First you build a fire

Now is when the outdoors gets great with aromas of meat, fish, chicken, and vegetables on your grill

By Sheryl Julian
Globe Staff / May 25, 2011

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NEW ENGLANDERS rarely wait for Memorial Day to dust off the grill. There’s a cult of early grillers who light the fire all spring, whenever the mood strikes. This year, they would have set out in waders and woolies. But catch the first whiff of smoke from a neighbor’s grill, and your own stewy pot, however wonderful the contents, seems like a lesser meal. Even something oven roasty and crisp at the edges isn’t as appealing as food cooked over coals.

It takes several weeks to remember the routine: how many coals you really need to avoid waste, how to get the temperature of the fire right, how not to burn the skin on the chicken, how to get steaks charred outside and juicy pink inside. Then you’re looking at several months of patio pleasure.

We think grilled foods need a little sauce or salsa or something savory to accompany them. Add a charred tomato sauce to lamb kebabs, for example, a smoked paprika aioli to shrimp. Without an accompaniment, meat or fish benefit from a deeply flavorful rub or glaze: with plenty of ginger for salmon, or lemon and herbs for lamb loin chops. For diehards and fair-weather cooks, grilled food is wildly seductive. The season is short. It’s time to move outdoors.