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Thrill of the Grill: Plus 5 Steps to a Really Good Burger!

Fourth of July means grills will be fired up all over the state. Pits will be smoking, too, but we’ll offer some tips here on keeping things safe on and around the grill, plus some cooking and planning tips for your cookout from caterer Don Strange of Texas.

Also, below are some simple tips from a chef to cooking great burgers.

Grill Safety

  • Keep your setting in mind. It’s dry, which means that a fire could start easily from an ember or spark. So, have your garden hose, a fire extinguisher or a bucket of sand handy in case a fire does start.
  • Build your fire under only one side of the grill.

    Build your fire under only one side of the grill. You can move steaks to the warm (but not sizzling hot) side of the grill to hold.

    Watch out for children playing in the area.

  • Don’t wear loose clothing around a lit grill.
  • Don’t leave a grill unattended.
  • Don’t have your grill too close to your house or another building. Don’t place it under tree branches or wooden trellises that could easily go up in smoke.
  • Don’t light your fire with gasoline. Don’t spray lighter fluid on already-lit coals.
  • When you’re finished, make sure the fire will go out. If you’re using coals, close all of the vents on the grill.


Article from Edible Austin on Grilling Veggies click here.
Recipe: Mr. Strange’s Barbecue Sauce


Burger on grillOne Chef’s Five Steps to a Really Great Burger

1. Bun should be smaller than the burger so that the meat drapes over the sides. Pretzel buns best, they soak up juice of the burger without falling apart. Brush with butter, grill and keep hot until ready to top with burger.

2. Grind bacon (partially cooked with caramelized onion and garlic), white, yellow cheddar or smoked gouda, cheese and roasted garlic mixed into the ground meat. Favorite meat grind: Strip loin and tri-tip, using the bacon for the fat and keeping the lean-to-fat ratio at 80-20.

3. Shape the burger: Put a little water on the burger before you shape, helps with the handling. Don’t overhandle the beef as you form into patty.

4.  You might be making your burgers on the grill on July Fourth. That’s great. But, burgers also are very good either griddled or cooked in a cast-iron skillet.  Look for an internal temperature of 120 degrees in the center — this seems to be optimal for flavor profile. Also, do not press down on the burger with spatula as it will press out moisture — and you want a moist burger. If you want cheese, put it on top of the burger as soon as you flip — and only flip once!

5. Take off grill and put in bun that you have already grilled and have your toppings close by. You want to assemble as quickly as possible. Also, keep condiments at room temperature, so they don’t chill down the burger. Other toppings such as grilled poblano peppers, etc., should also be at least room temp or warm.


Tips from Don Strange of Texas on general grilling.

• Know your grill — all grills are not alike.  “No matter where or what we’re grilling, on the spot timing is the key. For things to be served at precisely the right time, the fire must be started on time and allowed to reach the right temperature before we start to grill,” says Vice President of Sales and Culinary Vision for Don Strange of Texas Catering Di-Anna Arias.

“Timing and temperature vary depending on your tools: charcoal, smoker, wood, gas grill—you can’t treat them all the same. Just because they each produce a flame, don’t expect them all to cook the same way or require the same amount of time.”

Grill Strip Steak• Not only does the type of grill have to be considered, but the type of meat as well.  Don Strange cooks grill tenderloins to medium rare and hold them in a warming area where they continue to cook. They have to be constantly monitored to be sure they’re not overcooked, then allowed to rest so they can be carved perfectly and served for dinner.

• Fish is another great option for grilling, and hint from the seasoned team at Don Strange of Texas: keeping the skin on the fish for grilling is the best option unless you have a fish basket. Spray the fish with cooking spray or vegetable oil and voila, unless you’re serving salmon. Try grilling the fish in foil with fresh herbs, citrus, whole peppers or chile flake sea salt for a savory taste that isn’t overwhelming.

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Give Your Grill Some Love

Tim Love

“There are gazillions of cheeseburgers in the world. But how many of them are good?”

That’s the question chef Tim Love wants backyard grillers and professional chefs alike to ask themselves. In his mind, the answer is, “Very few.”

To correct the situation, the owner of the Lonesome Dove Western Bistro and the Love Shack in Fort Worth has taken it upon himself to spread the word of how people can improve their grill skills.

Love is “precise on his procedure,” which is what has earned him a loyal following and a growing national reputation.

The process begins with the right wood, he says. For fish, you want a wood like pecan that burns at a cooler temperature, so your delicate fish, such as trout won’t dry out or burn up quickly. “It’s easier on the tooth when eating seafood,” he says. Pecan also doesn’t impart an overwhelming flavor, so the natural flavor of the fish can shine through.

He recommends hickory for chicken, game birds and pork, while mesquite, which burns hottest of all woods, is made for red meat, such as buffalo and venison in addition to beef. With mesquite, “you can get a good sear quickly,” he says, adding that “searing the meat is what imparts the flavor.”

The grill itself should be clean before starting, and Love prefers cast iron to stainless steel. It holds heat longer, which is important in getting that sear. Whether you’re using gas or wood, the chef says you should get your entire grill as hot as possible, before you put a steak on it. Only cover half of the grill with meat. Why is that important? Because when you put that steak or chicken breast on the grill, the bars begin cooling down immediately from the temperature of the meat. So you need hot bars to sear the other side.

When the steak is not quite to where it’s grilled to your desired doneness, Love says, “take it off the heat and let it relax (for at least 10 minutes). Then, put it back on the grill to get it hot” when you’re ready to eat.

That means if you’re having a dinner party, you can grill the steaks ahead of time and just finish them when you’re guests arrive.

Preparing the meat requires its own attention. Except for chicken and fajitas, Love doesn’t use many marinades. “Acids on meat break it down and leave a mealy texture,” he says.

He prefers rubs, but he makes sure sugar is not one of the ingredients. Sugar will caramelize on the meat’s surface and that could occur long before the meat is done, leaving you with burnt sugar rather than an attractive flavor. Salt, however, should be a main ingredient. “Meat needs salt,” he says.

Once the meat is done, Love likes to apply a few touches before serving. “When you grill red meat, finishing it with a lemon juice will make all the difference in the world,” he says. He often uses a compound butter to give a steak an extra depth of flavor.

Serving the right wine is important, too. Because of the Texas heat, Love favors whites, such as Albariños and those from Rias Baixas, as well as rosés, wines that are refreshing in the heat. “I just enjoy cold wine,” he says. “I drink a ton of rosé in the summer.” You might be surprised at how good they can be with beef, thanks, in part, to that spritz of lemon at the end.

Love was recently in San Antonio, not to scout locations for a local branch of one of his restaurants, but to promote the line of Bush’s Grillin’ Beans now on the market.

The lineup of beans, including Bourbon and Brown Sugar and Texas Ranchero, fits in with the rest of his cuisine, which he as urban western. It’s friendly and approachable, yet made with the influences of all that has made Texas great.

“Texas is quite the melting pot of people,” Love says, citing the Chinese railroad workers, the Spanish, the French and the Germans in addition to the Mexican influence.

And Texans of all backgrounds like their grilled meats. Thanks to Love’s tips, more people will be able to put some extra sizzle in their summer.

For some of Tim Love’s recipes, click below:

Grilled Skirt Steak with Citrus

Grilled Skin-On Chicken Breast

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