Ever since Homo erectus tasted his first bite of fire-roasted game, man has been hopelessly addicted to grilling. And while advancements such as charcoal, Weber grills and ice-cold beer have made grilling infinitely more enjoyable, the basic process remains unchanged.
Despite the fact that many of us use the term barbecue to refer to any backyard burger blowout, the truth is that what we’re really doing when we sizzle that steak is grilling. Whereas true barbecue is “low and slow,” that is, cooking indirectly over very low heat for a very long time, grilling is the complete opposite. In grilling, the food is placed directly over a very hot heat source, typically charcoal, gas or hardwood, for a relatively short period of time.
Since grilling is the most common form of backyard cooking, Feast! lined up three self-proclaimed grill masters to share their advice on everything from selecting the right cuts of meat to tending the flames. We discuss the gear, gadgets, techniques and ingredients you need to know to grill like a pro. The “Born to Grill” apron is optional.
As owner of Chef’s Choice Meats & Gourmet Market, a full-service butcher shop in Berea, Kris Kreiger hand-cuts whole sides of beef, pork and lamb into the steaks, chops and filets we see in the display coolers. He also makes his own all-natural franks and sausages, and he’s been grilling since the tender age of 9. The man knows meat.
- Buy meat from a butcher who custom cuts it; they sell bone-in varieties not always available in supermarkets. “The meat is sweeter closer to the bone,” he says. Look for good marbling, that distinctive intramuscular fat, which is vital to a great-tasting steak.
- People often select the wrong cuts of meat for the grill, he notes, opting for varieties better suited to slow braising in a crockpot. Avoid tough cuts that come from the chuck and round portion of the cow, including the chuck roast, pot roast and bottom round.
- The best cuts of beef for grilling come from the loin and rib area, namely bone-in rib, rib-eye, porterhouse, filet and strip steaks. Don’t bother buying a steak any thinner than an inch and a quarter — it’ll dry out on the grill.
- Let the meat come to room temperature before grilling, especially on thicker cuts. It produces a more evenly cooked product in the end.
- Let all grilled meat rest for five minutes, lightly covered by aluminum foil, before slicing. It allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat.
Ben Bebenroth, chef and owner of Spice of Life Catering Co., prefers to cook everything over an open flame. He’s been polishing his skills ever since he and his brother first roasted weenies over a campfire, and these days he’s a big fan of brining. He recommends a simple soak in a mixture of salt, sugar and water to add moisture to lean meats and poultry.
- “Rushing is the biggest mistake people tend to make when grilling,” he says. Start the coals a good 30 to 40 minutes in advance. There should be a fine layer of ash over all the coals. Gas grills should preheat for at least 20 minutes.
- Arrange the hot coals in a pile that slopes from one side to the other. This gives you a graduated heat source, providing a place to move items that are cooking too fast.
- The fire is the right temperature when you can hold your hand slightly above the grate for only two seconds.
“I have a sixth sense when it comes to grilling,” boasts Marc Levine, co-owner of Bistro 185. After grilling for some 30-odd years, Levine has learned what separates an expert griller from a mere rookie: keeping a watchful eye over the grill. “You must stay at your post to baste, turn and monitor the food for doneness,” he explains.
- Olive oil: Rub it on the exterior of any item before cooking to keep it moist and prevent it from sticking to the grate.
- Grill brush: It is imperative to start with a clean grill grate, Levine says. Wait until the grate is hot before attacking it with a stiff grill brush. When thoroughly clean, lubricate with an oil-soaked paper towel.
- Tongs: “Never use a fork to turn the food,” he warns. “You leave a lot of the juice in the grill instead of the steak.”
- Instant-read meat thermometer: It takes the guesswork out of knowing when your food is done.
- Sauce mop or basting brush: Key for applying bastes and sauces during the grilling process. But save the sweet sauces. “The sugars in these sauces burn very quickly,” he explains. “Wait until the last four or five minutes to apply them.”
- Patience: Once you place the meat on the grill, leave it alone. “If you keep lifting the meat,” Levine warns, “it won’t have a chance to sear, and you’ll end up with pieces of it stuck to the grill.”
Korean Barbecue Beef (Bulgogi)
Courtesy of Kris Kreiger, Chef’s Choice Meats & Gourmet Market
2 pounds beef short ribs
For the marinade:
3 scallions, sliced thinly
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Have your butcher butterfly short ribs into an accordion, or Z-shape, reducing ribs to about 1/4 inch thickness with bone attached.
1. Tenderize the ribs on both sides with a meat mallet. Mix marinade ingredients until sugar is dissolved. Add ribs. Marinate for two hours at room temperature or overnight in the fridge.
