I love cooking. Almost as much as poker. But right now I’m probably better off partaking in the former more than the latter. So every day I’m baking, grilling, cooking – something to express creativity if not feed my kids. This week I discovered a new favorite recipe, a Blueberry Lemon loaf that takes advantage of the bounty of fresh blueberries available right now. So far, I’ve made 6 loaves in the past 3 days, and I don’t think I’m done. These are going to some of my friends, as a token of my love and appreciation of them. It’s the least I can do, and frankly I’m probably getting more out of it than they are in spite of how delicious they are! I’ve posted the recipe on my cooking blog if you’re interested.
Ah summertime! The time when we huddle around pits of wood, coal, and fire with our offering of meats and spices as appeasement to the appetites of family and friend alike. And for many, men in particular, it’s that Saturday afternoon stage show where we demonstrate our ability to shed the work week’s attire and attitude and relish in our primal urge to make something involving fire and dead animals.
This past week I happened upon some really good meat sales and had planned out a few days of marinades, rubs, and subsequent grilling. But with kids it’s not uncommon for the best laid plans to fall apart, and so I thought why not grill 3 or 4 meats in a single day? If done right, we can eat like royalty most any day of the week! Here’s how I did it.
Have a Plan. The success of this endeavor comes from having the time and resources necessary to pull it off. In my case, there are a few things I always have around the house: freezer bags and marinades (purchased or recipes). I try to shop weekly for fresh meats weekly, and then either repackage into freezer bags immediately or place in a marinade for use within a few days. If I use a rub, I’ll normally do that in a shallow pan, cover with saran wrap, and place in the fridge for use in 24hrs. While I’m a lover of terriyaki I’ve divirsified my talents to include a few basic rubs for chicken and beef, and a couple of chicken marinades with a little of acidity (e.g., orange juice). In a pinch, there is always a Vinergertte dressing stored away. Personally, I rarely marinade less than 1/2 a day, and have been known to go 2 days. Rumor has it that this may break down the meat too much, particularly if the marinade has a high acidity. I’ve not found that to be the case. The point is, I rarely will bring home meats and just stick them in the freezer. Take that extra 15-30 minutes and start the makings of something great!
Grill Early. Like I said, it’s summertime – you never know when things may come up and hijack the afternoon. Being an early riser, once breakfasts and household chores are done what better time to take the meats out and start up the grill? The best part: once you get started you’re kinda obligated to relax in the back yard and watch over your culinary works of art! Couple of notes:
- Clean Grill = Clean Taste. No reason to have that your citrus-marinated chicken on grates with leftover steak rub right? A short scrub between meats is enough.
- Keep the grill hot! I’ve become a big fan of charcoal, so between meats I will remove the grates, rearranging and adding charcoal. It sucks to get halfway through and realize you’ve lost temperature.
- Don’t contaminate. Never reuse your marinade! Once you take your meat out throw it away! It may seem practical to use it to baste but don’t – you’ll open yourself up to tummy troubles particularly with chicken. Same goes for utensils. I’ll use my hands to place on the grill, then tongs thereafter. Never use the same utensils on raw and cooking meats or vegetables.
Grill for now or for later? Ok, the #1 concern I hear about grilling for later is that the meat will be dry. And if you grill as though you are going to eat immediately, you’re right – when warmed later it won’t be great. Instead, Remember what I said about having a plan? I will typically grill beef to a medium rare stage, and then immediately remove knowing that it will continue to cook for a period of time. If it’s for later that evening, I’ll put in the refrigerator in a plastic container. If it’s for a few days later I’ll use freezer bags (removing as much air as possible) and stick labeled in the freezer.Chicken and pork are a little more challenging, but check a few pieces and target a slight pinkish color if you plan to freeze for later.
Nail the Ending. Now you’re ready to surprise everyone with a midweek treat! If the grilled meats are frozen, you’ll want to put them in the fridge the night before to thaw slowly. Never defrost in the microwave. You’ll cook the meat and suck out all the moisture in quick fashion. If you have a gas grill (or the time, with charcoal) you can place the meats out on a medium temperature and be ready to eat in short order. To add some panache, try throwing some sliced veggies, bread (with butter & garlic) on there as well. The idea here it that your time & toil at the grill is dramatically minimized. Of course, you can forgo the grill all together. Many times I will place them in a shallow pan in the oven, then set the temperature to 350 degrees. This slowly brings the meat up to temperature while completing the cooking process and not losing any of the juiciness.
That’s it! While I’m confident I’m not the first to discover the joys of stacking the grill I hope this inspires you to think about ways to enjoy the experience all week long.