Grillin’ And Chillin’ With CSCA
“There’s something so visceral, ancient and satisfying about it all. The smell of the charcoal as it wafts through the open windows of the house, the caramelizing bits of whatever I grilled last start to cook off, reminding me of how delicious the last meal was.” – Chef Jerrod Perry
Summer is almost here, folks. This is the moment we’ve been waiting for – days filled with sunshine, warm weather, and outdoor activities with friends. It’s even more exciting considering the current climate of the world. With this heightened sense of joy propelling us into June, we’ve been thinking a lot about our favorite summer activities. At the top of the list? Grilling.
It’s a sizzling combination of cooking, summer fun, and spending quality time with our friends and family. Some of us aren’t the most experienced grillers, however, so we looked to a couple of our favorite chefs for advice.
If you’ve attended any cooking class or event at CSCA, you will probably be familiar with Chef Mark Farone and Chef Jerrod Perry. These two have a vast knowledge of the culinary arts and love sharing it with their students, whether it be in a Recreational class, Professional program, or at a CSCA event. Any opportunity to talk about their love for food is a good one! This month is no exception. They’ve given us some delicious grilling tips and ideas for summer meals to enjoy.
Give us the lowdown on grilling, Chefs!
Grilling brings out flavors you didn’t even know were there before. Elevating foods like juicy meat, roasted vegetables, and even desserts (if you’re feeling adventurous) to new heights. This is something our grill-masters are well aware of. They love to grill and have such strong connection to this culinary art form. According to Chef Jerrod, he loves to grill because “I love putting on a tank top, shorts, making a cocktail and heading out in the summer warmth to the yard to start a fire.” Being outdoors in the summertime while preparing a meal is truly something special. What an amazing way to soak up the summer sun and make a tasty meal all at once. He goes on to paint a picture of a perfect evening. “There’s something so visceral, ancient and satisfying about it all. The smell of the charcoal as it wafts through the open windows of the house, the caramelizing bits of whatever I grilled last start to cook off, reminding me of how delicious the last meal was.”
Chef Mark agrees. “Grilling can be fun for a number of reasons. I think for most people it resonates a bit with our shared ancestry of cooking meat over a fire.” It’s something that really lets us connect to each other and our shared pasts.” He goes on to explain “It is so much more dynamic than a stove or oven. There is near constant movement, smoke, flames, sounds, smells, heat on your skin, thinking on your feet. You get to go outside and get off the couch for a bit.” It’s more than just cooking a meal in your kitchen – it’s an experience. An experience that can sometimes be high-stakes! “It’s a moment of truth– usually over high heat–and everyone is counting on you not to screw up dinner. Of course, that’s always the case with cooking dinner but with a grill it just seems more dramatic.” Well, we know you would never do that to us, Chef Mark.
Maybe this perfectly describes your relationship with the grill and why you love to use it, right down to the wafting flames. Or, maybe you can’t put your finger on why you love it. No matter what the reason, the season of the grill is here and we’re ready to celebrate.
Chef Mark’s Scorching Hot Grilling Tips
- Ensure you have 2 temperature zones, one for searing and one for cooking out– this is really important to help avoid flare-ups. Most people just fire up the grill to 100% and give it a go…usually causing flames and bitter tones.
- Wet stuff is the enemy of dry heat cooking! Most marinades should be completely removed. Not only will the little bits likely char and cause unpleasant bitterness, they are wet! Water won’t exceed 212F. Which means steamed meat instead of a beautiful Maillard reaction you can smell down the block. (The Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that gives browned food its distinctive flavor). So…dry, dry, dry off that product before you do anything!
- Make sure you have a film of oil. Besides helping to minimize sticking, oil communicates heat. It helps evenly and more quickly transmit heat into the food.
- Take its temperature. The best way to ruin a great cut of meat and make it dry is to overcook it. We cook in a huge temperature range yet we want the inside of the food in a limited range of a few degrees. There really isn’t a great way to tell on a grill what is the doneness of something by feel–there is often too much texture. Poking your meat, your hand, your face, or your friend to determine the doneness of your meat isn’t nearly as effective as just using a thermometer.”
Hopefully you have a thermometer handy (We recommend the Thermapen MK4 by Thermoworks) and finally stopped poking your friends to check for doneness. If you have, you should be prepped and ready, because the star of the show is here: the food. How about a few ideas for what you’ll start off with this grilling season with?
If you have the Time – Let’s talk about pork
Chef Jerrod is a big fan of pork shoulder. “Of course, I love the quick cooking things like steak, burgers, veggies and chicken thighs, but when I think of things that I’m happy to cook outside it’s pork at the top of the list!” He loves the variety. “First of all, pulled pork, carnitas, kalua pork, however you want to flavor your shoulder.” Not to mention maximizing your time outside. “Secondly, you can have these dishes without ever having to turn your oven on in your house, keeping it a nice reprieve from the summer heat!” If this sounds good to you, then buckle up, it’s going to be a long aromatic ride. “I want to note that cooking pork shoulder this way does severely increase how long you will be babysitting the grill. But for me it’s a whole day affair anyway. (Bring out the hammock, beers and books!)” Well…let’s grill!
“Start your grill late morning and get the fire just right. The key to success with this dish is indirect grilling. That’s when you have the meat not directly on top of the charcoal but off to the side so that the heat circulates around the product cooking it with hot air/smoke acting more like an oven than a grill.
A constant heat source is also important since the pork will be cooking for at least 4 hours (sometimes up to 7). There really is an art to barbecuing. It takes a lot of patience, time and experience to get it just right.
I love using lump charcoal or lump charcoal briquettes, which will give you that delicious smoky flavor (as opposed to just briquettes which can leave an acrid/bitter taste/smell). Knowing how to set up your charcoal so that it doesn’t all burn at once and supplementing more charcoal when the temperature starts to drop a little too low, are important skills to succeed here.”
Recipe ideas for the griller on a time crunch
Now that you’ve gotten to take a long journey into the world of pork, it’s time for a quick flight back. Chef Mark provides us with a faster option for those of you who might not have all day to set aside but still want to up your grilling game.
“Some of my go-to grill recipes are whatever is quick because I have 6 mouths to feed at my house. Along with some finicky eaters, that’s pretty much anything chicken (especially thighs or breasts) and yukon gold potatoes. I’ll marinate the chicken in just about anything, but kecap manis (an Indonesian soy sauce – palm sugar condiment that is syrupy) can be delicious with some rice wine vinegar. Teriyaki is a big favorite. Soy sauce with lime juice and a hit of ginger is wonderful as well. Korean style sauces are a hit as well – like for galbi (Korean style short ribs) or chicken when I have more time.
Frequently though, just a simple brine and some sort of dry rub is a great idea. On busy weeknights in the summer, I’ll often brine a few chicken breasts and just grill them off and then serve them with one of the dozen or so compound butters I have in my freezer, like pimenton de la vera butter or lemon-tarragon. I’ll slice 1/2″ disks of yukon gold potatoes and dress them with olive oil, salt, and lemon pepper. So delicious!”
We don’t disagree! These ideas sound mouthwatering and are a great sneak peek into the minds of some of our Chefs at CSCA. Each captures something magical about this age-old form of cooking outdoors. And P.S. don’t forget to enjoy yourself! And don’t forget to come see us in person if you want a more hands-on approach to learning the art of grilling. We can’t wait to see what you grill up! Tag us on Social Media with your pics!