Category Archives: Tips & Techniques

Cast Iron Cooking Grates: Which Side Is Up?

I spend a fair amount of time walking around hardware stores and home centers looking at Weber grills. When I open the lid of many display grills, I see something like this:

Cast iron grates: Which side is in the correct orientation

This Weber Genesis features cast iron cooking grates. The grate on the left has the narrow, pointed side facing up; the grate on the right has the wide, flat side facing up.

Which orientation is correct?

The grate on the right is in the correct orientation. The wide, flat side of the grate should face up for maximum contact with food and for the best grill marks.

Cast iron grill grates in correct orientation

It’s easy to install grates in the wrong orientation when assembling a new Weber grill or when replacing porcelain enameled steel grates with cast-iron grates. But you won’t make this mistake because now you know what’s up!


Lab Tests Prove It’s Better To Cut Meat Across The Grain

Interior view of Porterhouse steak

Here’s a great video from the folks at Cook’s Illustrated magazine that describes their lab testing of cooked flank steak and strip steak and the relative force needed to cut both meats with the grain and across the grain.

Tests using a texture analyzer showed that cooked flank steak took 4 times the force to cut with the grain than across the grain. For cooked strip steak, it took almost 2 times the force to cut with the grain than across the grain. Most interestingly, it turns out that the force needed to cut both cooked flank steak and cooked strip steak across the grain is almost the same!

The Bottom Line: How steaks are cooked, to what internal temperature, and how they’re sliced after cooking have a huge impact on tenderness; and cheap(er) cuts like flank steak, skirt steak, and hanger steak can be almost as tender as expensive steaks when cooked and sliced properly.

Hope you enjoy the video!


Using An Instant-Read Thermometer For The Perfect Baked Potato

Baked potato

In my opinion, nothing goes better with a grilled steak than a tender, fluffy baked potato. I’ve always baked them in a 400°F oven for 45-60 minutes and then poked with a knife to determine doneness…sometimes without much success. I cut into the potato and find the center a bit under cooked.

The folks at Cook’s Illustrated magazine tackled the question of The Perfect Baked Potato in their January/February 2016 issue. They determined that the optimal internal temperature for a uniformly fluffy baked potato is 205-212°F. Cook’s suggests baking potatoes at 450°F for 45-60 minutes until the largest potato registers 205°F in the center.

So now you’ve got yet another reason to own a good quality instant-read thermometer! Next time you bake a potato, probe it to ensure the perfect internal temp!


Height Matters: How To Evenly Sprinkle Salt, Pepper & Rub On Meat

To evenly sprinkle salt, pepper or rub on meat, increase the height at which you hold your fingers or shaker.

Sprinkle salt or other seasonings from a height of 12 inches
Sprinkle salt or other seasonings from a height of 12 inches

According to America’s Test Kitchen Radio, sprinkling from a height of at least 12 inches results in a more even distribution than if you sprinkle from just a few inches above the meat. Place the meat on a rimmed baking sheet before sprinkling, then pat or roll the meat on the pan to pick up any excess seasoning.

Even distribution of salt and pepper on a pork chop
Even distribution of salt and pepper on a pork chop

Testing Knives For Sharpness

Victorinox Cutlery 12-Inch Curved Cimeter KnifeIt seems counterintutive, but a sharp knife is actually safer in the kitchen and around the grill than a dull knife. When a knife is dull, we saw, hack or force it through whatever it is we’re trying to cut, and it’s in those moments that we lose control of the knife and cut ourselves. A sharp knife is easily controlled because it slices through meat or veg or bread smoothly and easily, and is therefore safer.

The folks at America’s Test Kitchen suggest that you test your knives for sharpness as follows: Grasp the top edge of a piece of printer paper firmly with one hand and draw the knife blade across the edge of the paper from heel to tip. The knife should slice easily through the paper with minimal effort.

Here’s a 3-second video clip showing how to do the knife sharpness test:

There are many ways to sharpen knives. One of the best electric sharpeners is the Chef’s Choice 130 Professional Knife-Sharpening Station ($150). I’ve used this sharpener for many years and it does a fine job.

Chef's Choice 130 Professional Knife-Sharpening Station

Less expensive options include the Chef’s Choice 464 Pronto Manual 2-Stage Diamond Hone Knife Sharpener ($39) and the AccuSharp 001 Knife Sharpener ($9).

Chef-Recommended Meat Doneness Temperatures

Here’s some good information from ThermoWorks, the makers of the highly accurate Thermapen instant-read thermometer, on chef-recommended meat doneness temperatures.

Note that all temperatures listed are peak temperatures, meaning that meat should be removed from the grill a couple of degrees below these temps and allowed to rise during a short resting period.

