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No matter what the calendar says, Memorial Day kicks off the start of summer and the grilling season. Here are some tips on how to be a successful griller:

Treat your grill just like any other cooking surface — give it a good cleaning before and after you cook. Scrubbing and oiling the grill grates not only protects the grates but creates a nonstick surface for cooking.

A hot grill makes for easier cleaning (as any of the stuck-on food bits become brittle and easier to scrape off), but if your grill really needs a deep clean, preheat the grill then turn it off while you scrub and oil.

When preparing a charcoal grill, don’t skimp on the charcoal. Light the coals at least 30 minutes before you plan to begin cooking. Do not put foods on the grill until the fire dies down to glowing coals.

Even gas grills need to preheat. Turn on the flame at least 15 minutes before putting food over the fire. This will help to warm up the grate and stabilize the temperature of the grill environment.

Don’t grill anything too fatty or with too much marinade, as this can cause flare-ups. Most recipes will direct you to trim excess fat or shake off any excess marinade — this step is included for your safety.

Metal skewers get hot which helps meat to cook more evenly — just remember to use tongs or an oven mitt when turning them on the grill. Double-skewer items that might fall off, such as shrimp, chicken strips or slices of summer squash. In this case, skewers can help keep ingredients from twirling and also maintain the shape of the ingredient.

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Grill delicate of small foods in a perforated grill pan — it will keep the food from falling through the cooking grate.

For larger cuts, such as chickens, roasts or a rack of ribs, do most of your cooking away from any actual flames and keep the grill lid closed. This allows for slower cooking and more even temperatures. Unless you have a serious cookout in the making, most grills are big enough to prepare one side for lower heat cooking and one side for high heat. Move hot coals to one half of the grill or turn off one or more burners to create indirect heat.

Can’t decide whether to use a direct or indirect method? If the food takes less than 20 minutes to cook, use direct heat; if it takes longer, use indirect heat.

If the grill gets too hot, turn it off or pull everything off the grill. If it’s not hot enough, close the lid, as this will help to build heat quickly.

GRILLING BEEF & PORK

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The appropriate heat levels and cooking times are crucial for grilling meat, so that it stays tender and juicy. Each type of cut has its own rules:

Use direct heat for chops, steaks and hamburgers.

Use indirect heat for Italian sausage, roasts and larger cuts of meat.

Cover the grill when cooking less tender cuts of meat.

Slash the edges of steaks and chops on the diagonal, about ¼ inch into the center to prevent the edges from curling.

Resist the urge to squeeze or press down on the grilling meat! This will result in a tougher, less juicy cut.

Steaks like filet mignon, ribeye, top sirloin and New York strip are naturally tender and need nothing more than a seasoning rub or a bit of salt and pepper before grilling.

Larger steaks like flank, skirt steak and London broil are best when soaked in a flavorful marinade before grilling.

Cuts like brisket, shank and chuck demand long, slow, indirect cooking.

Ribeye is excellent on the grill because of its marbling and its ability to hold up to strong flavors in spice rubs and marinades.

Lean, tender pork chops can be marinated or rubbed with spices and then cooked over the coals.

Pork spare ribs and baby back ribs can be prebaked and then grilled to achieve a smoky flavor.

Pork tenderloin grills quickly, is low in fat and can be sliced easily for an attractive presentation.

Treat larger cuts of pork, like pork shoulder, the way you would larger cuts of beef.

Italian Vinaigrette

Keep this homemade Italian Vinaigrette on hand to quickly give foods flavor before grilling.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian mixed herbs
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tablespoon prepared Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Whisk all the ingredients together and drizzle olive oil in a little at a time. Yields: ¾ cup

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Cooking Times

Always cook all types of meat thoroughly and use an instant-read thermometer inserted into the middle of the thickest part of the meat. Wait a couple of minutes before reading and follow these simple temperature guidelines:

Cooked meat Temperatures in degrees F
Medium Rare 145
Medium 160
Medium Well 165
Well Done 170
Ground Meats 160

Italian Flank Steak

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Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 large (1 1/2-pound) grass-fed flank steak
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups lightly packed baby spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed basil leaves
  • 1/4 pound provolone cheese, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Soak 8 toothpicks in water for at least 20 minutes and prepare the grill for medium heat cooking. Don’t forget to oil the grill grates.

Butterfly steak by slicing it horizontally with a very sharp knife, stopping about 1 inch before you would slice all the way through. Open meat up, like opening a book, and sprinkle all sides with salt and pepper.

