I recently went back up to Western New York to visit friends and catch a Buffalo Bills pre-season game. Driving around Rochester for the first time in 10+ years, I was alarmed to see that the Mr. Steak restaurant location where I had my first job and met up with several lifelong friends is now being converted into a Men’s Room Barbershop & Spa … whatever that is.
So, I figured I’d share some grilling tips that I learned at the long defunct Mr. Steak on Monroe Avenue in Rochester ahead of this upcoming Labor Day weekend.
- Learn Your Spots – No matter what kind of grill you have – charcoal, gas, propane, whatever – it will have varying temperature spots. Knowing where these spots are (or creating them if your grill has that level of temperature control) is the first step to ensuring that you are cooking effectively and efficiently. Use cooler spots to let thicker items finish cooking without continuing to char their outsides. Likewise, use hotter spots to get a good sear started. It won’t lock in the juices unless you are cooking on a flat top, but it will impart some good flavor.
- Pace Your Items – Have a plan before you start to grill. When do you want to eat? What will take the longest to cook? Work backwards from there to get those items that take longer to cook started on the grill first. And that’s not always the meat; some veggies take just as long as a good steak to cook properly on the grill. Having a plan for the order you will cook your items is just as important as how you choose to season them.
- Prep For Success – If you are busy preparing other food items while you are grilling, you are seriously putting the success of the meal at risk. Once you start cooking or grilling, that’s all you should be doing. Take the time earlier in the day to prep your food items so you can focus solely on cooking them once they hit the heat. That means refrigerating them properly so they to not spoil or begin deteriorating. Nothing will go bad if you seal it tightly, keep it at a safe and consistent temperature, and are ready to cook it in a few hours.
- What Trumps Taste – The #1 responsibility for any cook is food safety. Do not re-use plates, platters, or utensils that you brought your raw food items to the grill to then take to the table once they are cooked. If it touched raw meat, it gets washed with soap or put in the dishwasher. Similarly, do not cross-contaminate cutting boards, knives, or tongs. If you used it to prep raw food, wash it right away before you do anything else. That includes your hands, too. The tastiest dish is quickly demonized if it makes you or your guests sick later that night.
- Time For A Timer – Once you are cooking with nothing else to distract you, it is easy to rush the process. Use a simple kitchen timer or on your smart phone to make sure that you truly give each side of that steak or chicken the proper amount of time before you turn/flip it. It’s not enough to have a cool beverage or good conversation going. If you are holding tongs, you will want to use them. Just because you can do something to what is cooking on your grill does not mean that you should. Give it the right amount of time on each side and “your patience will be rewarded.”
Now, let’s bring out the family recipes and secret sauces. What do you like to cook on the grill? What’s your end of summer specialty to share with guests on the back deck, back porch, or back yard? Whatever yours is, grill with a plan, prep ahead of time, and keep food safety top of mind to ensure everyone enjoys a great meal and a good time.