Beef, Veal & Lamb: Roasts, Steaks & Chops

  • Rare: 120-130°F
  • Medium Rare: 130-135°F
  • Medium: 135-145°F
  • Medium Well: 145-155°F
  • Well Done: 155°F and higher

Pork: Roasts, Steaks & Chops

  • Medium: 137°F
  • USDA-Done: 145°F
  • Well Done: 150°F and higher

And in case you’re wondering, here are the food safe minimum doneness temps for meats that pose a greater health risk if not cooked thoroughly.

Ground Meat: Beef, Veal & Lamb

  • 160°F

Chicken, Turkey & Duck (Whole or Pieces)

  • 165°F

The Secret To Moist Grilled Chicken

Moist grilled chicken halves

Brining. Salting. Marinating. Injecting. Buttering. Beer butting. (Is that even a word?) These are but a few of the methods that people use in an attempt to make moist, tasty chicken.

But I am now going to reveal to you the #1 Secret to grilling moist, delicious chicken every time you cook:

DO NOT OVERCOOK IT!

That’s right. Don’t overcook it. Get yourself a good instant-read thermometer and measure the internal temp during grilling. I don’t care how you season the bird or brine it or inject it…if you cook the breast meat to 160-165°F and the thigh meat to 170-175°F and then remove the chicken from the grill, I guarantee* you will have moist, delicious meat.

Yes, brining chicken provides a margin of error, allowing you to cook to higher internal temps than those listed above and still achieve moist meat, and it can flavor the meat, too. But you can get moist meat and perhaps more real chicken flavor if you don’t brine and keep the internal temp within the ranges above.

So season your chicken well, use your thermometer, don’t overcook it and tell us how it turns out on The Virtual Weber Bulletin Board. And remember, we like to see your photos!

* Guarantee not valid in the Americas, EMEA, Asia-Pacific, polar regions, or territorial & international waters.

More New Grilling Books for 2015

There’s yet another crop of new grilling books out for 2015. And here you thought everything had been written about our favorite outdoor cooking method…

Take a look at these new offerings. If you like any of these, let us know on The Virtual Weber Bulletin Board.

 

Grilling With House of Q

Grilling With House of Q

Amazon.com says, “If you love the taste of barbecue but worry about cooking the perfect steak or if you’re a whiz with burgers but want to grill other foods or if you harbor aspirations of presenting your own smoked brisket to a panel of trained judges, then this book is for you. BBQ Brian has spent more than a decade smoking and grilling foods, competing against other pit masters and learning from some of the best in the business. And not only does he regularly win awards for his barbecue and House of Q BBQ sauces, but he’s now one of the most sought-after teachers around. Why? Because he tells a great story, makes learning fun and easy and freely shares his recipes and his love of good food. Grilling with House of Q is part handsome cookbook, part instruction manual and part story collection. The result is that rare volume that entertains and becomes your go-to for delicious, no-fail smoked ribs, shrimp tacos, pulled pork and pit beans—or burritos, mac ’n’ cheese and baklava—all prepared on your grill and all eagerly anticipated by friends, backyard neighbors and barbecue judges.”

 

Build Your Own Burger

Build Your Own Burger

Amazon says, “Want to take your burger making skills to a whole new and exciting level? Let Build Your Own Burger show you how. This fun and practical guide to creating delicious and original burgers has literally thousands of combinations. In this inventive and fun format, ingredients are split into four categories – the buns, the sauces, the patties, and the toppings – each image presented in its own panel. Mix and match the panels to create your ideal burger. A comprehensive section covers the basics, including equipment, ingredients, and troubleshooting tips to get you started. The tasty-looking photography and the clever format will inspire cooks to create unique and mouth-watering flavor combinations such as: A fiery Chili Bun with a Beef Jalapeno Patty, topped with Sweet Chili Mayo and a Cooling Cucumber Salad or an Olive Ciabatta bun with a Field Mushroom Patty, topped with Vine-Ripened Tomato Salsa and Grilled Halloumi. With easy-to-follow recipes and photographs of all the elements, even a beginner can create luscious burgers in no time at all. Filled with burger ideas for any occasion and every palate, this really is the only burger book you’ll ever need.”

 

Southern Cooking For Company

Southern Cooking For Company

Not a grilling book per se, but with some imagination many of the main dish recipes can be adapted to the grill. This book is probably worth owning just for the side dish and dessert recipes alone!

Amazon says, “Nicki Pendleton Wood has gathered recipes from more than 100 Southerners that they prepare when company is coming. These are the show-off recipes hosts pull out when guests are on the way, whether for an intimate evening with another couple, a party for 100 people celebrating a milestone birthday, or anything in between. In addition to the recipes, contributors share their secrets for making guests feel at home.”

