Grilled, broiled, fried, roasted, baked – when it comes to cooking meat everyone has their go-to method. But in the summer, there is no method we love more than barbecuing, and the way you prepare your meats for grilling can make all the difference in flavor and texture. We sat down with our Culinary Concept Chef Peter to get some pro-tips on barbecuing, plus a few of his personal favorite ways to prepare meats that will get you excited to fire up the grill:
I live in an apartment in New York City. Nowadays I grill as much as pig grooms itself. Unfortunately city life doesn’t leave much of an opportunity for grilling, unless I vacate the city for my family home in the Catskills. My uncle Frank built a stone pit there, some 60 odd years ago, back when building a grill was a thing (he was handy like that). It’s nice to think about him every time we use it, and we use it all the time. It’s not very big, the surface area is only 2 foot square, and I’m sure had he realized there would be weekends when the succeeding generations all came up at once (there have been days when there are 30 people there), he would have made it bigger. When it was built, Tom’s mom planted two pine trees on opposite sides of the grill, a lovely accent that now towers over the tiny grill, besieging it with brown needles and cones. My brother Mike has become the unofficial grill master on these large weekends, he will often start by cleaning it off and often brings a new gadget or two to use while grilling. When in use, the grill becomes a magnet for the men, drawing them together as they discuss nothing in particular and everything at once. I am usually given the task of creating the menu, which is pretty awesome in a family with three professional chefs.
If you have the opportunity to grill every day in warm weather, do it, but do it right. The chef in me says, ditch the gas grill. It may be convenient, and less messy, But what you gain in convenience, you lose in flavor. There are some amazing barrel grills out there with smoking compartments that won’t cost a car payment.
If you use a barrel grill, lump charcoal (the square kind) is fine and although it gets blazing hot, once it reaches its max heat point, it begins to cool down quickly. Lump charcoal can also create uneven temperatures on your grill surface area. If you use Hardwood charcoal you can get an even heated surface and you can control the areas you prefer to have more or less direct heat.
Most barrel grills have a great side compartment for putting wood pieces that will allow you to hot smoke your food. It develops such flavor complexity, that a simple burger can become something great.
Get creative. Go online and research rubs and marinades. Experiment. Find flavors you like, think outside the box. Coffee makes a great rub recipe, I use it often on steaks like tri-tip or flat iron steaks. Once you’ve come up with some great rubs, make enough to get you through the season. This way it’s ready to go whenever the flavor mood hits. Marinades can be made weekly. Since marinades are used in less tender, leaner cuts, it will take several hours to flavor the meat. By pre-making your marinade, you can simply pour it over your meat in the a.m. before you leave the house and it will be ready in tme for grilling in the evening.
Here two of my favorite rubs:
1 lb coffee
½ cup chili powder
½ cup ancho powder
1 cup kosher salt
2 tbsp cayenne
¼ cup onion powder
¼ cup garlic powder
Satay dry rub:
2 cups javin curry powder
1 cup paprika
¼ cup salt
2 tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
When ready to use, take ¼ cup of rub, mix it with one cup of yogurt for every pound of meat. (this recipe is best for chicken)
Beef: When Grilling beef, the thickness of the meat depends on the cut. Steaks with great intramuscular fat such as a T-bone, Porterhouse or Ribeye taste better with a thicker cut and only require a rub or adequate seasoning. Leaner cuts like a flank or skirt steak are better when thinly cut and usually require some sort of marinade, and you won’t break the bank like you would with a T-Bone or Porterhouse.
Pork: When I cook pork on a grill, I prefer to keep the cuts as whole as possible. This requires time and patience, slow and low is what I often say. This requires manipulating coal placement on your grill and constant feeding of the coals.
Chicken: Chicken is by far the easiest to grill, I tend to avoid the skin. It blackens long before the meat cooks and off putting to the palate. If grilling during the summer, a marinated boneless, skinless breasts, whether sliced thin or cubed for a skewer are easy to prepare and cook quickly. If you have to have the skin on, avoid direct contact with the grill. An old favorite, like a beer can chicken, can create a great moist bird with amazingly crispy skin.
Veggies: If you’re grilling veggies, keep it simple. During the summer almost all vegetables can be found locally and are the height of the season and therefore at the height of their flavor. Simply season with salt, pepper and lightly brush with oil. Finish with a great Extra Virgin Olive Oil and fresh herbs.