The founder of the destination website amazingribs.com and the author of Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling, Meathead Goldwyn applies scientific research and many years of experience to barbecuing and grilling. Here are some of his top do's and don'ts for grilling season:
1) Don't let your meat come to room temperature before grilling it. It takes about two hours to bring a one-inch steak to room temperature, so you're likely to run into food safety issues before your meat stops being cold in the middle. Grilling involves smoke, and smoke is a flavor you can't find on your spice rack. In fact, smoke is drawn to cold surfaces (that's why your bathroom mirrors fog when you get out of a shower!) If you take your meat straight out of the fridge and put it on the grill, it will actually attract more smoke and be more flavorful.
2) Meat doesn't need to rest after grilling to reabsorb its juices. Meathead believes that so much of the 'juiciness phenomenon' is saliva! When the steak come off the grill sizzling hot and your mouth starts to water, why wait to eat it? And even if some meat juice seeps out onto the plate, you'll just be mopping it up with slices of meat anyway.
3) Gas grills aren't necessarily a compromise! Gas is the most popular grill, and for good reason. You can grill on a rainy day, when you're making a quick dinner after work, or any other time that might be inconvenient to build a charcoal grill's fire. And you can still get delicious flavor from a gas grill, especially if you throw a little wood on the fire. In fact, all of your favorite steakhouses and barbecue restaurants are likely using gas to cook their meat, with wood added for flavor.
4) But if you want heat for searing steaks, charcoal has an edge. A charcoal grill takes a little more time and effort, but it does get hotter, and that's great for creating a sear. It can also produce a slightly smokier flavor, so there may be a culinary advantage despite being a little less convenient.
5) You don't need a lot of tools to barbecue well. It's nice to have toys, but what you really need to invest in is a good digital meat thermometer (one you can get for about $30 will work well and read accurately). For perfectly cooked medium-rare steak and to make sure you aren't serving undercooked poultry, a digital meat thermometer does the trick without overcooking your meat.
6) Grill a chuck eye this summer! Ribeyes or strip steaks (which come from the same muscle in a cow) are Meathead's favorite steaks for tenderness and juiciness, while filet mignons don't have enough marbling and fat for richness of flavor. But if you're looking for a bargain, ask your butcher for the "chuck eye": the first two steaks from the chuck in the shoulder where they connect to the ribeye. It's priced inexpensively, like chuck, but has the flavor profile of a ribeye.
7) Salt is magical. It penetrates the structure of the protein, helping it hold on to moisture, and dials the meaty flavor up to 11. Meathead's rule of thumb is half a teaspoon of kosher salt per pound of meat, ideally applied a few hours before grilling.
8) Grill unexpected ingredients. Meathead told us about how he smoked oysters, wrapped them with candied lemon in puff pastry, and returned them to the grill for an elegant appetizer. Vegetables should be cooked fairly hot because they're so full of water, so you'll need high heat to get the caramelization. Try giving romaine lettuce a quick paint job with Italian dressing, put it on the grill long enough to wilt while the base stays crunchy, and serve sprinkled with blue cheese and walnuts. Fruits like peaches, apricots, and apples also grill beautifully, served with a Grand Marnier-based sauce for a special treat!
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