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Tips for natural born grillers
April 29, 2016 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis
Now’s the time of year whenmost people wheel out their barbecue grill in anticipation of the summer grilling season. Leftover residue cleaned off the grill rack? Check. Leftover ash cleaned out from the bottom of the grill? Check. Propane tank refilled and all connections inspected? Check.

Ready to grill? Not quite. Food safety needs to top the list. You can avoid cross-contamination by using separate cutting boards, utensils and platters for raw and cooked foods. If you’re marinating food, never use it for basting on grill. Instead, make some extra marinade for basting.

Next is to preheat the grill for 15 to 25 minutes before you start cooking. The USDA recommends a temperature of 400-450 degrees for high, 350-400 for medium-high, 300-350 for medium, and 250-300 for low heat.

Now comes the actual grilling. The most common mistake made by grillers? Overcooking. For steaks, the USDA recommends using an instant-read thermometer. Remove from the grill when the internal temperature reaches 135 degrees for medium rare and 150 degrees for medium.

Drew Engelhaupt, the newest meat department member at Fresh Foods, was less technical about measuring internal meat temperature. “Cook at medium heat because you don’t want to scorch it,” he said. “Remember, the longer it’s on the grill, the more it dries out.”

Englelhaupt said his rule of thumb is actually a hand. Make a fist and feel the area next to the thumb. That’s the amount of resistance you want to feel when checking the meat for medium rare, the most popular choice.

“Once you’ve been grilling for a while, you can pretty much tell how well the meet is done just from the touch,” he said.

Engelhaupt said when it comes to hamburgers – leave the meat alone. Once it’s seared on the outside, it should only be turned once. For grillers who use charcoal, they should spread out the briquettes evenly, so the heat is the same across the grill rack. Look for an even, charcoal gray color before grilling.

Brody Geis of Markey’s Meat Market agreed that overcooking is a common problem for home grillers. While the temperature distribution is different for every grill, the cook should shoot for about 140 degrees for medium rare to medium. “Once you’ve taken the steak off the grill, let it rest for about five minutes before cutting,” he said. “It does wonders to let it rest, as the juices redistribute evenly.”

Geis said as for doneness, he goes by feel using his tongs and watching for the juices to start bubbling up to the top of the meat. There’s only one absolute. Never pierce the meat with a fork. It only lets out the juices, making the meat drier.

“For any cut of meat, even burgers, flip it the least amount of times as possible,” Geis said. “The more you flip it, the more the juices that have worked up to the top are lost when the meat is turned over.”

Geis said it’s also best to take the steaks out of the refrigerator and let them sit on the counter until they reach about room temperature. It allows any seasoning to absorb into the meat prior to grilling. Plus, there’s less grilling time needed.

Another thing to keep in mind is that if a meat rub contains sugar, it could char the meat on the grill as the sugar caramelizes.
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