The Big Green Egg ($849) may sound like something Dr. Seuss might use to make breakfast. But its thick ceramic construction allows for great insulation that maintains accurate temperatures from 200 to 750 degrees Fahrenheit. The Hearth Shop, 27303 Center Ridge Road, Westlake, 440-734-2833, hearth-shop.com
Nothing smells more like summer than a juicy burger cooked over an open flame. Up your grill game this season with the help of Western Reserve School of Cooking owner Catherine St. John. Her outdoor grilling series starts May 22 and offers three mouthwatering lessons on taming the fire. But if you can't wait to break out the tongs, she shares some quick lessons on nailing the perfect patty.
"You control the fire," she says. "Don't let the fire control you." Start by piling your charcoal on only half of the grill. Once the coals are hot, place the patties over the coals to sear the meat for two to three minutes. Then move the burgers to the other side and finish with indirect heat. It's as if the grill acts as both a skillet and oven. "You have your coal, which you're doing your searing on," St. John explains, "then have somewhere to put the food off to the side."
Once they're off the flames, close the lid, open the vents and walk away. "Don't become a slave to the grill," she advises. "You don't need to be sitting there turning things over and over."
Buyer Beware: "Never use lighter fluid, and don't buy pretreated charcoal," says Catherine St. John, owner of Western Reserve School of Cooking. "It's not good for the environment, your health or the taste and smell of the food."
Press your luck: "The worst thing that you can do is press down on a burger with a spatula," she says. It squeezes out moisture and causes char from fat flare-ups.
Use Clues: "I like charcoal [grills] over gas, but sometimes convenience rules," St. John says. An unused grill does you no good.
Chef Matt Mytro of Flour in Moreland Hills shares his favorite extras to elevate your steak-grilling experience.
"Sometimes too much fire is bad while trying to cook a fatty steak," Mytro says. He recommends keeping a little water on hand to extinguish overly aggressive flames.
To take your steaks up a notch, toss a handful of damp wood chips in varieties such as hickory with your hot coals before you close the hood. "It adds another layer of smokiness."
"Thermometers are a must," says Mytro. "Remember to allow for carry-over cooking." For a 12-ounce medium-rare steak, aim for 135 degrees, cook for two to three minutes on both sides and let it rest after taking it off the heat.
Now that your meat is perfectly seared, finish your meal with a tasty side dish guaranteed to be a hit with guests. "So many people do pasta salads," says Pamela Waterman, chef and owner of Duet Catering in Rocky River. For an upscale twist, Waterman recommends her Southwest orzo salad made with fresh Ohio corn, roasted red peppers, olives, parsley, scallions and sherry vinaigrette. "One of the reasons I love orzo for a side dish is it's a really small noodle, so it's easy to eat if you're standing up or picnicking," she says.
Southwest Orzo Salad
2 cups orzo, preferably Southwest orzo
3 ears fresh corn, shucked
1 red bell pepper
1 cup black olives, sliced
2 scallions, sliced
1 tablespoon fresh basil julienne
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1. Cook orzo in boiling water for about eight minutes or until tender. Remove from heat, strain and cool orzo under running water, draining it well. Place orzo in a large bowl.
2. Place corn and red pepper on grill. Grill corn until tender and kernels are turning a darker shade of yellow. Remove corn from grill and cool. Meanwhile, grill red pepper until charred all over. Remove red pepper from grill and place in a bowl. Cover red pepper with plastic wrap and cool.
3. Slice corn off husk. Add to orzo.
4. Remove red pepper from bowl. Rub skin off of red pepper and remove seeds. Dice red pepper into medium pieces. Add red pepper to orzo and corn.
5. Add black olives, scallions and basil julienne to orzo mixture.
6. Place Dijon mustard in small bowl. Add remaining ingredients to bowl with Dijon mustard and whisk together until well incorporated. Pour over orzo and toss thoroughly.
7. Serve the salad chilled or warmed, as a vegetarian entree or as a side to your favorite grilled chicken, meat or fish entree.