Are you going to grill this weekend? You’re not alone. Folks across the country will be lighting up charcoal or warming their propane grills for cookouts featuring everything from steaks and hamburgers to veggie skewers and portobello mushrooms.
But as much as Americans love to grill, not everybody gets the best results. So, to help you out, we asked three grill masters in town to offer five tips for better grilling. The answers are mostly varied and the advice is certainly sound, but we must point out two tips that did come more than once and should be taken to heart:
Don’t over-season the meat; that is, if it’s the meat you want to taste. And practice a little patience: Let the meat rest a few minutes before you cut into it; it’ll be juicier and taste a whole lot better.
Garrett Stephens, pitmaster at the County Line Barbecue, 10101 I-10 W., offers the following tips for after you’ve dusted off the grill:
- Have a game plan in order to wow your friends and family with the perfect outdoor feast. To start, take a quick inventory of what meats will be gracing your plate. You will need to set your grill up accordingly. For burgers, dogs, kabobs, fish, and thin cut steaks you will want to set your grill up for direct heat, and leaving 4-6 inches from your coals. For thicker cuts, such as roasts, whole chickens, ribs, and thick cut steaks you will want to have a part of your grill set up to accommodate an indirect method so that you wont end up charring your heartier cuts and leaving the middle underdone.
Make sure you are adding the flavors that your grill was destined to create by adding rubs, marinades, and smoke. A proper marinade should consist of an acidic ingredient, such as vinegar, wine, or citrus juice; a little oil, such as olive; and various spices and herbs. Rubs generally consist of various spices, herbs, and even citrus zests ranging from sweet to savory. Rubs will not only tenderize cuts of beef, but will add deep, wonderful flavor. Rubs should be applied several hours prior to grilling and the meats left in a refrigerator.
- Be sure to thoroughly wipe off excess marinade before you grill in order to prevent flame from flaring up.
- While grilling, be sure to add wood chips to your coals just before you throw on your cuts. Experiment with different types of woods to obtain smoky flavors ranging from delicate to earthy, and aromatic to sweet.
- Finally, as you pull off your pieces of culinary genius, take a moment, 5- 10 minutes, to let your works rest. If you cut in too quickly, the juices will run out all over your plate instead of in your mouth, which is where they should be. If you let the meat, rest the juices will permeate the meat and the final product will be the perfect compliment to your Fourth of July picnic.
Troy Knapp, executive chef at the Hyatt Hill Country, 9800 Hyatt Resort Drive, is also a certified sommelier. So naturally, pairing what you grill with the right drink is important:
- Quality — Purchase the best you can afford. All-natural beef is better for you and the environment. When it comes to meat, you generally get what you pay for. You are better of going with a smaller piece if you are looking to save. Think quality over quantity and you will be much more satisfied in the long run. Simple seasoning is the best way to enhance a great cut of meat. Use great quality olive oil, sea salt and fresh ground pepper.
- Tempering — For an evenly cooked steak, allow your steak (or other protein) to acclimate to room temperature before putting it on the grill. This should take approximately one hour on your kitchen counter and be sure to cover.
- Resting — A crucial step that allows the juices to integrate properly and ultimately provide a juicier finished product. Once removed from the grill, simply let the steaks rest for approximately 7 to 8 minutes before cutting into them.
- Wine — Steaks with higher fat content such as a rib-eye or New York strip will benefit from a big wine with significant tannin such as a Syrah, Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon. Lean meats such as tenderloin pair much nicer with lower tannin reds such as Merlot or Pinot Noir. Don’t forget about dry rosé for grilled fish and chicken. Make sure you slightly chill the reds by placing in the refrigerator for a half hour to achieve a temperature of approximately 60 degrees.
- Sides — Refreshing sides are a nice accent to rich barbecued, grilled or smoked meats. Instead of creamy potato salad or coleslaw, go with a roasted potato salad with vinaigrette and herbs or a vinaigrette slaw. Add accompaniments such as chimichurri or pickled vegetables. Items with good acidity will add a light fresh component and will surely excite the palate.
Jason Dady, whose restaurants include the Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills, Bin 555 and Tre Trattoria and feature a grill or two, offers the following tips:
- The best results come from a hot grill. Too many people use coals that are too cool or a gas grill that has not gotten hot enough
- Don’t use too much oil. It aids in flames, which can cause the extra carbon bitterness in the food. Use the least amount of oil.
- Rub the grill with a lightly oiled rag prior to grilling while coals and grates are hot. It will act as a natural “non-stick.”
- Pat all meats dry prior to cooking. They should not be wet. It will help in allowing the caramelization of the meat to get a richer, darker flavor profile.
- Salt and pepper — it’s all you need. Kosher salt to season with and fresh cracked black pepper. Let your steak taste like your steak!