Grilling is the epitome of summer cooking. It keeps kitchens cooler, cleaner, and calmer. With these essential steps, the guesswork goes out the window and grilling becomes quite simple.
Growing up on the northeast coast, there weren’t that many perfect summer grilling days. Actually, there weren’t that many summer days in general. Summer was limited to two, maybe three, months a year.
When those perfect for grilling summer days did arrive, my Dad was sure to be outside grilling. He would mostly grill steak. Come to think of it, I don’t remember him grilling much of anything else other than steak. He loved it, and consequently, so do I.
My Dad’s love for grilling didn’t cease as the weather cooled. Not even the snow could keep my Dad from grilling. He would put on his goose down winter jacket – so big and puffy – I remember it would always make me laugh.
“It’s like a big marshmallow,” he would say, as we both laughed together. “But it keeps me warm.”
He shoveled a single-line path from the door to the grill, cleaned off the snow that had accumulated on the grill and lit the fire. He would come and go along that path, but sometimes, he would stand out there, next to the heat of the grill and soak in the cool evening.
That is a picture in my memory that I will never forget – my Dad, grilling outside. The steam rising from the grill against the shrill, cold air. His breath making a trail through the trees against the black-grey darkness of the forest beyond the yard. He looked so peaceful, in his marshmallow jacket, snow up to his shins, sometimes knees, surrounding him, and a background of twinkling Christmas lights.
He loved it.
I never had the chance to ask my Dad why he loved grilling so much. I would say it reminded him of those beautiful summer days, family gatherings, and feeding people. But deeper than that, I think he enjoyed the stillness, the quiet, and the relaxation that came from being outside.
He would quietly listen to the birds and the breeze through the trees. He enjoyed the softness of the forest surrounding our backyard, yet appreciated the life that would emerge, quite suddenly at times. The chipmunks would pop their little heads out from their hiding places and “talk” to him.
He enjoyed the calm of grilling versus the hustle and bustle inside the kitchen.
My Dad instilled this joy of cooking, grilling, and of course, his love of steak in my brother and me. We always think of our Dad when we sit down to a great steak dinner. The memories and spirit of my Dad will forever be with us as we grow.
Now, my husband has assumed the role of grilling, and we both work together as a team. With my husband grilling the protein, and me inside putting together the vegetables, our meal is ready and on the table within 20 minutes.
My favorite part about grilling is the minimal cleanup. Sometimes we grill our sides, like grilled asparagus or squash, and then we don’t have any cleanup at all. It can’t get any easier than that.
So what’s holding you back?
5 Essential Steps to Master the Art of Grilling
I’ve outlined 5 essential steps to grilling so you can master your grill, your dinner and can enjoy the rest of the day without washing a single pan. These tips work for any type of grill – charcoal, gas, propane, or wood.
Burn off the Leftovers
Unless you remember to clean off the grill every time you finish cooking, chances are, the leftover bits of the food will continue to char on the grill.
No one wants their grilled chicken with a side of last night’s pork chops, nor do you want to grill on a sticky mess of old oils and seasonings.
By combining grill-cleaning with grill-preheating the next time you light-up the grill, it conserves more gas or propane. Simply turn the grill on high and let it get good and hot. Using a grill brush, scrape over the grates.
Go ahead, put some elbow grease in there. The food will cook better and taste better on a clean grill.
Have you ever tried to season your meat while it’s already on the grill?
I have. It doesn’t turn out well. Half the seasoning ends up on the grill grates, one gets with more seasoning than the other and the seasoning doesn’t have enough time to penetrate the meat or vegetables and provide the maximum flavor.
It’s best to preseason the meat and vegetables before bringing them outside to the grill.
I will be posting a comprehensive list of seasoning mixtures soon. Be sure to subscribe below to stay updated on new posts, local events and new recipes.
When in doubt, grill vegetables according to the appropriate time, which is a lot faster than you think.
Asparagus – 8 minutes
Bell Pepper – 10 minutes
Eggplant – 10 minutes
Mushrooms – 8 minutes
Onions – 15 minutes
Potato Half – 20 minutes
Squash – 10 minutes
Tomatoes – 5 minutes
The Right Temperature
While vegetables should be cooked according to time, proteins should be cooked according to temperature.
Not to toot my own horn, but I can make a mean steak, cooked perfectly, only because of our trusty ThermoWorks Thermapen thermometer. It was rated number one, best buy, from America’s Test Kitchen. It’s a little pricey, but well worth it.
The thermometer provides an instant and accurate temperature and takes the guesswork out of the equation.
Beef and Lamb – Rare – 120 degrees
Beef and Lamb – Medium – 140 degrees
Beef and Lamb – Well – 160 degrees
Pork- Whole Cut – 145 degrees
Pork – Ground – 160 degrees
Chicken or Turkey – 165 degrees
Give it a Rest
Let your protein rest for 8-10 minutes after grilling. This rest is crucial for letting the internal juices redistribute throughout the meat instead of being focused in the center, which is what happens when you grill or cook any protein.
If you cut into your meat too early, the internal juices will spill out onto your plate and leave you with a dry, less flavorful bite. However, if you let the juices redistribute over 8-10 minutes, then your meat will be plump, flavorful and juicy.
There you have it, my 5 essential grilling tips that will make you the next Master of the Grill.
Enjoy the smokiness and earthiness of a nice grilled meal and the taste of warm summer, regardless of the time of the year.
Relish in the quiet, calm outdoor air. Let your surroundings breathe life back into your soul, and energy back into your body.
Remember, these actions and feelings, seemingly so automatic and routine, can become treasured memories to those around you.