Memorial Day weekend is upon us, and while this year’s celebrations might be a little different, inevitably some of us will be gathering (in small, socially distanced groups) around a grill or stove-top somewhere.
So, if you’re planning on throwing some meat onto a hot surface this Memorial Day weekend – even if it’s just in your kitchen – here are some professional grilling tips that will make anyone want to kiss the cook.
And since May is National BBQ Month, we enlisted the expertise of barbecue expert Lupe Muniz, Pitmaster at the Irvine-based Famous Dave’s BBQ to help us break down the best grilling practices to level up your techniques for years to come.
When it comes to protein, color plays an important role. To ensure your meat is fresh, take a moment to inspect your protein in natural light. Beef should be bright red. For pork, you should be looking for a deep pink color. Muniz, who’s been barbecuing professionally for more than 20 years and has served as Famous Dave’s BBQ pitmaster for more than a decade, explained that fluorescent lights won’t always reveal the true color, so take that into consideration before selecting your protein.
We all know how important temperature is in relation to cooking, but a knowledgeable pitmaster will tell you that temperature is just as important prior as it is during. If you’re storing meat in the refrigerator, remember to let your meat reach room temperature prior to cooking. It’s often overlooked by novice grillers, but this simple trick is viewed as a general rule-of-thumb for hardcore barbecue enthusiasts.
Even if you can’t make it out in front of a charcoal grill this holiday weekend, you can still get creative with a few simple cooking techniques, and the right set of tools.
For the indoor grilling enthusiast, incorporate the use of a cast iron skillet or pan to sear your meat and finish it off in the oven. Cast iron pans can also be used outdoors, so don’t be afraid to get creative.
To accomplish a nice sear, Muniz suggests using a high heat and cooking each side quickly, to create a nice crust, maintaining the moisture and natural juices inside the steak. Time is of the essence here, and the higher the heat, the shorter the sear.
“We’re talking a minute to a minute and a half,” Muniz explained, emphasizing that the longer the meat is seared, the more the natural juices and flavors will be cooked off.
After searing, place the cast iron in the oven. Muniz recommends setting your oven to 225 and finishing off your steak.
“It’s going to protect the moisture inside,” he said. “It’s an awesome thing to do with steak because it layers those flavors.”
Most importantly, Muniz reminded grillers everywhere that it’s critical to stick to the basics when it comes to seasoning. Using ingredients like fresh herbs, garlic, salt and pepper can go a long way to help layer incredible flavors.
“Keep it simple,” he said. “Famous Dave’s does it great because we keep it simple.”
While grilling might seem like a daunting task to some, Muniz reiterated that not overthinking is the key. And when ideating your recipes, remember that the simplest things will bring out the most robust flavors. For example, if you’re looking for a quick and easy marinate, try using an Italian dressing.
“Make sure you like the dressing, but Italian dressing has everything — citrus, lemon, salt, pepper.”
Lastly, a major pro tip from a barbecue master with more than two decades of grilling under his tongs – let your meat rest! Resting will preserve more of the juices and natural flavors.
“You should wait at least 5 minutes. But if you can, wait 20 [minutes],” Muniz said. “I used to think it was a myth, but it’s true. I even make my kids wait!”