The outdoor cooking season has arrived and many grilled, juicy, charred delicacies are hitting the plates at Nebraska state park lands, backyards and beyond!
So, no better time than now for you to get some grilling tips from two prominent outdoor cooking experts — Gene Cammarota and Ken Stosyich. These two individuals know a thing or two about great grilling.
Gene Cammarata is a French classically-trained, executive chef from Omaha, NE. He is well known in professional cooking circles and is also an instructor at Iowa Western Community College’s Culinary Arts Program in Council Bluffs, IA.
Referred to as “Omaha’s Sausage King,” Ken Stoysich is an award-winning, longtime meat processor and caterer in the Omaha area. Ken and family own manage and work the 55 year-old Stoysich House of Sausage business with locations in the metro at 24th & Bancroft and 130th & Arbor Street.
So, here are their top 12 grilling tips for excellent results every time you fire up your grill at home or in the campground.
1. Have a clean rack. Avoid bacteria, potential carcinogens and poorly tasting meat by always cleaning your grill racks with a nylon-bristle brush or piece of aluminum foil. Stray bristles can fall off metal grill cleaning brushes and find their way into the food you eat so those should not be used. Regular grill rack cleaning will prolong the life of your grill!
2.Olive oil all the way! Rub your steaks or chops with olive oil to prevent them from sticking to the rack and hold spices better. Olive oil also helps in raising the temperature on the surface of the meat from the heat source for a quicker and better sear. Potent herbs and spices such as sage, thyme, curry, cumin, chile and basil work well to add flavor to your olive oil rubs, too.
3. Sweeten that meat with a glaze. Yes, try something different — a sweet glaze for your meat and fish on the gridiron. A simple, delicious one to make consists of mixing 1 cup of orange juice, 1/2 cup of ketchup and 1/4 cup of brown sugar together. This will coat about 6-8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Also, melted jam is a glaze in its simplest form and works for both sweet and savory foods. Brush the glaze on food at the end of the cooking time or as soon as the food comes off the grill. You’ll be surprised how much the flavor of your meat or fish is enhanced!
4. Sear on one side, cook on the other. Establish one portion of your grill to sear meat, while the other area is dedicated exclusively to cooking it. By searing the meat over high heat, you’re locking in juices for moistness. Following the searing step, you move the meat to the cooking side of the grill to be slowly cooked to the desired texture.
5. Use the lump stuff. The best way to grill meat is to use natural lump charcoal which lights faster, burns hotter, has little ash production, allows for easier temperature adjustment and imparts an unmistakable wood-smoke taste. Hardwood lump charcoal is natural and typically has no additives or fillers. It’s made from chunks of real hardwood that have been heated under controlled conditions to remove moisture and impurities.
6. Just one time on the turn, but rotate for nice grill marks. Generally, meat on the grill should be turned or flipped just one time. Keep in mind that each time you turn or flip the meat, the cooking process has to restart. For steaks, place them on the grill at a 45° angle to the bars. Grill for 2 minutes, and then rotate the steaks 90° without turning them over. This makes for nice crosshatch grill marks. Turn your steak when the juices start to bubble on the uncooked side of it (the clearer the juice, the more well done the meat), approximately 4-6 minutes for a 1″ steak or 8-10 minutes for a 2″ steak. The proper way to turn is with tongs or spatula. Never stab the meat with a fork, because this will cause all the juices to run onto the coals and create a flavorless, dry steak and possibly a fire flare up.
7. Let it rest. Once your meat is off the grill, wait at least 5-10 minutes before slicing it. This gives the muscle fibers of the meat a chance to relax and allows the juices a chance to settle back into it.
8. Slap that lean wild game meat on the barby, but cook it a little differently. The flavor of wild game meat is elevated even more with outdoor grilling. However, there are key things though to remember when grilling lean wild game meat. Add fat or moisture through bacon barding, marinating, brining, etc. Cook thoroughly, but quickly, so as not to dry out the meat. And, don’t overcook, serve medium-rare.
9. Grill those fruits and veggies! Add variety and healthy options to any cookout by grilling fruits and vegetables. Use a light brushing of olive oil on them to help prevent sticking. Grilling fruits and vegetables enhances their flavors and caramelizes their natural sugars. Watch the various fruits and veggies closely on the grill since cooking times for each of them vary!
10. Taters are ready-made for the grill. Potatoes are thick and tough, a versatile vegetable, and easily grilled. You can grill them hot and fast, or low and slow if you want. What’s important is to keep those potato skins oiled and they’ll turn out beautifully. Slice or cut them up into small pieces and then put them on a sheet of foil large enough so they can be wrapped up. Top them with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, seasonings, etc., essentially with anything that isn’t going to burn up (no cheese, please).
11. Put a lid on it. Don’t use a water spray bottle to extinguish flare-up flames in outdoor grilling. When water hits hot-cooking grates and flames, it can splatter; causing burns, or may crack the porcelain-enamel finish of the grill. The quickest way to extinguish flare-ups is to put the lid on the grill. The lid will reduce the amount of oxygen that feeds the fire, thus limiting or snuffing out the flare-ups.
12. Grilling Safely. Make sure to have a designated safe zone with a radius of at least 10 feet around the grill. Keep pets, people and outdoor activities out of this zone and never leave your grill unattended! Also, be sure the grill is on a flat, level surface in a well-ventilated location and keep it away from overhangs, fences, deck railings and shrubbery that could be ignited by a sudden flare up or flying spark. Always keeps a small fire extinguisher accessible when outdoor grilling, just in case.