COLUMN: Barbecue burnout a constant threat

Outdoor culinary misadventures shorten the lives of reporter's barbecues.

They say you can die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become a villain.

Our barbecues live short lives, but never die heroically.

It’s hard to say what kills them faster, our humid climate or my culinary misadventures.

I’ll let my wife take some blame for their untimely demises.

In winter we keep whatever barbecue we happen to be tormenting that year on our back porch, which is covered. Barbecues are built from aluminum and stainless steel, which don’t corrode easily with reasonable care. Just keep the rain off and they’ll last for years, but my wife insists on buying those barbecue covers made from faux leather with a soft backing. It won’t scratch the finish, but it’s perfect for trapping humidity. Given the right mix of moisture and oxygen, electrolysis sets in and the following spring you pull off the cover to discover a mass of white and brown corrosion shaped like what last year was your barbecue – sometimes with the remains of some vermin’s nest inside.

One year my mother in law, who lives next door, bought a new barbecue for herself, plus one for my wife and me for our birthdays, which fall a few days apart. That summer we hosted a party requiring two barbecues. I loaded hers into my truck thinking I’m only going next door, so why bother tying it down? I’ll just drive really slow. My rear view mirror provided a stunning view of her new barbecue summersaulting out of the back of the truck as it lurched through the pothole I forgot about in our driveway. My stepson witnessed the performance and has never let me live it down.

I repaired the barbecue’s smashed control panel – some of my finest refinishing work ever – and with the two sturdy lawnmower wheels I bought to replace the flimsy originals that exploded into plastic shrapnel on impact, I figure it went home a better product than when I borrowed it. She still has it. I don’t think she has one of those covers.

Our last barbecue retired early from corrosion and artery-clogging hamburger grease that ignited and engulfed it in a blazing conflagration one night. It still worked after that episode. The following summer, after wintering wounded under its cover and corroding some more, I cleaned it up and put it out on it’s little concrete pad near the cherry trees behind the big tent we set up for the kids to backyard camp in.

I was busy getting something ready for a party so a friend offered to fire it up to preheat it. Seconds later my friend, Ron Lambert, Nanaimo’s fire chief, emerged from behind the tent with the hair that hadn’t been singed off his forearm still smoldering and told me how it shot a five foot long tongue of flame at him from under its control panel.

The unit we replaced it with suffered its baptism of fire the night of my wife’s birthday party when I discovered “lean hamburger” is really a relative term. It was the second batch of patties that supplied the critical mass of fat triggering what I could best describe as my personal backyard Chernobyl. I only turned away for a few seconds to hand my wife a glass of wine when I heard the sizzle of flaming grease and ticks of expanding metal from the apocalyptic fireball erupting from under its lid.

Once I got the fire out the hamburgers weren’t that bad, actually. They were just blacker and skittered around the serving platter a bit more than usual. Everyone said how impressed they were – given what appeared to be a genuine risk of a propane explosion – with how calmly I walked over, turned the burners off one by one and brought the inferno to heel.

Last month I finally got around to replacing the lid handle that melted off.

Just Posted

Gabriola singer-songwriter Sarah Osborne, Cowichan Valley duo Heartwood, Vancouver singer Kelly Haigh and Nanaimo bluesman David Gogo (clockwise from top-left) are among the performers in this year’s Cultivate Festival. (Photos submitted)
Gabriola Arts Council presents COVID-conscious Cultivate Festival

Theatre, music and art festival returns to Gabriola Island after 2020 hiatus

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

Retailers say they’re ready for the ban on single-use plastic checkout bags in Nanaimo when it takes effect July 1. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Retailers report they’re ready for Nanaimo’s single-use checkout bag ban

Business operators say there’s been plenty of time to plan and prepare for bylaw that kicks in July 1

Nanaimo Fire Rescue crews on scene at a boat fire near the boat ramp at Long Lake on Sunday, June 20. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Boat burns up on Nanaimo’s Long Lake, man and child unhurt

Jet skiers attempt to put out fire by circling around to spray water on burning boat

Nanaimo Track and Field Club athletes are off to a fast start this season after no competition last season due to the pandemic. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo athletes back on track, starting with club competitions

Nanaimo Track and Field Club registration filled up

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

The Crofton trailer park home where the bodies of two people were found. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Mom still waiting for answers after daughter and her fiance found dead in Crofton

Pair discovered dead in their Crofton home in May identified as Rachel Gardner and Paul Jenkins

Indigenous rights and climate activists gathered outside Liberty Mutual’s office in Vancouver to pressure the insurance giant to stop covering Trans Mountain. (Photo by Andrew Larigakis)
Activists work to ensure Trans Mountain won’t get insurance

Global campaign urging insurance providers to stay away from Canadian pipeline project

Robin Dutton, left, and Peter Sinclair are taking their mountain bikes and travelling down trails in the Mount Benson area June 19 as part of a 24-hour fundraiser benefiting Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Full-day mountain bike fundraiser gives financial support for Nanaimo food bank

Event part of Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank’s Food 4 Summer campaign

The Sacred Hearts church on PIB land burned Monday morning. (Theresa May Jack/Facebook)
Two churches on First Nation land in South Okanagan burn to the ground

Sacred Hearts church on Penticton Indian Band land was reduced to rubble

Tl’etinqox-lead ceremony at the site of the former St. Joseph’s Mission in Williams Lake, B.C., June 18, 2021. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
‘We are all one people’: Honouring residential school victims and survivors

Love, support and curiousity: Canadians urged to learn about residential schools and their impact

The Coquihalla Lakes washroom is getting upgrades. (Submitted)
Coquihalla to get upgrades to aging washrooms

The Ministry of Transportation is providing $1 million in funding to upgrade 3 rest areas

In the first election with public money replacing corporate or union donations, B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau and B.C. NDP leader John Horgan take part in election debate at the University of B.C., Oct. 13, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. MLAs ponder 2022 ‘sunset’ of subsidy for political parties

NDP, B.C. Fed call for increase, B.C. Liberals have no comment

Most Read