Layer opened steak with spinach, basil and provolone slices. Starting on one long side, roll up tightly.

Secure the rolled steak at the seam and ends with the soaked toothpicks.

Brush the outside of the steak with oil and grill, turning frequently, until the steak is deeply browned all over, about 12-15  minutes for medium rare (an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should register 125-130°F). Don’t overcook or the steak will be dry.

Transfer steak to a cutting board, cover loosely with foil and let stand 10 minutes. Remove toothpicks and thinly slice. Arrange on a serving platter.

Grilled Sausage and Pepper Salad

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Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 fresh pork or turkey Italian sausage links
  • 1/2 large white onion, cut into 2 thick slices
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 3 jarred roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
  • Olive oil for brushing
  • Prepared Italian salad dressing

Directions

Oil the grill grates and prepare the grill for medium-high heat cooking. Prepare one side of the grill for indirect heat

Brush the onion slices and sausages with oil.

Grill sausages on the indirect heat side of the grill for 30 minutes turning then after 15 minutes.

Grill onion on the direct heat side of the grill, turning occasionally, until the onion is tender, 8 to 10 minutes

When cool enough to handle, slice sausages thickly on the bias and cut the grilled onion into chunks.

Toss romaine, feta and red peppers in a large salad bowl with a little Italian salad dressing.

Spoon romaine mixture onto serving plates and top with sausages and onion.

GRILLING POULTRY

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The mild flavor of poultry makes it ideal for grilling. Whether you choose chicken, duck, turkey or game hen, marinating or using a dry rub will maximize flavor. Once you’ve selected your specific  cut of poultry and seasoning method, follow these tips:

Thin pieces of poultry can be cooked over direct heat; larger pieces of chicken should be cooked over indirect heat.

Cook whole and butterflied poultry breast-side down.

Turning poultry pieces every 5 minutes and rotating pieces around the grill can help ensure even cooking.

Place a drip pan under a whole chicken or turkey breast to catch the juices.

Allow turkey to rest 20 minutes before carving. Remember, smoked turkey may appear a little pink even when thoroughly cooked.

Always cook poultry thoroughly. Test with an instant read thermometer (it should reach 165°F).

Insert the thermometer into the middle of the thickest part of the meat, taking care not to touch any bone. Wait a couple of minutes before reading. For whole poultry, insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh.

Part of the Poultry Time
Whole Chicken 15-20 minutes per pound, about 1 3/4 hours
Butterflied Whole Chicken About 1 hour
Bone-in Breast, Leg & Thigh 12-15 minutes per side
Wing 2-3 minutes per side
Boneless Chicken Breast 4-6 minutes per side
Boneless Turkey Breast (up to 3 pounds) 1-1 1/2 hours
Boneless Turkey Breast (3-9 pounds) 2-3 hours

Grilled Chicken and Peppers Over Arugula

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Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 1 1/4 pounds total)
  • 7 tablespoons prepared Italian salad dressing, divided
  • 2 bell peppers (red or green, or 1 of each), quartered
  • 1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 lightly packed cups arugula leaves

Directions

Split the chicken breasts by placing them on a cutting board and using a sharp knife to slice evenly through them, while applying slight pressure on top with the other hand.

Oil the grill grates and prepare a grill for medium-high heat cooking.

Brush chicken breasts on both sides with 3 tablespoons of the salad dressing.

In a small bowl, toss bell peppers with 2 tablespoons of the dressing.

Place chicken on one side of the grill and the peppers on the other side. Grill chicken and peppers, turning occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and peppers are tender and browned, 6 to 7 minutes.

Toss onion and arugula with the remaining 2 tablespoons of salad dressing and arrange on a platter. Slice chicken and peppers; place them on top of the arugula salad.

Pesto Turkey Burgers with Grilled Onions

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Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
  • 1/3 cup prepared basil pesto
  • Olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, peeled, but leave the root ends intact and cut into 4 thick slices
  • 6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 4 slices
  • 4 hamburger buns

Directions

In a large bowl, combine turkey and pesto. Form the mixture into 4 patties, each about 3/4-inch thick.

Brush the onion slices and burgers with oil.

Oil the grill grates and heat the grill to medium. Grill burgers and onions until browned and cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes per side.

Place burgers on the buns and top each with a slice of mozzarella and a slice of grilled onion.

 

Part 2 Tomorrow

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