The warm weather in March may have encouraged some to jump the gun, but May traditionally is the month when folks start thinking about excavating the grill from the garage or storage shed.
It's time to fill the grill with as many coals as possible, douse 'em with lighter fluid, throw the meat directly over the still blackish charcoal and char it beyond all recognition. And make sure to leave the lid off to watch it burn every step of the way.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. And wrong.
Warren Weber Association members Tim Gintert, left, and TJ Taylor check on the pork loin they are cooking outdoors on a charcoal grill. This is one of the only times in the cooking process that the lid is not on the grill.
Owning a grill and knowing how to use it are two different things. That kind of grill abuse might work to cook a hamburger or heat up a hot dog, but a grill is capable of so much more.
The guys who make up the self-proclaimed Warren Weber Association use their grills for turkeys, prime rib, pork loin and just about anything else.
''We all like to eat, and we all like grilling food,'' WWA member TJ Taylor said.
The WWA includes Taylor, Tim Gintert, Alan Gordon, Dan Machuzak and Joe Ruberto, and the guys will get together to cook for parties and special events and compete against one another in the Warren Weber Invitational .
As the name indicates, its members are loyal to the grills manufactured by Weber - they own 12 Webers among them - and they cook using charcoal, not propane gas.
''I got one out of necessity in the '70s,'' Taylor said. ''My stove broke, and I needed something quick.''
Necessity developed into a passion, and Taylor is precise about his cooking.
''I count coals,'' Taylor said.
''TJ is a little more fanatical about it,'' Gintert said.
But cooking a good piece of meat on the grill doesn't require quite that level of dedication.
Taylor said the most common mistake amateur grillers make is, ''They don't put the lid on. They don't use the grill the way it's supposed to be used.''
The vented charcoal grills made by Weber and its competitors are designed to work like an oven when the lid is on, only this oven imbues its contents with a smoky goodness. Leaving the lid off of the grill is like trying to cook something indoors with the oven door open.
''You have to keep it covered,'' Taylor said. ''If you're cooking with indirect heat, leave the lid on for the first hour. You take the lid off, all the heat escapes and you're back to ground one.''
Even cooking directly over the coals, when a grilling recipe says to cook something for X number of minutes on one side and X number of minutes on the other side, that means with the lid in place.
''It also eliminates flare-ups,'' Taylor said.
Gintert said lighter fluid also is a rookie mistake. Instead of using an accelerant that can taint the taste of the food, grillers should invest in a chimney (which will help ignite the coals without lighter fluid) or make their own out of an old coffee can.
And outdoor cooks don't need to spend a fortune on exotic wood chips for quality results. Gintert said he sometimes uses wood chips on the side to add a certain flavor, but he uses basic Kingsford charcoal to provide the heat.
''Kingsford lights right away and is one you can control the heat with it,'' he said.
Taylor and Gintert picked the grilled pork loin recipe because it's something that can be prepared easily by following a few basic steps.
They cut a 7-pound pork loin in half to reduce the cooking time and eliminate the need to add coals, which is necessary to maintain the temperature for outdoor cooking over several hours.
The dry ingredients should be put on the pork at least three hours before the meat hits the grill, and Taylor said he normally prepares the loin the night before so the sugar will start to caramelize on the meat (and, of course, put the meat back in the refrigerator after applying the rub).
The pork loin is cooked over indirect heat. The grill should be prepared so there are about 25 to 30 coals on each side (for a 22 1/2-inch Weber grill) with a foil drip pan in the center separating the coals. That should be enough to heat the grill to about 350 degrees and maintain that heat for the cooking time, about 45 minutes to one hour (the temperature outside will affect how hot the grill is and the cooking time).
Gintert wanted to save the pork drippings to make a gravy, so they cooked the loin in a 9-by-13 glass baking dish, but Taylor said he normally puts the meat directly on the grill rack. (Gintert made a roue and added white wine, the pork drippings and capers to make the gravy, but the meat is juicy enough that a gravy isn't necessary).
The meat will continue to cook after it is taken off the grill, and it should rest for 10 to 15 minutes before cutting. Taylor suggested taking the loin off of the grill when a meat thermometer reads 135 degrees. After 15 minutes, the meat should reach the recommended internal temperature of 145 degrees.
''People cook pork too long,'' Taylor said. ''They used to cook it to 180 degrees. That's ridiculous. How tough do you want it?''