Summer Is Here: How to Grill and Barbecue in Quarantine—Or Simply Get it Delivered

 (Emerson Viera / Unsplash)

Memorial Day weekend typically marks the start of summer and grilling season. It’s a time to break out the apron and tongs, fire up the charcoal and listen to the sweet sizzle of patties and corn on the cob. It’s all about the slow and low smoke of barbecued brisket, and the Dolores Park or Golden Gate Park cookout for those who don’t have grills in their homes.

This year is a little different, though. While that big park-side grill-out may not be advisable, or even possible, there are many different ways to have a barbecue at home. Use this guide to find delivery or pickup options of pre-seasoned meats ready for your oven or grill pan. You can look through recipes to make yourself, try some smoker hacks or go the takeout route.

Delivery and Takeout Options

Cook-at-Home Meal Kits and Pre-seasoned Meats
While Perbacco is typically closed the Sunday and Monday of Memorial Day Weekend, the restaurant decided to offer a special menu based on the success of their previous coronavirus holiday kits. The FiDi restaurant doesn’t typically offer takeout, and has had to adapt. One of its more well-known events is a Passover Sedar dinner. But, this year, the restaurant couldn’t host it. Instead, they turned to meal kits, and they’ve seen success with it. “It hasn’t been easy,” says general manager and co-owner Umberto Gibin. “We’re learning day by day. [This] is successful enough, but not sustainable. We’re taking care of the people around us who would normally come into the restaurant.”

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Perbacco's Memorial Day menu is an a-la-carte list of ready-to-grill items ranging from dry-aged steaks and king salmon to asparagus and fingerling potatoes. Wine and cocktails are also on the menu for takeout. 

Burger box from Palatte
The burger kit from Palette. (Peter Hemsley / Palatte)

Palette is known for its artistic takes on food, but this Memorial Day, chef-owner Peter Hemsley decided to do simple burger kits. “It was the kickoff of summer and what Memorial Day means, outdoor grilling and summertime casual dining,” says Hemsley. “Putting on the takeout picnic or barbecue box is a move toward what people are gravitating toward in the next couple weeks. We went for a more generic Americana feel because we feel like people are desiring and craving some of that right now.” The restaurant is offering a vegetarian patty made from jackfruit, grains, oats, spices, beets and other vegetables that Hemsley calls the Palette Possible burger. Mina Family Kitchen is going the meal-kit route with a whole rack of ribs, a liter of pulled pork, barbecue chicken and a burger grill kit that are all grill-ready. The meal-kit also comes with sides like coleslaw, potato salad and barbecue beans. The kits ($139) are meant to serve three to four people throughout the weekend. Orders must be made in advance, and there’s a May 21, 5pm deadline for Saturday pickup or delivery and a May 22 deadline for Sunday pickup or delivery. Delivery is available in San Francisco and within a 40-mile radius for an additional charge.

4505 Burgers and BBQ isn’t offering any particular specials for the weekend, but its Oakland location will be open on Memorial Day for pickup. The restaurant has a smoked meat by-the-pound option for those looking to get some barbecue without having to cook. Baby Blues BBQ in SF, which originally started out of Los Angeles, has its menu available for delivery via DoorDash. 

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In Oakland, Smokin Woods BBQ offers next-day pickup or same-day meat plates via Caviar. KC's Barbecue in Berkeley is also offering ribs, brisket and chicken for online ordering. For those looking to go beyond smoked meats and burgers, Rosamunde has delivery and takeout options for its sausages in both Oakland and San Francisco. 

In Martinez and Pleasant Hill, Slow Hand Barbecue recently started offering beer and wine sales with orders. Delivery is available through GrubHub, DoorDash or by calling. 

And Gott’s is probably one of the more well-known local names when it comes to burgers. They’re open for pickup and delivery in St. Helena, downtown Napa, the Ferry Building in SF, Walnut Creek, Marin and Palo Alto.

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Shopping
“Fat is flavor,” says Ryan Farr of 4505 Burgers and BBQ. For a good pork chop for grilling, look for one with pearly white fat that’s about half an inch to three-quarters of an inch. Look for dark pork, as opposed to lighter pork resembling chicken breast. In all cuts, especially for meats that are going to be smoked or baked low and slow, a good amount of fat will help add to the flavor. In terms of where to go, Farr recommends Clove and Hoof in Oakland, and Marina Meats or Fatted Calf, both in San Francisco. Several local butcheries are open during the pandemic, which are great spots to look for prime cuts, especially with potential meat shortages. When it comes to burgers, consider grinding your own ratio of lean and fatty meat. The most important thing is looking for quality.

meat and veggies on a grill

Barbecue Without a Smoker

Fall-Off-The-Bone BBQ Baby Back Ribs with Homemade Barbecue Sauce


There's a key difference between grilling and barbecue. Grilling is what you do on July 4. It's high heat, over charcoal. Barbecue, however, is all about that low and slow. Here, it's all about the smoke.

For those who live in apartments or don’t have a smoker or grill at home, the oven, grill pan and cast iron pan are the best tools to turn to. When it comes to barbecue, without smoke, the main focus is on the actual technique, says Farr. That means cooking it low and slow with dry heat. For something like a brisket, he recommends setting the oven to 215° F on a non-convection setting if you have a convection oven. For a five-pound piece of pork shoulder without a bone, Farr says he’d bake it at that temperature for five to seven hours until the internal temperature reaches 180° F.

While there may not be smoke, there are other ways to create depth of flavor and browning. Farr recommends using raw turbinado sugar in the dry rub. The sugar will react to the heat over time, and will caramelize and lend color. Patience is also key here. “You don’t want to go in there with your fork and start pulling apart the meat,” says Farr. Picking at it too often and too soon will release the internal moisture, and it can end up drying out the meat. “One big tip is that you don’t want to do anything. After you take it out of the oven, put it on the stove and let it rest for up to an hour. If you start to see steam come out when cutting, it’s still too hot. If you see steam, that’s your juice. That’s the stuff you want to stay in there.”

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For those who really want that smoke flavor, your oven can be converted into a makeshift smoker. Grab some applewood smoking chips from the local grocer, hit them with a blow torch right before you put the meat in the oven and place the chips on the bottom rack of the oven at the same time the meat goes in above the chips. Farr says that putting the chips in at the beginning will be the most effective way to get that smoked flavor. The dry heat at the beginning dries out the moisture, and that’s the point where the smoke will adhere to the meat, he says. The smoke might trip up the smoke detector, so consider this a fair warning to do at your own risk, especially if you have a landlord.

There's also a safer way to get a serious rack of ribs. You'll need an oven, a grill and a spicy rub to get things started. 

Grilling Without a Grill
In terms of grilling, a good sear and browning can be achieved from the oven broiler or a well seasoned pre-heated cast iron pan. There won’t be grill marks unless you have a grill pan, but both options are good in getting even high-heat for burgers, and simulated grilled veggies. One trick Farr uses for searing steaks or burger patties is to heat the pan until it’s nice and hot on medium heat. It will take some time to get the right temperature, but this will ensure an even temperature on the whole surface of your pan. You can test the temperature by pressing a side of the meat or burger patty you’re grilling in the pan. Right before turning, crank up the heat to high and flip. Farr says that this ensures a sear on both sides. Be careful with oil here because more oil equals more smoke (and more potential for your fire alarm going off).

And Finally: Learning about Condiments
For a virtual cooking class that focuses on what to put on your burger, Rooh’s Pujan Sarkar hosts a how-to on rhubarb chutney on May 24 ($25). Sarkar has a long history with using rhubarb, and the recipe he's teaching is a riff off of tomato-date chutney. 

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