

“Say what?”

“Yea, that’s all you do. Get your oil heated to about 350 degrees, drop in the turkey, pop the top on a Heineken and sit down in a lawn chair. ‘Bout the time you finish that fourth brewski, the turkey will be ready,” he said.

Another friend told his buddies -- I think this might have been a six-beer job -- that the turkey was always better when he “spun the grease off.” He proceeded to take the basket containing the turkey out of the sizzling oil, then whirl the entire basket around and around, like a windmill.

Only problem was, the handle came off the basket in mid-spin and the turkey went skittering down the gravel driveway, picking up a few hundred pebbles into its freshly fried backside.

“No problem,” said the beerified chef to his friends, “that just makes it crunchy.”


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