I’ve given some instruction on grilling tips in the past, but it’s time to get that grill ready again, so here’s a refresher.
First, you don’t have to buy prime meat. Meat grading is determined by the marbling, or fat-content distribution in the beef- the better the marbling, the higher the grade. It’s also verified on overall tenderness, juiciness and flavor. There are more complicated grading scales that are determined by maturity, skeletal ossification, and lean maturity, but for all practical purposes, the three grades mentioned above are all you need to familiarize yourself with. USDA grading is listed as such, starting with the highest quality: Prime, Choice, and Select. The difference between Prime and Choice is negligible (unless you’re a master butcher), but select is usually reserved for an inferior product, and in my opinion, should be avoided.
If you don’t know a butcher, take some time to find one in your community. These artisans are few and far between, and should be treated with respect. Once you develop a relationship with a butcher your life will change. He or she will give you a heads-up when fresh product arrives, and throw you succulent soup bones (free of charge) from time to time. Be sure to ask your butcher plenty of questions- a good butcher loves talking about his craft, especially to consumers with equal enthusiasm for delicious cuts of quality meats.
A few cuts of recommended beef are:
Tenderloin, or filet
After you have secured your beef from the butcher, place it on a clean working surface and season it with a lot of fresh-cracked black pepper, and Kosher, or sea salt- nothing else! Real chefs never marinate their meat. Once the steak is seasoned, let it rest for 30 minutes, or until it comes to room temperature. NEVER place a cold steak on a hot grill- it will seize up, not cook properly, and be moist-free.
Clean your grill with a wire brush making sure to remove all excess debris. Once the grill is spotless, run an oil-soaked rag along the surface- this will season the steel grates. Seasoning the grilling grates will add another layer of flavor to your food.
Light the grill and let it come to a surface temperature of 350-400 degrees; a lesser temperature will not seal the meat. Pre-heating the grill will take at least 20 minutes- don’t rush it.
When the grill reaches a minimum of 350 degrees, carefully run an oil-soaked rag along the surface of the hot grates- this will prevent your beef from sticking.
Place the seasoned meat on the surface. Once the steak is on the grill DO NOT TOUCH OR MOVE IT for at least 3 minutes. Keeping your hands off the steak will ensure a juicy, perfect piece of meat when the cooking process is complete.
A rare piece of meat will take approximately 3 minutes a side depending on the thickness of the cut, an additional 2-3 minutes a side for medium-rare, and 3 more minutes for medium. Any temps after that, you’re just ruining a perfectly good piece of beef. This is just a guideline of course- the best way to tell the doneness of a piece of meat is by touch. I know it sounds vague, but it’s the way the pros do it. The softer the meat feels, the more rare it is. The firmer the meat becomes, the more well done it is. This will take some practice if you have no experience determining doneness by feel. Try cooking a few cheaper cuts of meats and testing your skills- after determining doneness, make a small cut in the center and look at the color. You will be surprised how accurate you become in a short amount of time. NEVER use an instant-read thermometer with a tip. Sure it gives you an accurate reading, but it also leaves a nice cavity for all of the juices to escape.
Remove the steak from the grill and let it rest for 10 minutes. As the meat rests, the juices become more viscous (thick). Cutting a hot piece of meat will only release all of the flavorful juices, and we don’t want that.
All of the above points can be applied to pork, or wild game as well.
Points to remember:
Get to know your butcher
Never grill cold meat
Always make sure your steaks are seasoned with plenty of salt and pepper
Cook your steaks on a clean, hot, seasoned grill
Let your meat rest for at least 10 minutes before eating
Marinate your meat? NEVER!
Avoid instant-read thermometers
Practice your grilling often!
Chef Chuck Kerber