Grilling season is here—so light it up. Make this the year that you start serving complete meals from your barbecue.
Of course, the centerpiece of your hot-off-the-grill feast will always be the entreé. We chose chicken and flat-iron steak, which is a newly developed cut of beef shoulder. It’s rapidly gaining popularity as a steak with deep, rich taste and a moderate price. Flatiron is a hot item at restaurants and it’s available at Hy-Vee. To create a professional presentation, crosscut the meat, as above.
Grilling delivers full-flavor potatoes and veggies, too. We woke up the tomatoes, peppers, onions and carrots with an olive oil, rosemary and garlic marinade. The potatoes were grilled and moved to the upper rack, where they would soak in the aromas.
The one-grill approach also gives you easy appetizers, bread and even dessert, if you plan for it. Your abilities will amaze your guests and their taste buds will cheer.
Grill Talk: Charcoal or Gas?
There are staunch supporters on both sides of the question, “Which is the best grill type, charcoal or gas?” The answer comes down to personal preference.
Charcoal aficionados consider cooking on charcoal to be an art form, a skill to hone over time. A good end product depends on how you build the fire, adjust vents and use the lid. Coals are messier, harder to light and need more cleanup, as they can stay hot for 24 hours. On the flip side, charcoal grillers believe that because their fuel cooks hotter than most gas grills, it’s easier to sear meats and get better flavors. Charcoal grilling requires a few more tools, too. Besides a meat thermometer, tongs and turner, essentials include fireproof gloves, a coal-moving tool and a starter, such as a chimney or electric starter.
Those who prefer gas grills say these are easy to operate, take much less time to preheat and hold temperatures with no need to move or add coals. Gas grills are easy to clean, but are pricier, ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Some gas grills have infrared burners to boost temperatures.
Turn Up The Heat
Starting a gas grill is easy: Simply open the lid and turn on the gas, then switch the valves to high before lighting. Preheat gas grills for 10 to 15 minutes, according to equipment manual.
Coals require a bit more finesse. Start with good quality charcoal and don’t douse with liquid fire starter. Instead, use a coal chimney or electric starter. Coals take 30–45 minutes; never begin cooking while they’re still flaming. Hot coals will be barely covered with gray ash, medium coals glow through a layer of ash and low coals have a thick layer of ash.
Many recipes indicate a grill temperature (hot, medium, low). To determine the temperature, hold your hand about 4 inches above the grate and count to see how long you can hold until the heat forces you to pull away. If it takes 5 seconds, the heat is low; 4 seconds, it’s medium; 3 seconds, medium hot; and 2 seconds, hot.
Direct vs. Indirect Grilling
For perfectly grilled foods, it’s critical to know whether to use direct or indirect grilling. Here’s what each involves:
Direct grilling. This is exactly what it says: cooking directly over the heat source. This method relies on hot, fast cooking for foods that cook less than 25 minutes. Direct cooking sears meats, adding those nice grill marks. However, it’s important to keep a close eye on the food so you end up with juicy meats. Use direct grilling for steaks, chops, kabobs, sausages and hot dogs.
To grill directly on a gas grill, preheat as described above. Use a grill brush to clean the surface before placing food on the grill directly above the heat source. Keep an eye on the food, turning to cook both sides. Closing the lid helps generate the intense heat needed to sear the food, which locks in the juices. After removing food, leave the grill on for a few minutes to burn off residue.
Direct charcoal grilling requires heating coals to the desired temperature (described above) and placing food over the hot coals. Direct grilling may allow flare-ups (flames) because of dripping juices or fats. Some grilling gurus recommend keeping a water bottle handy to douse flames, while others reposition foods on the grill or remove a few briquettes to avoid flare ups.
Indirect grilling. With this closed-hood method, foods are kept to the side of the heat source. Similar to oven roasting, food is cooked without direct exposure to a heat source. Instead, the grill surface is raised or a cooking shelf is used, and the hood is closed.
This is best for larger meats, such as roasts, whole chickens and pork shoulders, or tougher meats, such as ribs. These taste better when cooked slowly at moderate temperatures. After removing meat from the grill, cover it with foil and let stand for 16 minutes before slicing.
There are two things to remember with indirect grilling: 1. Close the lid during grilling. 2. Keep temperatures moderate.
During cooking, heat rises, reflects off the lid and inside surfaces of the grill and slowly cooks the food from all sides. Usually there is no need to turn foods.
For a gas grill, preheat the unit. Before placing food on the grill, turn off the burner(s) directly below the food so that heat reaches the food “indirectly.” Close the cover and you’re cooking.
For indirect charcoal grilling, prep the coals, but before placing food on the grill, arrange coals on either side of the base, leaving the center empty. Food is placed over the spot that contains no coals. Place the lid on the grill and lift it only to check coals and check food for doneness. Add coals as needed every 45–60 minutes or move coals around to maintain the temperature.
Regardless of whether you use charcoal or gas, place large cuts of meat on a roasting rack set inside a disposable heavy-gauge foil pan. Add water to the foil pan to keep drippings from burning.
Tips For Complete-Meal Grilling
With a bit of advance preparation and know-how, it’s possible to cook nearly anything on the grill. Here’s how to grill an entire meal:
Organize. Know what temperatures and cooking methods are needed for each of the foods you choose, and set up your grill to accommodate them all. Make sure you have enough space on the grill for dishes that cook at the same time and realize that you may not cook items in the order they will be served.
Prep. Get all ingredients ready before heading outdoors. Chop veggies, marinate meats and season breads in advance so you can keep your focus outdoors during cooking time.
Simplify. Choose homey foods that meld into a healthful and delicious dining experience. You can create a wonderful meal of meats, fish or chicken prepped with a simple rub or marinated in a light bottled salad dressing; vegetables brushed with a bit of olive oil and finished with a sprinkling of fresh herbs; and in-season fruits grilled au natural and served over grilled pound cake or ice cream.
How Long Should I Cook It?
Cooking-time charts are helpful. But use a meat thermometer to be sure you are reaching the correct temperature, advises Hy-Vee Chef Lou Constantino. “‘How long should I cook it?’ is the question I get asked most often,” Lou says. “I advise customers to rely on a thermometer rather than what anyone tells them is the ‘right’ amount of time to cook a piece of meat. A thermometer is your best grilling tool.” With that in mind, use the following chart as a guide only.
| BEEF |
|Steaks ||3–4 minutes/side; medium rare 145°F |
| ||4–5 minutes/side; medium 160°F |
|Hamburger Patties ||3 minutes/side; 160°F |
|Roast (rolled rump, 4–6 lb., indirect) ||18–22 minutes/lb.; 145–160°F |
| PORK |
|Chops (3/4-inch thick) ||3–4 minutes/side; 160°F |
|Tenderloin (1/2–1 1/2 lb.) ||15–25 minutes total; 160°F |
|Ribs (2–4 lb., indirect) ||1 1/2–2 hours; 160°F |
| CHICKEN |
|Whole (3–4 lb., indirect) ||60–75 minutes; |
| ||60–75 minutes; |
|Boneless breast halves (4 oz. each) ||6–8 minutes/side; 170°F |
|Legs or thighs (4–8 oz.) ||10–15 minutes/side; 180°F |
| TURKEY |
|Whole (8–12 lbs., indirect) ||2–3 hours; 180°F measured in thigh |
|Thighs, drumsticks (8–16 oz., indirect) ||1 1/2–2 hours; 180°F |
|Thighs, drumsticks (8–16 oz., direct) ||8–10 minutes/side; 180°F |