Summer is here and that means GRILLIN’ season. That being said, I have been known to shovel the snow off my BBQ and grill a steak in -20 degrees weather. But that’s just me. (Vegans and Vegetarians beware. This post, for all intents and purposes, is about MEAT! Marinating it. Rubbing it. Squeezing it. And getting your meat hot…on the grill. You best go read Erika’s vegan picnic post instead.)
Choosing Your Meat
When it is available and you can afford it, it is so worth buying local organic meat. It really does taste and grill exponentially better. At your favourite butcher or you local market, look for organic, hormone or anti-biotic free meat. I tend to grill beef, chicken, lamb and pork the most. I find them optimal for the grill. I suggest buying cuts WITH the bone. The flavours that come from the marrow when grilled slowly are just amazing. As my papa says, “the closer the meat is to the bone, the sweeter it is.” …sweet meat and bone, got it. Also, buying your cuts and freezing them is not a crime. Go ahead, just defrost in the fridge a few days before.
Fav Cuts** of Meat for the Grill
+ beef steak: New York and T-Bone! (always make sure there is a relatively good amount of fat marbling for optimal flavour)
+ chicken: whole, sliced down the breast bone, and flattened.
+ pork chop: thick cut and bone-in (Wow! Read into that one, boys!)
+ lamb: ribs (lollipops)
+ fish/seafood grilling post (to be continued)
** all meats ground make for excellent burgers too, especially fresh lamb.
Marinating Your Meat
Don’t half-ass (another -ism from my papa) the marinating process! This is one of the most critical parts of the whole process. Think about when you want to grill and give yourself at least 24 hours of marinating time. Soaking your meat in Diana Sauce (yak!) for a few hours before the grill will just cover it in a layer of sugar and vinegar. We can do better than that! Just don’t buy those shitty ready made marinades. They aren’t worth the money for the results. (Montreal steak spice is the exception, but be sparing with it!) Also, do not fall under the assumption that you need to marinate the shit out of your meat; you don’t want to drown the natural flavours of the meat. Often a simple combination of some essentials are all you need. If you want the basics, always have in your kitchen:
+ kosher salt
+ fresh cracked black pepper
+ extra virgins, I mean, extra virgin olive oil (just enough to lightly lubricate)
+ fresh garlic
+ grainy mustard
+ organic ketchup (trust me, the organic stuff is so much better; it has way less sugar)
+ fresh herbs, always fresh. (unless you are doing a dry rub, but fresh is better in my opinion)
If you have space by a window or balcony this summer (urban gardening) or if you have a full garden, grow your own basil, chives, italian parsley, thyme, and rosemary. They are cheap and relatively easy to take care of (basil is a little more difficult).
For Lamb I like finely chopped rosemary and thyme.
Other marinating suggestions: for Chicken I like lemon juice and rosemary, for porc grainy mustard and fresh thyme, and for beef wrocestershire, tamrai, grainy mustard and organic ketchup. ( And always have kosher salt, cracked pepper, extra virgen olive oil and shallots.)
Prepping for the Grill
Make sure you take your meat out of the fridge at least an hour before you intend to grill it. This allows the meat and marinade to come to the atmospheric temperature. This allows the meat to “relax” from it’s cold state when it was in the fridge. Throwing cold meat on the grill is not a good time!
I am going to use my recent lamb grill as the example for this part. Naturally, different meat has different grilling techniques. I tend to stick to a few basic rules for everything:
+ don’t flip your meat (too much) – once is oven enough, as colour and even cooking is your goal here.
+ don’t squeeze your meat – if you squeeze the meat into the hot grill it won’t cook it faster, and the juices are gonna come out if you squeeze it (I did not plan the sexual innuendos)
+ watch your meat and watch your heat – grilling isn’t something you just slap on and go type thing. If you burn or dry a good piece of meat out, no one will come back to your BBQs.
+ give your meat some colour and make sure it has a good amount of heat to tackle when it first hits the grill. For steak, flip when you see the fatty edges folding or blood coming through the top of the un-grilled side. Grill about 1/2 of the time as the initial side.
+ gauge the thickness of your meat, that will determine your grill times.
+ practice makes perfect. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, it’s how we learn.
Now you are ready to organize your fire. I am working with a small hibachi, something my father has been using to cook since I was a wee kid.
Say what you will about charcoal and carcinogens etc, nothing can beat the flavours produced by a soft burning red coal. The fat of the meat crisps and renders, locking in the flavours and sealing the deal of a perfect grilled meal. Anyways. Burn your wood, or coals to a point where the flame is GONE. Flame is not your friend on the grill, ever! The coals produce a nice consistent heat that will grill your meat to perfection (with proper supervision, of course).
making your own coals
Remember, gauge the amount of coals and heat you will require on the meat you will be using and the length of time you intend to cook it. The lamb ribs I had were so small and delicate, so 2-3 minutes on each side would be sufficient.
Sometimes the heat does not distribute evenly with a hibatchi and some meat will be cooking faster than others. Always gauge your heat with a little over the grill palm test, and with constant supervision. Any more and I would have been eating boots. Also, tongs are your friend. They are by far my fave grilling tool.
grilling the ribs over hot coals
perfectly grilled lamb ribs
Eating Your Meat: Side and Drink
I love a fresh summer salad with my grilled meat. Try my summer quinoa salad!
- 2 cups cooked and cooled quinoa
- 1 cucumber diced
- 1 medium yellow pepper diced
- 1 medium red pepper diced
- 1 small shallot finely chopped
- a generous amount of fresh organic Italian parsley chopped
- (a bit of chopped fresh mint, if feelin’ funky)
- 2 lemons juiced
- 2-3 tbs of extra virgin olive oil
- a few big pinches of fine kosher salt (not the big rocks)
- about 2 tsps of cinnamon
- about the same of cayenne
Add all diced veg to a large bowl.
When making a salad with a base such as quinoa or couscous, remember to dice your veg. A general rule of thumb when cooking is, keep the size of your ingredients consistent. Add lemon juice, salt, cinnamon, cayenne and oil and toss. Then add cooled quinoa. And lastly the chopped parsley.
Mix and you are set. Half of your meal is done! Remember, summer salads are supposed to be fresh and light on the palate. Don’t over load the oils. Sometimes, lemon juice is often enough of a dressing with a splash of olive oil and honey.
Tossed Salad: Kyle’s Summer Quinoa Salad
Plate as desired and finish off with a drizzle of Cumin Yogurt:
- 1 cup fat free organic plain yogurt
- 1 tbs of ground cumin
- ½ juiced lemon
- pinch of salt
Serves well with a Merlot. I chose my favourite, Sandhill Merlot 2008, Okanogan, BC. The fresh salad with a hint of spice from the cayenne pairs well with the flavourful rosemary grilled lamb ribs. The merlot serves to compliment with deep cherry and casis with a soft tannin that embellishes the spicy flavours of both the salad and the finish of the wine.