Author Michael Pollan explores the evolutionary reasons behind why we've learned to cook with fire in his book The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals.
He tells Steve Inskeep that firing up the grill is a way for us to connect with the primordial rituals of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. And Pollan says that grilling outdoors is one of the highest honors we can bestow on a guest.
With the summer grilling season in high gear, Pollan offers a number of tips for successful cooking.
1. Don't barbecue alone. It's a social event. There's something about the grill that draws people together.
2. Keep touching the meat — with a clean finger — to make sure you're not overcooking the meat. Turn the meat frequently.
3. Don't use lighter fluid. It imparts a chemical taste to the meat. Use paper and a charcoal chimney to light your fire.
4. Experiment with woods. Use mesquite, apple wood, grape vines or scraps of other woods. They impart a flavor that can't be achieved with indoor cooking.