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Tales from the grill: Why Americans are hooked on cooking outdoors

(BPT) - Americans have a long-standing love affair with grilling. This relationship started many years ago. Our ancestors first learned to cook over an open flame, and today grilling has become a year-round lifestyle choice with many preferring to cook outdoors.

Why do Americans love grilling so much? The reasons are wide ranging. Some grill to relax. The backyard is their escape, and the flame calms them. Others barbecue for nostalgia. The grill is a time machine to their best childhood moments. Many grill for the sheer joy of cooking. The sizzle on the grates, the smell rising to the sky, the juices dripping on the coals.

The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association asked grilling celebrities to share why we love gathering around the flame and to ultimately encourage everyone to grill this summer and beyond.

1) Boog Powell, “I grill for nostalgia:” Orioles legend and professional barbecuer Boog Powell loves to grill because of a childhood experience. “I started grilling when I was 10 years old when my dad, brother and I made a big slab of ribs on a homemade grill on a family camping trip. It was probably the best ribs and the best barbecue that I’ve had in my life. I have been hooked on barbecue since then, and I still love it, more now than ever before,” adds Powell.

2) Tobias Dorzon, “I grill for my health:” Tobias Dorzon, former professional football player, professional chef and champion of Food Network’s "Guy’s Grocery Games" grills for the health benefits and delicious flavor. Dorzon notes, “Grilling is a healthier alternative because it burns the fat off meats and it uses less oil. Plus, grilling takes less time to cook and it keeps all the nutrients and flavors throughout your food."

3) Christie Vanover, “I grill for fresh air:” Christie Vanover, owner and operator of Girls Can Grill, loves grilling because it allows her to spend time outside. Vanover says, “My motto is 'Anything that can be cooked in the kitchen can be cooked on a grill.' I grill year-round, because I love being outdoors and soaking up the fresh air.”

4) Matt Pittman, “I grill to bring people together:” Matt Pittman, celebrity grilling expert and owner of Meat Church BBQ, “grills to bring people together and make great memories. Our lives center around food. What better way to spend time with friends and family than outside cooking and sharing a great meal."

5) Mad Dog & Merrill,We grill for entertainment:” Internationally recognized and self-proclaimed "Grillologists" and the hosts of the TV series "Midwest Grillin’," Mad Dog & Merrill clearly love to grill. “We started grilling for the fun of it all. Now 35 years later, we enjoy teaching backyard grillers how to think out of the box, experiment on the grill, and become ‘Grillogists’ of their own.”

6) Stan Hays, “I grill to help people:” Stan Hays, co-founder/CEO of Operation BBQ Relief, uses his grilling skills to help those in need when disaster strikes. “I have always enjoyed cooking from a young age, but it wasn't until I graduated college that I really became obsessed with grilling. I now look for all opportunities to use my grill and smoker. There is something so satisfying about using fire to feed your friends and family, and I’ve even found a way to use my passion for grilling to feed people in need.”

For more reasons, tips and tricks, recipes and information on grilling, visit www.whyigrill.org.

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