Sunday, December 12, 2010

Go For The Thrill Of The Grill!

By Michelle Ann Gelder

There is something so primal and manly about cooking over an open flame that the grill is often off-limits to anyone but the man of the house. But often, the thrill of the grill is limited to hamburgers, hotdogs, and the occasional rack of ribs. The following grilling basics will inject new enthusiasm to this fun cooking method.

First, remember that grilling is a quick cooking process. This means it's a method that works best with meat cuts that are naturally tender. To achieve a thrilling grilling, the cook needs to be particular about the meat's freshness, thickness, cut and marbling. All these factors will affect the final taste and texture of grilled meat.

The right cut of meat is crucial for good grilled dishes. Whether outdoors on a barbecue or in the kitchen with a broiler, you cannot use cuts that are meant for baking or frying. Safe choices include Porterhouse steaks, T-bone, and strip steaks. Cuts that are too thin like flank steaks and skirt steaks burn easily - better reserve them for other dishes.

Freshness is important but so is aging. For the freshest cuts, only buy beef that is bright red or deep red. Avoid those pre-cuts with too much blood or juice in the package. Those have been sitting in the butchers for so long. The blood or juices are an indication that the meat is starting to lose its integrity and that a lot of the moisture has been lost already. Don't go for too much leanness. A good layer of fat will end up giving your dish additional flavor.

Look for even cuts when buying. Too thin cuts will burn easily. Uneven cuts equal uneven cooking. On extreme cases, you will end up with a burnt end and a end still pink with blood.

Next, consider how to age the meat properly. The best way to balance freshness and aging is to purchase meat a few days before the planned grilling, and allow it to mature in the refrigerator. This gives time for meat's natural enzymes to tenderize the cut. If frozen, this time will allow the meat to thaw completely before cooking.

If the recipe calls for a marinade, this is the time to do it. Marinades often contain acids like vinegar or lemon juice, salt, and possibly alcohol from wine or brandy. This makes them fast-acting so you have to marinate on the day itself and not longer. There is a big difference between tender and mushy so you have to time it perfectly. To prevent spills inside your refrigerator, place the meat along with the marinade inside a resealable plastic bag.

Remember that you are still handling raw meat so all the usual precautions still apply. Keep it refrigerated until the grill is nice and hot. Also mind the surfaces you will be laying food on. food poisoning caused by bacteria will ruin any picnic, so be careful.

Finally, you can place the meat on the grill and wait eagerly for dinner to be served. Enjoy!

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