Guys and Grilling

Jun 1st, 2007

Grilling and Father’s Day just seem to go together. Heck, grilling and men just seem to go together! Guys who may be a bit intimidated by the whole cooking thing become almost fearless at the grill! And have you seen the grill choices today? Equipped with stovetop burners, smoking compartments and rotisseries, some of these babies are even better than what is in the home kitchen. When it comes right down to it, though, it’s just heat and meat! It’s the culmination of the hunt; the primal need to take the steak and place it over an open fire and watch as the flesh browns creating intoxicating aromas, all the while the family gathers to enjoy the fruits of his labor. At least that is what gets some of us guys started. Being more realistic, it’s sometimes more like what happens when cooking a fresh caught trout over the open flame. The fish is charred black on the outside and raw in the middle! The humbling process begins and we learn what should be so easy actually takes some technique.

And it is technique I am talking about today. There are so many versions of how to grill and/or barbeque. There’s even a debate about the term barbeque itself, some defining it the same as grilling others not. Should we use charcoal or gas, par-cook the ribs or finish them in the oven, and so the “discussions” go on and on. I cannot begin to cover all the debates today, and in the end it will be just another opinion!

So lets start with the science of grilling. What actually happens when protein and heat get together? Technically a transformation occurs called the “Maillard” reaction. When high heat is applied, the browning of proteins begins, creating various flavors and aromas that contribute to our enjoyment of food. The controlled use of this process is used by food scientists to create flavor profiles for products geared at consumer buying habits – but that is a whole other subject.

Basics: How hot is hot enough for grilling? I use the two-second count. If you can hold your hand above the coals for only two seconds before instinctively jerking it away, then the coals are some where near 500°F and ready to use! If the coals are not ready, don’t rush it as that is when you can get off-flavors from the charcoal itself. Coals are meant to be white-hot! When using gas, don’t forget to preheat—about 20-30 minutes before you’ll need it, and then use the two-second count as well.

Grilling is a direct or indirect and dry heat method of cooking, making it best for the more tender cuts of meat. Cook individual tender cuts fast and hot, preserving the juices. Use cuts like New York strips, tenderloin filets, T-bone steaks, chicken fryers, and fish.
For straight direct heat grilling make sure that each piece of food is the same size and width, whether it be beef, chicken, fish or vegetables. That way each piece cooks evenly and they all finish at the same time. For example, it is best to cut blocks of salmon rather than placing a whole side on the grill, because the section where the filet tapers toward the tail is thin and will surely over cook before the rest is done.

In contrast to dry direct heat, barbequing is done by cooking slowly over low heat, indirect heat. For this method we prefer spare ribs, briskets, pork shoulders, and tougher cuts of meat that require the slow steady breaking down of connective tissues from moist heat.

And for the whole pieces of tender cuts, like whole tenderloin, whole fryers and whole turkey breasts, indirect high heat works best. This is accomplished by raking the hot coals to either side of the grill and placing the whole piece in the middle (over a drip pan); proceed with the grill covered and the meat will brown and cook without burning. Gas grills with two or more burners can be set at different temperatures for indirect heat, creating a similar outcome.

Troubleshooting: Flame flare-ups from dripping grease can be controlled. Trim all external fat and dry off any marinade that may be left on the meat. When the external degree of browning occurs, move pieces to finish cooking with indirect heat. That is a good time to brush on the sauce. We always have a water spray bottle handy for extreme flare-ups—just to gain control, but I don’t recommend using it constantly as the coals will cool down too much (spray the coals not the meat). Resist the temptation to put the BBQ sauce on too early.

