Of the many reasons to savor the annual recurrence of the heat we like to call summer, high on the list has to be food cooked on the grill, and by food I mean a juicy steak. The dog days of summer are upon us, and it’s the perfect time to move the kitchen outdoors.
Whether you’re a foodie or a bachelor with no other kitchen utensils, everyone appreciates the enhanced flavors from grilled food, the ease of cleanup afterwards, and the opportunity to play with fire. Grilling also offers the chance to eat well for much less while playing outdoor games like horseshoes or cornhole with a drink in hand.
Like working the remote control, cooking outdoors is a lot easier than most men would like to admit, and it doesn’t matter whether your grill is gas, charcoal, open pit, or electric, as long as you keep a few tips in mind.
First and foremost, do all the prep work you can before starting the grill, especially when using wood or charcoal. Timing is crucial and you can’t very well turn coals off. Now, start by opening your favorite beer, and let’s get prepping.
First, marinate your steaks. My favorites for the grill are Ribeye, Porterhouse and T-bones. Everyone has their favorite prep, but I prefer a little Worcestershire sauce to dampen the meat and then a heavy dry rub. Make your own or use a store bought rub like Montreal or Emeril’s, and add salt and pepper. Don’t worry about it being too salty, because it doesn’t permeate the meat, but it does help form a flavorful crusty exterior. Also be sure to have the meat at room temperature before grilling. Cold meat does not cook evenly.
Next, decide what your side dishes will be. This would also be a good time to grab another beer. I prefer a garden salad and summer corn. Summer corn is easy to cook on the grill. Just keep it away from the high heat and it will be ready to go in just a few minutes. If you want potatoes with your steak, you can even bake them on the grill. This will add time, but it’s worth it. Try rolling the washed potato in salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning, then wrap it in foil, stab it with a fork, and cook it on the grill away from the hot center for about an hour until it gets soft on the inside.
Now make your drink decisions. If you happen to be watching your carbs or just prefer wine, it’s perfectly acceptable to replace the aforementioned beer with a cold glass of Peju Sauvignon Blanc as your aperitif. Also, while the potatoes are cooking, pop the cork on your favorite bottle or two of Alexander Valley Cabernet so that it has time to open up before dinner.
Another delicious idea for while the potatoes are cooking. A good way to pass the time while you wait for the potatoes is to make the best outdoor appetizer – shrimp on the barbie. There’s no easier way to turn your steak dinner into a little surf and turf then to buy a pound or two of large unpeeled Argentine Shrimp, douse in melted butter, fresh squeezed lemon juice, and lots of Old Bay. When the grill is good and hot, place the shrimp directly on the grates using your grilling tongs. Flip after a couple minutes when the shells turn pink. Remove, peel, and dip in cocktail sauce. It’s a great appetizer while you’re waiting, and the mess stays outside.
Finally, it’s time for steak. T-bones, Porterhouse and Ribeyes are made for the grill. They have enough marbled fat to give the meat that extra flavor. Make sure the grill is hot enough to get the needed sear, and then cook to desired tenderness. Remember, no matter how done you like your steak, it will continue to cook after you remove it from the grill. This is where the art of grilling comes in to play. It’s easy to overcook, so err on the undercooked side. You can always cook longer if need be.
Now sit down with your friends and family, share the cab that was made to accompany steak, and enjoy the fruits of your labor while you can. Remember, winter is coming!
About the Author
A resident of Northern Virginia, Mike Allen is a wine consultant, historian, amateur photographer, coach, and blogger. Most importantly, he is the father of Jake and Zack.