I have a small window in my kitchen that looks out onto our backyard and deck. It also serves as my window to grilling season. I love the little opening because it reveals just enough of the outdoors for me to know exactly what the weather is at the moment. I have no need for a thermometer; instead, I assess what is happening on our grill. I watch to see if the last snowfall is melting, if afternoon rain is falling, or if the warm sun is shining on the side of the black cover. It all helps me track how close we are to grilling season.
I am someone who believes everything can and should be grilled. I love the smokiness grilling imparts on food, the quickness of cooking and the ease of cleaning up. However, before you head outside, there are best practices for grilling each kind of meat.
Before you head outside, there are best practices for grilling each kind of meat.
Beef I always recommend that novice grillers begin with beef, as it is easily the most forgiving meat. Unlike other proteins that require a very specific internal temperature for safe consumption, beef can be as delicious cooked to medium rare as it is well-done. Flank steak is my favorite cut of beef, partly because it readily absorbs marinades. This recipe makes good use of marinade to yield an amazingly flavorful and juicy steak.
Keep in mind that the thickness of each flank steak will determine the length of time it needs to cook. Close the lid of the grill for a thicker steak to trap the heat and cook the meat faster. On the other hand, be sure to leave the lid open when grilling thinner flank steak, or it could overcook.
Chicken Grilled chicken is a weeknight staple in our house. It is mild enough to work with many different sauces and versatile enough to go with a wide variety of sides from canned beans to green salads. I like to grill a bunch of chicken breasts on a Sunday night and have suppers halfway finished for the rest of the week. One of my family's favorite recipes is this Greek-inspired mix of chicken and beans for its simple pan sauce and the brightly-flavored beans that really satisfy.
Grill chicken over medium-high heat and cook until it reaches 165 degrees internally. Chicken is done when it has turned opaque and has no pink inside the thickest part. If your grill has multiple burners, turn two of them to medium-high heat and leave one off so as not to risk overcooking the chicken.
*Tip: Want to do more with chicken? Check out our story on cooking ahead with this popular protein.
Pork Pork is very similar to chicken when it comes to grilling. Because it is so lean, it can overcook easily and dry out really fast. One major difference between the two meats, however, is that pork only needs an internal temperature of 145 degrees to be finished — and 20 degrees make a big difference! I would recommend starting with a medium heat when prepping your grill for pork.
Pork is also very mild in flavor, and it's a perfect canvas for dried spice rubs. Try this pork chop recipe for a brilliant marriage of spicy chili powder and warm allspice. Finished with a citrusy-fresh baste made of orange and lime juices, the chop pairs beautifully with mesquite-flavored canned beans.
It is important not to add sugar to a dry rub unless you plan to grill pork lowly and slowly like barbecue. If you put sugar in a dry rub and grill it quickly over high heat, you risk it caramelizing and leaving a burnt, acrid taste on the pork.
Fish Grilling fish can be easy, but I recommend waiting to tackle it until you are feeling very confident in your grilling skills. Because fish is leaner than all the other aforementioned proteins, it is critical that your grill be super clean so the fish won't stick and fall apart. It is equally important that your grill be very hot to create a crust on the fish, making it easier to flip.
When you are ready to start grilling fish, begin with salmon. It is a bit fattier, is sturdier than other types of fish, and it absorbs marinades in a very short time. This salmon recipe is marked by a delicious topping of pinto beans, tomatoes, onions, peppers and corn. Instead of cooking the fish in a skillet, put it on the grill for approximately 6-10 minutes (for a 1-inch thick piece of salmon), flipping it when it's 60-percent cooked.
The image above provides a handy summary of my tips. Click on it for a larger version, print it and prop it up within view of your own grill. Use it as your go-to guide for grilling when you can see nothing but sunshine outside your kitchen window. Taste for yourself the glory of grilling every protein in your fridge.