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Russ Parsons: How to throw a BBQ and not kill your partner

Disclaimer: This is a generic photo of sugar and citrus cured tri-tip.
Disclaimer: This is a generic photo of sugar and citrus cured tri-tip.
Eric Petruno/Flickr

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With Labor Day — and Labor Day barbecues — fast approaching, we turn to LA Times food editor Russ Parsons for help. Not just help cooking f0od; you can find that in any book. But help doing something much harder: throwing a party you can actually enjoy yourself ... without harming/killing your partner/spouse.

A few years ago, I invited Russ to my patio after throwing a party at which, I confess, I got overwhelmed and said something nasty to my husband, Julian. "The first thing you have to remember," Russ admonished me, "is why are you doing this? You're not doing this to show people what a wonderful cook you are. You're doing this to get people you like together, and break bread with them. So you plan your menu accordingly; stuff you know you can do."

RELATED: Parsons says don't grill or squish your burger

In a nutshell, he says, if you're going to grill food at your party, prepare the other things in advance. And don't attempt some fancy dish that will keep you in the kitchen. Chill out. There's much more in our interview (listen above), but Russ also gave us a recipe for tri-tip, which I can personally attest is delicious.  And I can also attest that at the BBQ where he served it, he was present and happy and did not seemingly annoy his lovely wife Kathy.

Russ Parsons' Ultimate tri-tip
(Total time: 50 minutes, plus at least 1 hour marinating time)

Servings: 4 to 6

Note: Oak chips are available at Barbecues Galore stores.

6 cloves garlic, chopped

1/4 cup oil

4 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

1 (2- to 2 1/2 -pound) tri-tip roast, with thin fat layer

  1. In a blender, grind the garlic, oil, salt and black peppercorns to a coarse paste.
  2. Pat the tri-tip dry with a paper towel and score the fat layer with a sharp knife, cutting through the fat, but not through the meat. Place the meat in a sealable plastic bag, scrape in the garlic paste, press out the air and seal tightly. Massage the meat with the garlic paste until it is evenly coated. Set aside at room temperature for at least 1 hour. If you are going to marinate more than 2 hours, refrigerate the meat but remove it 1 hour before cooking to allow it to come to room temperature.
  3. About 1 hour before serving, start a fire on the grill using 1 chimney full of charcoal briquettes, about 50. Put one-fourth pound of oak or hickory chips in a bowl and cover them with water. Place an inverted plate on top of the chips to keep them submerged. When the flames have subsided and the coals are covered with white ash, dump the chimney into a mound on one side of the grill. Drain the wood chips and scatter them across the top of the coals.
  4. Sear the fat side of the tri-tip, cooking directly over the flames with the grill lid off. This will only take 3 or 4 minutes. Don't worry if there is a little char; that is almost necessary in order to get a good crust. When the fat side is seared, turn the tri- tip and sear the lean side directly over the coals. This will take another 3 or 4 minutes; again, don't worry about a little char.
  5. When the lean side is seared, move the tri-tip to the cool side of the grill and replace the lid, with the vents open. Cook to the desired doneness, checking the temperature of the meat every 4 or 5 minutes. It will take 20 to 25 minutes for 125 degrees, which is on the rare side of medium-rare, 25 to 30 minutes for 135 degrees (on the medium side). Cooking times will vary according to the type of grill and temperature of the fire.
  6. Remove the roast to a platter and set aside for 10 minutes to finish cooking and for the juices to settle. Carve the tri-tip fairly thinly (at most one-fourth-inch thick), against the grain and with the knife held at an angle to give wide slices. Spoon the carving juices over the meat.