Have you given your grill a workout already this year? Whether you're a regular grill master or the occasional weekend warrior, here are a few handy tips to keep in mind as you plan and execute your next meal:
TEMPER YOUR MEATS BEFORE GRILLING
The next time you're going to throw some steaks on the grill, take them out of the refrigerator a little early to take off the chill before cooking. "Tempering" the meat allows it to cook more evenly, so the inside can actually cook as the outside works up a nice char. Place your steaks or other meats in a cool, safe spot indoors to take off the chill; 20 or so minutes for thin cuts and longer if you're cooking something big -- famous Italian butcher Dario Cecchini calls for leaving a thick porterhouse out five to six hours when grilling his bistecca fiorentina (the recipe is below).
KEEP THE HEAT IN THE GRILL
As you find yourself using the grill this summer, here's a quick tip for holding the heat in the grill as you cook: Keep the lid closed.
A grill works a lot like an oven, building up heat as long as it is sealed. And just as you lose heat every time you open the oven door, you can lose heat every time you open the grill.
This may not be important when grilling quick-cooking items such as fish or when you're simply searing, but it can become an issue when cooking thicker, denser cuts of meat that require longer cooking times.
Make sure you've got a reliable grill thermometer on the outside of the grill so you can regulate the temperature, and check every once in a while to make sure you don't have any flare-ups (smoke rising from the sides of the grill are usually a dead giveaway). Otherwise, relax.
DEFINING THE 'GRAIN' IN MEATS
Often, you'll see a recipe say something like, "Slice thinly against the grain." So, what does this mean? And why should you do it?
The "grain" refers to the flow of the muscle fibers in a cut of meat. Like wood, the fibers tend to go in a single direction. Slicing a cut of meat "against the grain" refers to slicing strips crosswise -- through the grain itself -- whether you're slicing a steak or a roast. Slicing "with the grain" would be to slice following the lines of the muscle fibers.
Muscle fibers can be tough, difficult to chew and digest. Slicing against the grain helps to tenderize the meat by shortening those fibers. You may not notice this that much with a soft muscle, like a tenderloin, but this can make all the difference when you're slicing through a tougher cut of meat such as a skirt steak, a flank steak or a roast, and it can even save an overdone piece of meat (slice the meat thinly against the grain, and moisten with a barbecue sauce or gravy before serving).
Cooking is fun — at least it should be! No matter how long you've been in the kitchen, there is always something new to learn, whether it's a simple twist on an old technique, or a handy tip to save time and energy. In this series of short videos, I demonstrate a variety of kitchen tips, ranging from how to hold a chef's knife for maximum control to using a spoon to peel fresh ginger. If you have any gadgets, kitchen tips or questions you'd like me to explore, leave a comment or shoot me an email at noelle.carter@latimes.
Bistecca fiorentina (Tuscan steak)
Total time: 35 minutes, plus five to six hours for the steak to reach room temperature | Servings: 3 to 4
Note: Allow the steak to sit out in a cool place, loosely covered, for five to six hours to come to room temperature. You can order this especially thick cut of steak in advance from any fine meat counter or butcher.
1 (2-inch-thick) porterhouse steak (about 2.5 pounds), cut from the small end of the loin, at room temperature
1 teaspoon best-quality olive oil, plus additional for oiling the rack
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat a grill over medium-high heat. (It will be hot enough when you can hold your hand an inch over the grill for only five to six seconds.) Lightly oil the grill and place the steak on the grill. Grill the steak for five minutes, then flip over and grill the other side five more minutes.
2. Carefully place the steak vertically on the grill, so it is resting on the flat part of the T-bone. Continue to cook, allowing the heat to transmit through the bone to the meat. Cook an additional 15 to 25 minutes (this will depend on the heat of your grill) until a thermometer inserted reads 125 degrees for medium-rare. Remove the steak from the grill to a plate and allow it to rest for two to three minutes.
3. Lightly season the steak with the salt and a couple grinds of pepper, then drizzle the olive oil over it. Slice the steak away from the bone, and then crosswise into strips. Serve immediately.
Each of four servings: 321 calories; 38 grams protein; 0 carbohydrates; 0 fiber; 18 grams fat; 6 grams saturated fat; 91 mg. cholesterol; 246 mg. sodium