Summers are made for making memories; from ball games, parades, fireworks, and of course, being together with friends and families.
The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed or limited the number of such civic events taking place, but restrictions on social gatherings are being loosened, encouraging people to once again unite in backyards for family and neighborhood cookouts. Thus, creating the opportunity to start making more memories, or rekindling old ones.
Jim Murray, National Pork Board executive chef/National Channel Marketing and Innovation manager, sees pork playing a big part in making memories as the organization promotes National Grilling Day on July 22. "I think both from a National Pork Board perspective, and my perspective (the intent of the day) is making memories," he says. "Getting outside and making memories with your family and friends, and that pork can be that unifying force to help bring America closer together."
Even though Murray, who attended culinary school in Iowa, has spent most of his professional career working with pork, he is not opposed to working with other animal protein.
"I would say that my passion has always kind of been on the pork side," he says, "but I certainly am not biased against any of our friends in the barn yard, but I was drawn to pork because it's incredibly versatile."
When asked for his preferred cut of the hog, Murray says he prefers to work with the entire hog. "I like roasting whole hogs. In between smoking and roasting, I've probably cooked thousands of them because there are so many unique textures and flavors from all the different cuts that when they're all combined together or you could pick and choose that's what really makes a pig very special."
Murray admits that the grilling world is open to anyone and everyone of all levels of grilling skill as well as varying levels of grilling equipment.
"I've always been a self-proclaimed stick burner. I've always kind of been a live wood type person where I may use charcoal as a heat source, but then I also might use just live wood as the heat source and aromatic wood as the smoking agent," he says. "So I would say that I constantly had driven back to natural wood fires. But that being said, I still think that things like pellet grills have literally unlocked a whole segment of the grilling world that never existed because of their simplicity and convenience for the average person, and they deliver a good product. … it's old school maybe versus new school, but new school is not necessarily a bad thing."
Regardless of your grilling skillset or amount of grilling equipment, the National Pork Board's National Grilling Day Facebook Live event should have something for everyone. Murray will kick the event off at 10 a.m. CT when he presents an exercise in grilling for breakfast, proving grilling isn't just what's for dinner. The event runs through 5 p.m. on Wednesday. Don't worry, if you weren't able to catch the live event, all videos will be available on the National Pork Board Facebook page. To help you prepare your next meal, click here for the recipes featured throughout the day.
Murray will be just one of a few chefs, registered dietitians and some special guests performing cooking demonstrations to help consumers get the most out of their grill. Facebook viewers will be able to take a virtual tour around the world, grilling pork recipes inspired by cuisines from across the globe in a celebration of the flavors of summer. Viewers will also be able to pose questions to the experts on pork and grilling-related topics.
Just as Murray's breakfast presentation kicking off the Facebook Live event proves that any meal can be prepared on a grill, he also wishes to get the point across that grilling doesn't have to be confined to warm weather seasons.
He says one of the components of the grilling day event is to "unlock that this is really a secret that a lot of people don't really appreciate. … You can extend grilling season. It doesn't necessarily have to start on Memorial Day and end on Labor Day, and maybe trickles over into tailgate, but, it could be an all-year event and the types of equipment that are available certainly lend themselves to making it a year-long event."
Why not create memories all year long, and why not include pork as a backdrop? Backyard grillers are encouraged to share their creations by using the #NationalGrillingDay hashtag.
Check out some of the grilling resources created by the National Pork Board.