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Slices of Life: Grilling 2.0 - No more wimps on barbie
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We never mastered the barbecue grill. Oh, we tried, of course - in the early years of our marriage.

We charred countless chicken breasts and burned a multitude of steaks. Shrimp on the barbie was never as it was supposed to be. No amount of barbecue sauce could salvage our calamities. Our collective lack of grilling ability was so expansive we even managed to light our patio on fire once.

We didn't want to be quitters and blamed our failures on the charcoal. The embers were unpredictable - like Goldilocks' porridge either too hot or too cold.

We decided the remedy for our barbe-cluelessness was a gas grill. It would give us an even, steady heat. We tossed out the charcoal and invested in gas.

Unfortunately for us, having gas was a bit unpleasant and turned out to be nothing but hot air. The charcoal to gas conversion did not produce the palatable outcomes we'd hoped for. We continued to create meals that consisted of tough and chewy, overdone meat and limp and soggy vegetables. Yum.

We never discussed the decision to throw in the towel (or grill as the case may be). After trial after trial and failure after failure, I guess we both came to the same silent conclusion. Neither of us was born with the grilling gene. So we gave up and moved our meal prep indoors.

That was then. This is now.

Last weekend, in a flurry of charbroiled optimism, we bought a grill.

We weren't in the market for a new grill. We didn't even plan to look at the grill department. But there it was, on an endcap looking all shiny and new, full of possibilities and practically calling our names.

My husband saw it first. It drew him in like char to a steak.

It wasn't big and fancy or anything like that. A monster grill with lots of knobs and whistles would have been intimidating for both of us. This was a miniature model, suitable for a tabletop, or in our case, a boat.

"We can use it this summer," my husband said. "Think how fun it will be to grill up some burgers or brats on the pontoon."

He had me at summer.

It sounded like such a good and easy idea at the store. When we arrived home with our purchase, I couldn't help but remember our past with gas. My husband remained enthused. He was ready to take the grill for its maiden voyage that very evening.

So we bought some steaks and we did what would have been impossible in our early years of marriage. We Googled, "How to grill steak."

There before us on the screen were countless recipes, blogs, and articles all about grilling the perfect steak. We took notes and prepared to prepare. Which we did. We even preheated the grill and waited for it to reach the precise temperature. We set a timer. When it comes to grilling, it seems time and temperature are everything - or at least key to not burning your meat. Which we did not do. The steaks were cooked perfectly and tasted delicious.

I can hardly wait to take it on the boat this summer. We may not grill every meal to perfection but we are going in the right direction and I can optimistically say we are no longer wimps on the barbie.

- Jill Pertler's column appears Thursdays in the Times. She can be reached at