Grilling tips from a top chef

Categories: Top 5

How did your Memorial Day cookout go? If the results weren't so stellar, don't worry: You have the rest of the summer to practice, and we're going to give you some help. Nick Schneider, the chef behind the new Tavola Fresca dinner series, knows a thing or two about outdoor cooking. Here are a few of his tips for grilling meat:

Marinating pork chops.

1. Boost flavor by marinating, rubbing, or stuffing your meat
Some meats benefit from the additional flavor or a marinade or rub, especially tougher, chewier cuts with a lot of surface area, such as flank or skirt steak. You'll want your marinade to have at least one acid (citrus, vinegar, wine) and aromatic (garlic, capers); for example, these pork chops are soaking in a mix of soy sauce, orange juice, garlic, ginger, rice vinegar, and a little honey. Marinades are effective in about an hour; after about six hours, returns tend to diminish.

Rub a top round steak.

Dry rubs impart flavor with less waiting time. (Use on meats that you won't cook at too high a temperature so as not to burn the aromatics.) For example, a rosemary and garlic rub works well with lamb. Or try dried ancho chiles with a little ground coffee and coriander seed on beef, or a Caribbean moji of oregano/mint/garlic/orange juice mixed into a paste with olive oil.

Cut a pocket in a beef tenderloin.

Beef tenderloin is a very tender cut, but it's not always so flavorful. Enhance the meat by stuffing it with cheese (blue, Stilton, cheddar) or duxelles (cooked mushrooms and shallots), or an herb butter. Just slice a pocket in the side (keeping a half-inch buffer around the edge) and fill by using your fingertips.

Stuffing the tenderloin with blue cheese.

Schneider recommends hardwood charcoal over charcoal briquettes and also likes to flavor meat with wood smoke (grape vine trimmings, applewood, mesquite, or hickory chips). Soak the wood or vines in a little water first and add to your main heat source. Wait to cook until the coals are glowing and keep a squirt bottle on hand so flames don't touch the meat (dripping fat can cause flare ups). Also, always clean the grill first; get it hot, blot a paper towel with cooking oil and rub it on the grill using a pair of tongs.

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