Food Safety: After cooking those burgers to perfection take care not to place them on the very same plate that the raw burgers went on. Remember, items that touch raw meat (platters, tongs fork, knives, etc) should not touch the cooked foods. Be sure to discard marinades that are meant to bath the raw meat— unless you bring the marinade to a full boil for a minute or two to kill the bacteria and then use it at the table as a sauce. Whole muscle meats like bone on steaks can be served rare because the unwanted microbes are killed when heat is applied to the exterior. Fabricated meats such as hamburger or meats tenderized with needles require the product to be cooked to 155 F which will kill the unwanted bacteria – the problem is whatever was on the outside was put on the inside through fabrication. So if you are a fan of rare beef, choose whole muscle steaks over hamburger.

Choices: The equipment for grilling is another consideration and though we are strong proponents of charcoal grilling for its simplicity, there is allot to be said for the “lazy” side to using gas or propane. Nowadays grills have enough BTU’s to cook like the professionals. In fact there is a great evolutionary flat top grill designed for year round use outdoors. It’s called the EVO (for Evolution) grill and is manufactured in Beaverton OR. However, if price is an object, you might do as Lenore and I do, and keep replacing that old hibachi or kettle cooker. For the price and the results, we think simple is best.

A few good tools are a must regardless of your choice of grill. Long handled tongs ensure that hands stay far away from the rising heat. A charcoal chimney starter is nice, and the butane matchsticks are a must. You’ll need a good stiff brush for cleaning and a heatproof silicon brush for basting at the grill. A fish /veggie basket or mesh mat is very handy for cooking small cuts and fish of any kind to prevent sticking and falling through the grill slats.

Remember that anything you can cook on your stove or in your oven can be cooked outside with a little imagination and planning. Enjoy the process!

BBQ SAUCE FOUR WAYS*(just change the liquid-see recipe)
1 large onion, diced

3 TBLS butter

1 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp chili powder
dash Worcestershire sauce
dash Tabasco
¼ cup orange juice
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup catsup, or tomato paste
1 cup strong beet stock or juice, strong espresso, dark beer, or water Method: place onions in heated sauce pot and caramelize without oil/fat; add 3 TBS salted butter and continue browning; add spices, Worcestershire and Tabasco – cook to combine; add remaining ingredients and simmer 5 minutes; add beet stock/juice, espresso, beer or water and simmer 20 minutes; reserve to use immediately or chill and keep refrigerated until needed.

BOB’S SPICE MIX
2 1/2 TBLS paprika
2 TBLS salt
2 TBLS garlic powder
2 TBLS coriander
1 TBLS black pepper 1 tsp ground mustard
1 TBLS onion powder
1 TBLS cayenne pepper
1 TBLS dried leaf oregano
1 TBLS dried thyme Method: blend all in small container—reserve in zip lock bag or snap close air tight container.
LENORE’S SPICY WINGS
12-24 chicken fryer wings

1 TBLS Sea salt
2 TBLS Garlic powder
2 TBLS Fresh ground pepper
3 TBLS Fresh ground coriander
Method: Wash the wings under running water in a colander. Dry with paper towel. Tuck little wing tip under “drumette” to form a V; place each dried tucked wing onto baking sheet.

Blend salt mix in a baggy; liberally sprinkle wings with salt mix, both sides, and refrigerate until your grill is ready.

When the coals are white hot, place the rack at the highest position about 6 inches above the heat. Be sure the grill has been cleaned and brushed with oil. Place the wings evenly over half the grill the first 3-5 minutes; then start to turn the wings over all to the other side of the grill. Repeat every 2 or 3 minutes until the wings are done. About 30 minutes. Move the grill down as the coals cool. Keep a water bottle handy so you can catch the flare ups.

Serve with a large green salad with chunky bleu cheese dressing.

ILSA’S OYSTERS

1-2 doz freshly shucked oysters

As needed, finely grated parmesan cheese

Fresh ground pepper Method: Shuck oysters maintaining the juice in the larger side of the shell. Place oysters in their shells on the hot grill. Sprinkle liberally with parmesan cheese and fresh ground pepper. When they bubble remove and enjoy!

Ilsa says to tilt your head back and let the warm oyster slide into your mouth all at once!