To beat the summertime heat
Article and photo by Lisa Crockett
A few days ago, a near-tragedy struck our household. I had my taste buds set for something light and tropical. I marinated some chicken, sliced up a pineapple, and then put everything back in the fridge for a quick marinade. The beauty of a meal like this is twofold. First, all the heat stays outside, so the house stays nice and cool. Second, the minimal mess that results from preparation can be cleaned up while the chicken marinates. I don’t have to dread a kitchen full of dishes after I eat. The prospect of a delicious meal and a clean kitchen put me in such a good mood that I whipped up a quick batch of homemade ice cream for dessert and then settled in with a pre-dinner book and an icy glass of soda. It should have been a perfect summer evening, until I went to light the grill.
First, when I pressed the starter button on the grill, the familiar click-click-click of the spark mechanism remained silent. I am a firm believer that there is no problem that YouTube can’t help me solve. After a bit of searching and viewing, I found the fix – a simple turn of a cap and a new battery, and I had a spark! I could almost taste the tender, juicy, Asian-inspired chicken, its blend of sweet and savory just perfect when combined with the concentrated sweetness of the pineapple. With the click-click-click back in business, I turned the gas dial to high and waited for a flame. And waited. And waited. No luck.
The battery problem had been solved relatively quickly, and I had started on dinner pretty early, so I calmly returned to my YouTube search results for answers. What followed was the deepest dive into the internet rabbit hole I’ve made in quite some time. I turned the gas tank off and back on. I cleaned and brushed burner tubes and the cook box. I removed ashy residue and polished the grate. I tried lighting the grill with a match. I examined all manner of hose attachments, coating them in soapy water to help me detect a leak in the line. After a few hours, I finally admitted defeat, ordered a pizza, and tried to remove the soot stains from my hands, face, and hair. I now know the best shampoo to use after a thorough examination of a barbecue grill.
As I went to bed that night, I mentally wrote the obituary of the appliance that has served me faithfully through countless summer cookouts. I hadn’t properly appreciated the burgers it had grilled to perfection just two nights prior. Now the grill sat cold, silent, and sad, just like me. I gazed longingly at the chicken in the fridge, still gently soaking in the marinade, wishing for its juicy perfection. Waiting for the arrival of a new grill or a service call would likely render the chicken inedible, so I tentatively planned to use it in a stir fry. Tasty, but not really what I wanted.
The next morning, I decided that I would try one last time to find a solution without the help of a professional. Based on the “symptoms” the grill was exhibiting, I decided that there was at least a chance that the gas regulator was worn out. It’s a simple fix, unlike most of the other options which more or less required completely disassembling the grill – a move that far exceeds my skill level. A brief trip to the home improvement store for a $20 part seemed like a reasonable last-ditch effort. Upon returning home, I swapped out the old regulator for a new one, pressed on my now revitalized spark mechanism, and held my breath. Success! The grill roared to life with a hot, robust flame.
I grilled the chicken, now richly saturated with the marinade, and the pineapple and served them with hot buttered noodles and grilled bell peppers to round out the meal. Every bite was tender and juicy, and because chicken breasts cook so fast, dinner was ready in a flash, minus the hours and hours of repair attempts on my part. I’ve made this chicken before, but it seemed to taste especially good this time around, perhaps because I could taste victory in every bite. Even if you don’t have to work as hard as I did, I know you’ll love it too.