Now that Summer is finally here, it’s time to scrape off those grills and start thinking about outdoor cooking (or indoor if you have something more portable, lucky you).
There are endless amounts of marinades and seasoning out there or you can make your own. It doesn’t need to be fancy. You can even use the beer in your fridge as marinade. Not only does marinade add flavor but it also helps reduce burning on the grill. You can’t go wrong with fresh herbs, healthy oils, and citrus juices; lemon and lime is easy and tasty. My preference for grill seasoning is more simple – olive oil, light salt and pepper usually does the trick. Whatever you decide, marinade or seasoning, just be sure to score your meats (gently pierce the meat) to help the flavor penetrate quickly. Doing this also keeps the meat flat while it cooks. Be sure to marinate at least 1-2 hours in the fridge. As tempting as it may be, don’t re-use the liquid the meat was just marinating in to baste while grilling. You’ll be passing raw meat juices to your cooked meat. Instead, set aside some of your marinade at the beginning to marinate while grilling.
How do you know if it’s done?
Did you know the color of meat is not reliable indicator of doneness? Do yourself and your guests a huge favor and invest in a thermometer. Even the best grill masters out there use them! Here are the recommended temperatures for cooking from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The thermometer should be placed in the thickest part of the meat.
- Pork: 145°F
- Beef: Rare: 125°F – 130°F, Medium-Rare: 130°F – 135°F, Medium: 140°F – 145°F, Well-Done: 160° and higher
- Veal: 145°F
- Lamb: 145°F
- Poultry: 165°F degrees
- Fish: 145°F minimum
According to the USDA, you should allow the meat to rest three minutes before cutting or eating – this allows the internal temperature of the meat to continue to rise slightly to destroy any remaining harmful bacteria. To keep your guest happy and healthy, reduce cross contamination by keeping raw food and ready-to-eat foods on separate plates. If you can, try to invest in two sets of grilling utensils. Keep one set for handling raw meats and another set for handling ready-to-eat foods.
What to Cook…What not to Cook
Whether or not you are hosting a grill out for friends and family or just grilling solo, you don’t have to buy the expensive stuff. Many of the leaner cuts are less expensive and more grill friendly. Fatty cuts tend to make the grill flare up and make your meat curl up, so make sure to trim off the fat. Look for skinless chicken, beef and pork tenderloin round, choice and select cuts, and even flank steak. If your pockets are deeper or looking to impress, go all out and get the New York Strip steak or skewer scallops and shrimp. For fish, salmon can withstand the grill easily. Avoid flaky fish such as cod, sole, and tilapia which tend to fall apart – not Instagram-able. To make it even more full-proof, you can wrap marinated fish fillets in foil and place on the grill.
The best vegetables to grill are corn, poblano chiles, green onions, tomatoes, onions, bell pepper, zucchini, eggplant, endive and surprise – avocado. If you’re a big fan of fruit, serving grilled pineapple, mango, apples, bananas, peaches, pears and watermelon, will sure to surprise your guests. Don’t be afraid to crank up the heat when you grill your fruits. The browning and blackened parts just mean the natural sugars in the fruit have caramelized, which make them extra sweet and flavorful. Bonus points if you put it in their cocktails. Just watch the grill carefully, especially with vegetables and fruits. Each item has its own ideal doneness and it will take some experimenting. For instance, avocados just need a minute or two. Otherwise, it will be bitter. And peppers need to be blackened so they peel off easily. Bon apetit!