Summer is right around the corner, and with it comes beach parties, swimming, barbecues and grilling. Try these five tips the next time you throw steaks or vegetables on the grill.
Take Some Care When Choosing Your Grilling Site
Be careful to place your gas or charcoal grill outside in a safe spot, away from flammable trees, vegetation or other materials, including your house! If you are using an electric grill on the inside, make certain to place it on a solid, non-flammable surface in a well ventilated area. While this warning might seem like common sense, according to the National Fire Prevention Association, grilling causes thousands of house fires each year. According to a report by MSNBC, 18,000 people are treated in emergency rooms each year for grilling related burns and injuries, so take some simple precautions when you set up your grill.
Choose the Right Grade of Meat to Use When Grilling
There are several grades of meat. In general, “prime” grades are the best, followed by “choice.” Sometimes it is possible to cook a decent steak with a lesser grade of meat if the steak is marinaded first and cooked slowly over an open charcoal flame, but in general, lesser grades of meat such as select and standard are better cooked with slower cooking methods, such as baking in a slow cooker or braising instead of grilling them.
Choose Your Cut of Meat Based on Grill Type
Your grilled meats will taste better if you take into consideration the type of grill that you will use to cook the meat when you are choosing the cut of meat.
It is possible to cook a good rib-eye or filet mignon on a gas grill, but you need to make certain that you have preheated your grill first before you place these cuts. In general, cuts such as porterhouse, hanger, flatiron, or strip type steaks do better on gas grills than cuts with a higher fat content, such as filet mignon and center cut rib-eyes. Leaner cuts can also be cooked on gas grills, but may taste better if they are marinaded first and are cooked on a charcoal grill where wood chips can be used to impart more flavor. Many gas grills also have an extra shelf or rack inside, that allows cooks to grill vegetables such as corn on the cob, or peppers and onions, something that really should be avoided cooking on a charcoal or electric grill. Gas grills are also a good choice for ground types of meat, such as hamburgers, sausages or hot dogs.
Charcoal grills tend to burn hotter than gas grills, allowing you more control while cooking. Charcoal grills are also the way to go if you are using a cut of meat with a high fat content, such as filet mignon or rib-eye, or if you will be applying a heavier type of sauce, such as barbecue to the meat that you are grilling.
When you use a charcoal grill, if possible, try using lump charcoal rather than briquettes for a longer lasting flame. After the charcoal takes on a nice ashen sheen, throw some hardwood chips, such as hickory or mesquite, onto the charcoal to help flavor your steaks and other meats.
When you position your charcoal in your grill, leave half of the grill free of charcoal, this allows you to have one side that is “hotter” than the other so that you can cook some cuts more slowly than others. In general, on the “hot” side, you will want to flip your steaks every 3 to 5 minutes.
Using the “cooler” side of a charcoal grill allows the meat to cook more slowly so that it absorbs more flavor from the hardwood chips and its natural juices as it cooks, resulting in a juicer, more tender meat. This cooler side also works well for ribs, as well as the less tender cuts of meat, such as round, chuck, flank, and sirloin. These cuts are less tender because they are leaner. Since they have a lower fat content the lower heat and longer cooking time will help these cuts to be more tender.
Inside or Electric Grills
Many popular electric grills are designed to drain off the meat’s natural grease and juices as it cooks, resulting in a dry piece of meat. To compensate for this tendency, you should choose ground meats, such as 80/20 hamburger, or go with boneless meats that will cook quickly and that you have marinated before hand, such as chicken breast with lemon juice. If you do go with steak, you will want to choose a cut that is well marbled with fat, such as rib-eye, but most steak purists shudder at the thought of cooking a rib-eye on anything but a gas or charcoal grill.
Allow Meat to Come to Room Temperature Before Grilling
Regardless of the type of cut of meat that you choose, or even the type of grill that you use, allow the meat to come to room temperature before you place it on the grill. While this might seem like common sense to some, this is one cardinal rule that many novices break. This error commonly occurs as the cook takes the steak directly from the pan it has been marinating within while in the refrigerator and tossing it on the grill. Allowing your steak or other cut of meat to warm up to room temperature over the course of a few minutes before you place it on the grill. This will allow your meat to cook evenly across it’s entire surface and help you to avoid the “burnt on the outside, raw on the inside” grilling disaster.
Go Light With Seasonings and Marinades
In general, be sparing when seasoning your meat before it goes on a charcoal or gas grill, unless it is a lean or lower grade of meat. Most spices and sauces will burn off or evaporate when the meat is grilled, so they should be added sparingly or during the last few minutes of grilling or not at all. Most professional chefs use only salt and pepper to season the best cuts and grades of meat when they grill them.
Following these top five grilling tips can help anyone to grill the perfect steak and vegetables, regardless of the cut of meat or grill type.
We want to hear from you! What is your favorite cut of meat to grill? Share your best grilling tips with our readers in the comments section below.