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Hot Goods Rule at the Barbecue Show


California may be the capital of backyard cooking, but we don't have a monopoly on it. At Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Expo 2000, a huge trade show of "indoor hearth and backyard living" products at the Anaheim Convention Center recently, there were brands from South Korea, Taiwan, mainland China and even France.

No fewer than four of the barbecue makers were Canadian. "We have an intense 41/2-month barbecue season in Canada," said Alan Jackson, president of Jackson Grills.

A couple of manufacturers offered electric barbecues, and two were showing electric pit barbecues or smokers. Karen Lunsford was handing out barbecued ribs from the Cookshack Smokette II, made in Ponca City, Okla. "You just close the door, set the temperature and walk away," she said.

High-end gas-fired barbecues have been getting bigger and bigger (Dynasty has a model that can cook 50 hamburgers at a time) and acquiring ever more features of a kitchen range. Several companies also offer matching refrigerators for your outdoor kitchen. Patio dishwashers are probably next.

The same trend toward non-grill outdoor cooking can be seen in the turkey deep-fryers and crab boilers that have become common in the last five years. More such developments are on the way.

Take EVO's flat-top grill. It looks like a patio umbrella table without the umbrella--one that happens to have a steel surface 36 inches across and big black knobs to control the two muscular-looking concentric burners under the griddle top.

"The food doesn't stick the way it does to a rack," said inventor Bob Shingler, "and it can't fall through."

On a much more modest level, Little Griddle Inc. was debuting the Griddle-Q, a line of stainless steel griddles that fit onto most gas barbecues. "My husband invented it for our Boy Scout troop," said Vicki Button, "and over the years our friends kept asking him to make them for them. This is our first trade show."

Apparently, people also want to make pizzas in their backyards. Several companies had pizza stones for barbecues, and Llonari Corp. was showing a gas-fired brick pizza oven mounted on wheels so you can fire it up anywhere on the patio.

With all this bringing of indoor activities to the patio, it's natural that the fireplace has migrated out there too. A lot of firms were showing patio hearths, seven of them also making the tall, chimneyed Mexican-style clay oven called a chimenea. Naturally, most of them were rigging chimeneas up for use as barbecues, too.

And then there was the Finnish company Rakennustempo Oy, maker of the Tundra Grill--a big, elaborate patio hearth complete with hood, grill rack, three frying pans mounted at three heights and two vertical broiling boards for cooking planked fish.

But with all these high-tech and high-fashion developments, it's good to know the trade show still had room for Buster's Drunk Chicken Roost, "manufacturer of the finest beer can chicken cooker on the planet." Hey, however you cut it, barbecue is barbecue.

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