Memorial Day weekend signals the unofficial kickoff of summer.
So if you haven’t already, go ahead and pull that grill out of storage and fire it up.
There are few better ways to enjoy a late summer afternoon than grilling the perfect steak or hamburger in the back yard? Invite your friends and family, add some cool beverages and you have a party.
Chef Curtis Stone, cookbook author and host of Bravo TV’s upcoming “Top Chef Junior,” gave some tips for the best way to prepare steaks and burgers on your grill.
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The perfect steak
Start with your cut of choice
Stone prefers a ribeye or strip steak for grilling. “Different cuts need different methods for grilling.” The ribeye and skirt steaks come from the more muscular part of the animal, so they are the most flavorful. They have the most intermuscular fat. Stone says you have to make a choice between tenderness and flavor. The prime cuts – T-bone, New York strip, Porterhouse, tenderloins and filet mignon – may be more tender, but the cuts with the most flavor will be the flank, skirt and ribeye. These “tougher” cuts are priced slightly lower than the prime cuts.
Also, Curtis says choose grass fed beef over grain fed. You can thank him later.
Bring the steak close to room temperature
It helps the grill if the steak is not straight from the refrigerator. Unwrap it and let it sit on the counter until it’s almost room temperature.
The best steaks need next to no seasoning – just a little bit of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper right before they hit the grill.
Stone is not a fan of dry rubs on steaks. “Save the dry rubs for the cheaper cuts of meat,” he said.
Marinading can help break down the toughness of a cheaper cut of meat, but be careful. Letting meat sit in an acidic marinade too long defeats the purpose. The acid will actually toughen the meat. Maximum marinade time is two hours (or less).
“Add a touch of ginger to the marinade to help break down the fibers in the meat,” Stone said. The ginger also will give the marinade an accent of freshness and a hint of Asian spice.
Clean it up. Heat it up.
“You want a high heat for caramelization,” Stone said. And a dry piece of meat.
Dab off any moisture with a paper towel. If you’re using a marinade, remove as much of the excess liquid as possible. You don’t want something dripping into the flame and causing a flare up.
And once the meat hits the grill, leave it alone. Let the grill work its magic.
When is the steak done?
Grab that handy meat thermometer and check for doneness:
Blue: 110º F
Rare: 120º F
Medium-rare: 130º F
Medium: 140º F
Well done: 160ºF
Let it rest
“The rule of thumb is to let a steak rest for half the cooking time to help redistribute the juices,” Stone said.
Curtis Stone’s Coriander-Sesame Marinade
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 jalapenos, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 pounds sirloin steak
Place the steak in a large glass baking dish.
Combine oils, sugar, soy sauce, jalapenos, garlic, cilantro, pepper and coriander in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Pour over steak and marinade at room temperature for 30 minutes on each side. Or, cover baking dish tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least two hours or overnight, turning occasionally.
Prepare the grill for medium-high heat. Grill steak to desired doneness – 8 to 10 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer grilled steak to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes.
To serve: cut steak across the grain into 1/2-inch-thick slices.
The secret to a juicy burger
Choose your ground meat
Stone prefers a slightly higher fat content, around 80/20 – typically a ground chuck. “The fat will render out, so you’re not adding oil to the pan or grill,” he said.
Unlike a steak, hamburger meat needs to be worked cold. So shape those patties just out of the fridge, and don’t overwork them. Overworked ground beef tends to result in a denser textured (chewy) burger.
Patties tend to shrink on the heat, so form them slightly larger than the bun for a perfect fit later. And make a small indentation in the center of the patty to help keep the patties flat during the cooking process.
Let there be fire!
Only charcoal will do, if you’re grilling outside, Stone said. Otherwise, preheat a cast-iron skillet or broiler over high heat and take it inside.
Once the patties hit the pan, or the grill, flip them only once and never, ever press down on a patty. Pressing the patty pushes out the fat and juices that keep the meat moist and tasty.
Tips for serving the perfect burger
▪ Add cheese slices to the burger after the first flip. Close the grill lid to trap the heat and optimize melting.
▪ Let the patties rest while you grill the buns. When the buns are done, the hamburger patty should be perfect.
▪ Pre-slice or prepare your toppings in advance and keep them cool until you’re ready.
▪ Assemble burgers right before serving to avoid soggy buns.
▪ Build from the bottom up for easy assembly.
Some material sourced from the Bi-Lo Beef Guide and Curtis Stone’s Burger Guide.