The cold is gone and the heat will soon be on. With spring and summer coming, many people are asking themselves, “What am I going to do, grill or smoke?” As one of the main organizers for the FireLake BBQ Cook-off, even I always have a hard time deciding, as I like both. Whatever you choose though, there are a few things to check before you get started.

• Is there a burn ban? – In Oklahoma, this is always the first thing you should check. If there is a burn ban in effect, the best case scenario sees you just get a ticket for grilling with a flame. Worst case scenario, you end up on the news in handcuffs.
• Is the grill clean? – For both sanitary and safety reasons, having a clean grill is important. No one wants to eat food that has been stuck to a grill for a few days, and they are also a potential fire and smoke hazard.
• Do I have enough propane, charcoal, or wood? – Like pouring a bowl of cereal before seeing if you have milk in the fridge, there are few things in life worse than running out of fuel before your meal is cooked.
• What are you going to cook? – It’s great that you have all that fuel, but it won’t do you much good if you forget to buy the food you want to cook.

Smoking with hickory, pecan, apple or any other wood is great, regardless of whatever you choose. Just like charcoal, smoking with wood may take a little longer, but it’ll be well worth the wait if done properly.

On the other hand, cooking with charcoal results in a great flavor but, again, it may take a little longer.

Cooking with gas has its advantages, like being easy to light. That means your grill is ready to go in minutes.

So let’s say you have decided to use the gas grill. Something to keep in mind is to have your food and cooking utensils ready to go. Always stay close to your grill in case of flare ups. Another reason to always keep an eye on it is because of that one brave dog we all have who is unafraid to take that steak right off the grill when you turn your back or go inside because you forgot something.

Keep in mind that most gas grills will have hot spots on them, so start out at the hottest spot and move to the cooler ones to finish off your meats.

Cooking your meats to the desired temperature is something that comes with lots of practice, as there is no set time to cook a steak or hamburger. There is one old trick a cook once told me about that I use. If you start at your wrist, press down, and that will be how a well done steak should feel. As you work your way up your arm about an inch at a time, you will feel how medium well medium and rare should feel. To cook the most tender meat, slow and low temperatures are best.

Good luck with your summer grilling, and remember this old grilling adage. Not everybody will like your cooking. But the ones who do will always come back, while the ones that don’t end up leaving more for you!