2. Grill over a hot fire for 2-3 minutes per side, removing the meat when medium-rare. Serve immediately.
Grilled Escarole and Fresh Mozzarella with Arugula Salad Appetizer
Courtesy of Kris Kreiger
8 large leaves escarole
1 tin anchovy fillets in oil, drained
8 bocconcini (fresh mozzarella balls)
1 package fresh arugula
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and pepper
If using wooden skewers, soak for 20 minutes in water to prevent burning.
1. Rinse escarole in cold water. Blanch escarole leaves in two quarts of salted, boiling water. Cook until slightly wilted. Remove from pot and plunge into ice water to chill. Drain escarole in colander and dry between paper towels.
2. Assemble appetizers by wrapping each bocconcini with an anchovy filet and a grind of black pepper in a leaf of escarole. Place two balls on a skewer, then insert a second skewer to make them easier to handle.
3. Drizzle each kabob with olive oil. Grill over a hot fire for 1 to 3 minutes per side. Escarole should char slightly and cheese should just start to melt.
4. Toss arugula with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pinch of kosher salt and a couple grinds of fresh pepper and place on platter. Arrange the grilled escarole balls on top. Squeeze a little fresh lemon juice on kabobs.
Courtesy of Kris Kreiger
3 ripe mangoes
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
4 tablespoons sugar
2 egg whites
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch of salt
4 ounces whipping cream
4 tablespoons shaved dark chocolate
1. Slice mangoes in half lengthwise to separate flesh from pits. Score the mango flesh while still in the skin with a crosshatch pattern, being careful not to pierce skin. Gently push on the skin side to make the flesh “blossom” outward, but keep the two attached. Brush each half with vegetable oil.
2. Place mangoes, flesh side down, on a hot grill, and cook just long enough to caramelize the natural sugars. Remove and cool in refrigerator for at least 20 minutes. Scoop flesh from skin using a spoon or sharp knife. Cube half the flesh and set aside. Add remaining half of flesh to food processor along with sugar and lime juice and purée to a smooth consistency.
3. Beat egg whites to soft peaks, then add the remaining sugar and pinch of salt. Continue beating until medium stiff peaks form. Beat whipping cream until medium stiff peaks form. With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, gently fold beaten egg whites into whipped cream until combined. Gently fold mango purée into egg-and-cream mixture. Gently fold diced mango into this mixture.
4. Portion out into serving glasses and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving. Garnish with shaved chocolate and mint leaves.
Asian Grilled Chicken Breasts
Courtesy of Ben Bebenroth, Spice of Life Catering
1 tablespoon chili garlic paste
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon fresh ginger
Juice of half a lime
1/4 cup dry white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
6 chicken breasts
3 limes, split lengthwise
A few sprigs fresh cilantro
1. Whisk together first seven ingredients.
2. Season chicken breasts generously with salt and pepper. Place chicken in marinade and allow to sit at least 1 hour or up to 6 in the refrigerator.
3. Remove from marinade and grill over medium-high fire on both sides until done.
4. At same time, grill limes until well marked. Arrange chicken breasts on platter and garnish with limes and cilantro.
Courtesy of Ben Bebenroth
2 bunches asparagus
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red peppers
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Remove woody bottoms from asparagus. If stalks are very thick, split lengthwise from top down, leaving the two halves attached at the top.
2. Combine garlic, peppers, vinegar and olive oil. Season asparagus with salt and pepper and drizzle with marinade.
3. Grill over hot fire until slightly charred but still crisp.
Honey-Brined Pork Chops
Courtesy of Ben Bebenroth
10 juniper berries
1/4 cup honey
2 quarts water
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 teaspoons coriander seed
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
6 bay leaves
2 quarts ice
6 pork chops
1 bottle of beer
1. Combine first eight ingredients and bring to a boil. Add ice to cool brine.
2. When cool, add beer and pork chops and allow to sit refrigerated at least overnight, or ideally for 24 hours.
3. Grill over high heat on both sides until medium, then move to medium heat to finish cooking.
Grilled Splayed Chicken
Courtesy of Marc Levine, Bistro 185
1 whole young fryer
3 tablespoons fresh chopped herbs may include rosemary, tarragon, parsley, thyme and/or chives)
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
1. Remove the backbone from the bird. Flip chicken over, breast side up, and press down firmly on the breastbone to flatten.
2. Rub chicken inside and out with cut lemon, olive oil and fresh herbs.
3. Place over medium-hot fire, starting with skin-side down. Put a heavy cast-iron pan on top of chicken to keep flat. After 10 minutes or so, turn bird over and put cast-iron pan back on top. Cook until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 160-165 degrees. |!|