Summertime and grilling go together like peanut butter and jelly and there is nothing quite like watching the sunset while enjoying a big juicy steak with a glass of wine.
Grilling a nice center-cut steak or piece of fresh seafood can present a bit of a challenge. Here are a few tips for perfecting your barbecue game.
For chicken breasts, make small, shallow slits across the chicken to help the marinade seep in and retain the tenderness of the meat. Begin grilling over low heat to cook the meat thoroughly. Cover the grill to allow the heat to circulate and cook each piece until it no longer looks raw and reaches a firm, but not hard, texture. The meat should not be stark, bone white when cut open but more a pearly, off-white color. Once the meat is cooked thoroughly, increase the heat to medium-high to brown the outsides and add that distinct “grill” flavor.
It’s all about the cut. For beef, a one and a half inch thick-cut will contain the most juices and be the easiest to prepare. Let the steak adjust to room temperature (so that it cooks evenly) and add your choice of seasoning. There are fantastic grill rubs available at your local farmer’s market or you can make your own seasoning using salt, cracked pepper and garlic powder. To achieve that melt-in-your-mouth flavor, add a bit of salt to the raw meat at least 40 minutes before throwing it on the grill to retain moisture and flavor. With a charcoal grill, push the coals to one side so the grill becomes divided—one cool side, one warm side. Slowly cook the steak on the cool side flipping frequently. You can test how “done” the meat is by pinching it and comparing it to your own thumb muscle (on the bottom of your thumb and part of your palm). For rare temps, touch your pinky finger to your thumb and squeeze your thumb muscle. The meat should feel tender like your thumb muscle when it’s cooked rare. For medium temps, touch your middle finger to your thumb, a bit more firm. For well done, press your index to the thumb (this should feel very firm). Once cooked to your liking, let the meat stand for ten minutes for the meat to absorb all the flavors.
Before you start prepping, give the grill an extra scrub and drench the hot grates in oil to prevent the fish from sticking. Thick cuts like swordfish, salmon and tuna are the easiest to prepare and unlike steak and chicken, seafood tastes best with minimal marinade. A little salt and pepper and lemon juice may be all you need. Place each piece skin-side down first and cook until there are nice, defined grill lines on each side. Using a wide spatula (not tongs), carefully flip the fish and continue cooking to your taste. Leaving the skin on helps the pieces stay together when you flip them. Salmon and tuna can be cooked to medium rare, other cuts should be well done. A bone-in cut is done cooking when the meat easily pulls away from the bones, or about 10 minutes.