 

The Eat Like A Man Guide To Feeding A Crowd

The Eat Like A Man Guide To Feeding A Crowd

Amazon says, “This welcome follow-up to Esquire’s wildly popular Eat Like a Man cookbook is the ultimate resource for guys who want to host big crowds and need the scaled-up recipes, logistical advice, and mojo to pull it off whether they’re cooking breakfast for a houseful of weekend guests, producing an epic spread for the playoffs, or planning the backyard BBQ that trumps all. With tantalizing photos and about 100 recipes for lazy breakfasts, afternoon noshing, dinner spreads, and late-night binges—including loads of favorites from chefs who know how to satisfy a crowd, such as Linton Hopkins, Edward Lee, and Michael Symon—this is the only cookbook a man will ever need when the party is at his place.”

 

The Beer Bible

The Beer Bible

Amazon says, “It’s finally here—the comprehensive, authoritative book that does for beer what The Wine Bible does for wine. Written by an expert from the West Coast, where America’s craft beer movement got its start, The Beer Bible is the ultimate reader- and drinker-friendly guide to all the world’s beers.

“No other book of this depth and scope approaches the subject of beer in the same way that beer lovers do—by style, just as a perfect pub menu is organized—and gets right to the pleasure of discovery, knowledge, and connoisseurship. Divided into four major families—ales, lagers, wheat beers, and tart and wild ales—there’s everything a beer drinker wants to know about the hundreds of different authentic types of brews, from bitters, bocks, and IPAs to weisses, milk stouts, lambics, and more. Each style is a chapter unto itself, delving into origins, ingredients, description and characteristics, substyles, and tasting notes, and ending with a recommended list of the beers to know in each category. Hip infographics throughout make the explanation of beer’s flavors, brewing methods, ingredients, labeling, serving, and more as immediate as it is lively.

“The book is written for passionate beginners, who will love its “if you like X, try Y” feature; for intermediate beer lovers eager to go deeper; and for true geeks, who will find new information on every page. History, romance, the art of tasting, backstories and anecdotes, appropriate glassware, bitterness units, mouthfeel, and more—it’s all here. Plus a primer on pairing beer and food using the three Cs— complement, contrast, or cut. It’s the book that every beer lover will read with pleasure, and use with even more.”

 

School of Booze

School Of Booze

Amazon says, “Humans were seeking out alcohol millions of years before the word “keg” was coined. School of Booze contains everything you have ever wanted to know about alcoholic beverages, from how to make absinthe to the cultural history of zythos (beer). It covers the discovery and invention of fermented alcohol, ancient history, toasting, alcohol and health, alcohol’s role in religion, origin of slang expressions, virtually every known form of alcoholic beverage and their histories, temperance and prohibition movements and law, and much more. Packed with fascinating miscellany and curious facts to entertain your friends at the pub, this book is an essential compendium of knowledge about what essayist Dr. Samuel Johnson called life’s “second greatest pleasure.” It is the perfect gift for yourself, or for anyone who enjoys raising a glass to good health. Bottoms up!”

Tips For Making The Perfect Burger

According to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, people in the United States consumed 25.6 billion pounds of beef in 2013. And I would guess that a lot of this beef was consumed in the form of hamburgers!

Pressed burger patties

It’s hard to beat a good burger cooked at home on the grill, just the way you like it. Here are some tips for making the perfect burger this summer.

  • Use ground chuck that’s 80% lean, 20% fat. If you can find a butcher that grinds fresh chuck, even better. Don’t use ground round, which can have a livery taste.
  • Use a kitchen scale to weigh 1/3 lb or 1/2 lb portions of ground beef, then form them into a consistent size and thickness so all the burgers cook the same way on the grill.
  • Press a dimple into the top of each burger with your thumb. This prevents thick burgers from puffing up like a ball during grilling.
  • Sprinkle patties generously with salt and pepper just before they go onto the grill.
  • Cook burgers on a clean, hot grill, perhaps 8-10 minutes total for medium doneness. If concerned about the safety of commercial ground beef, consider cooking to an internal temp of 160°F measured with an instant-read thermometer. See Burger Temperature Guide for more details.
  • Let thick burgers rest, tented under foil, for 3-5 minutes before serving so juices can redistribute and reabsorb into the meat.
  • Serve burgers on a good quality potato bun or sesame seed bun.

Burger close-up

Learn More: 5 Steps to Burger Brilliance by Jamie Purviance

How To Remove Odors From Cast Iron Skillets & Cookware

Does your cast iron skillet smell funky? If so, try this tip from America’s Test Kitchen. Place it in a 400°F grill or oven for about 10 minutes. This burns off the oxidized fatty acids left behind from cooking that cause the odor.

Cast iron skillets

Let the pan cool until still warm but safe to handle. Apply a thin coat of vegetable oil to the pan, removing any excess with paper towels. Your skillet is ready to go!

This method works for all cast iron skillets, pots, Dutch ovens, griddles and bakeware.