by guest blogger Rich Baringer
Jake is a carnivore. My 4-year old will eat pretty much any kind of meat–often pretending that he’s a lion eating a gazelle. So whenever he sees the grill out, he gets his hopes up for some sort of meat that he can sink his teeth into. Now that it’s summer, Jake’s not the only one getting hungry with the sight of a grill.
People have been grilling things for as long as there’s been fire. It’s simple, convenient and tasty. But good grilling is much more than just throwing a hunk of meat on a hot grate. Here are some tips (with some thanks to Cook’s Illustrated magazine) to make your July 4th picnic food the envy of the neighborhood–no matter what you’re cooking–beef, fish, veggies…or gazelle.
- MAKE IT HOT—Preheating your grill is essential to keeping foods from sticking. Always pre-heat your gas grill to high and then turn it down to the necessary temperature. For charcoal grills, hold your hand five inches over the grate. The number of seconds that you can comfortably hold your hand there will tell you the intensity of your fire: Hot = 2 seconds, Medium-hot = 3-4 seconds, Medium = 5-6 seconds, Medium-low = 7 seconds. Anything more than that, make sure there is actually a fire burning.
- GRATE BRUSHING—Once preheated, brush the grates to remove cooked on foods from the last time you grilled. There are those who say, “All that stuff adds flavor!” No, it’s like cooking in a dirty pan. Get it off of there.
- OIL IT UP—Before putting the food on, be sure to oil the grates to further prevent sticking. The easiest way to do this is just to put a bit of vegetable oil in a small bowl, dip in a wadded up paper towel and brush the grates using some long tongs. For anything other than seafood, a few wipes will do the trick. Seafood, though, is another story. There’s actually some compound in seafood flesh that makes it stick to the hot grates. The way to prevent this: While preheating, put foil over the grates. This will “superheat” the grates (the hotter, the better). Once preheated, remove the foil and wipe with the oil-soaked towel. Wait a minute and do it again. Do this about 10 times. Be patient! With each wiping, a plastic bond is made between the oil and the grates and after 10 times, there’s a barrier to protect the fish. No more sticking. No more fish looking like roadkill from trying to scrape it up. It really works.
- DON’T BE SAUCY—If you’re using a sauce, don’t use it too early. Most barbecue sauces have sugars in them that if applied too early, will burn and taste that way. Brush on your sauce with a minute or two to go. That will give you a nice, sticky coating that tastes great.
- BRINE IT—Many cuts of meat dry out on the grill. The best way to avoid this is to brine (soak the meat in a solution of water with salt and sometimes sugar, herbs, etc.). Poultry, pork and shrimp benefit greatly from brining.
- FORGET THE PRESS—Why do so many people press the life out of their burgers? It doesn’t help them cook any faster. All it does it squeeze the flavorful juices out of them, leaving them dry and tasteless.
- WHEN IS IT DONE?—Use an instant-read or probe thermometer to gauge the internal temperature of your meat using the following guidelines. Serving undercooked meat at a holiday picnic: Memorable? Yes. But not in a good way. Meat should come off the grill when it’s 5-10 minutes shy of the final temperature. The temperature will continue to rise as the meat rests.
- Red Meat: Rare-125°, Medium-Rare-130°, Medium-140°, Well-Done-160°
- Pork: Medium-145° Well-Done-160°
- Chicken (white meat): 160°
- Chicken (dark meat): 165°
- Fish: Check for doneness by nicking the flesh with a paring knife. Most fish should be opaque at the center. Tuna and salmon can be cooked until just translucent, if desired
- Note that the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends cooking ground meat to 160°; roasts, steaks and chops to 145°; and poultry to 180°.
- THE RAW & THE COOKED—Don’t put cooked meat on the same platter that was used for raw meat. An easy way to avoid this without having one extra dish to wash is to put foil over a platter and then put the raw meat on it. After moving the meat to the grill, simply remove the foil and you’ve got a clean platter for the cooked meat.
- SMART MARINATING—Marinating is a great way to add flavor to grilled foods such as steaks. If you want to use the marinade as a sauce for the finished meat, do one of these two things. Reserve some marinade before adding it to the raw meat and use that as your sauce. Or be sure to bring the used marinade to a rolling boil before serving as a sauce. This will kill any potential bad bugs picked up from the raw meat.
Speaking of marinades, Betty Cichy wrote a great piece (here’s page 1,and page 2) in the Bucks County Courier Times / Intelligencer a few weeks ago on marinating. And here are a couple of easy steak marinades from Cook’s Illustrated. Great Bucks County beef and a delicious marinade are a marriage made in heaven. Both are enough to marinate 4-6 individual steaks or one 2-pound steak. To find out where to get your meat in Bucks, see our recent post, “Where’s the beef? And pork, and lamb, and chicken…”
- Combine the ingredients in a medium bowl, reserve ¼ cup and set aside.
- Place the remaining marinade and steaks in a zipper-lock bag; press out as much air as possible and seal. Refrigerate 1 hour, flipping the bag after 30 minutes so the steaks marinate evenly.
- After the hour is up, remove the steaks, discard the marinade and bag, and then grill your steaks as desired.
- When done, put the steaks in a shallow pan and pour the reserved marinade on top. Tent loosely with foil and let the meat rest for 10 minutes, turning the steaks after 5 minutes. You can pass the reserved marinade as a sauce if you desire.
HONEY MUSTARD MARINADE
½ cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp tarragon, chopped
1/3 cup vegetable oil
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
4 tsp honey
1 ½ tsp ground black pepper
3 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp cider vinegar
MOLE MARINADE (mo-lay, not the little digging creature)
½ cup soy sauce
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 Tsp dark brown sugar
4 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, minced
4 tsp cocoa powder
1 ½ tsp dried oregano
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 Tbsp lime juice
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