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Tips to refresh rusty barbecuing skills

With the weather warming up, now is the time to break out the barbecue grill and enjoy eating out in your back yard. When I first begin grilling, my barbecue skills are rusty, so here are some tips to make it easier:

Charcoal grilling

Using charcoal briquettes, lay the fire with a surface area 10 percent larger than the food being grilled -- about 3 inches deep at the center, tapering to 1 inch at the edge.

Start the fire about 30 minutes before you're ready to cook. When ready, the coals will be covered with gray ash. My favorite to start the fire is a charcoal chimney starter. All you need is to put paper on the bottom, charcoals on top and then light with a match.

Use a portable oven thermometer placed on the grill (not directly over coals) to measure the temperature.

To regulate the temperature, use the bottom and top vents -- opening to increase temperature and closing to decrease it. Be careful not to close the vents completely, or the fire may go out.

Keep a spray bottle of water nearby to douse unwanted flames.

After each use, clean the grill rack while still hot with a stiff wire brush.

Gas grilling

Open the lid to light the fire. Check to see that all burner control knobs are turned to "off" and that your fuel tank is full.

Turn the gas valve on (counterclockwise).

Follow the manufacturer's directions to light the grill, using either the igniter switch or a match.

Close the lid and preheat the grill at medium about 5 to 10 minutes. To cook, adjust the burner controls for the method you are going to use.

My first barbecue experience this year was a pork tenderloin. It was so fun to be outdoors and taste real barbecue again. Here is the recipe I used: Have fun grilling!

APRICOT-MUSTARD GRILLED PORK TENDERLOIN

1 pork tenderloin, about a pound

3 tablespoons apricot preserves

5 tablespoons honey mustard

Season tenderloin with salt and pepper; in small bowl stir together the preserves and the mustard. Grill pork over a medium-hot fire, brushing with mustard mixture frequently, turning once or twice, until just done, about 15 minutes. Serves 4.

This and many more fun ideas can be found in Dian Thomas' Backyard Roughing It Easy. For more information about Dian Thomas' books, call 1-800-846-6355, or your local bookstore, or check out her Web site at www.dianthomas.com