Grilling Good Eats
by Mike Thayer
Beef, it’s what’s for dinner, or lunch, and yes, breakfast too! Why not cook up a breakfast steak on a weekend? Without question, beef is the most aromatic meat to put over the fire. This chapter does not include burgers, they’re so special, they’re featured in Chapter 9.
And before we get into the recipes, remember Tip #10. How do you know when your steak is done? Give it the finger. No, not the middle one, well, you can use that one if you want….. Poke the steak with your finger. If the meat is soft to the touch and doesn’t bounce back, it’s still pink inside. If it’s got some give but bounces back a bit, it’s medium. If it’s firm when poking, it’s well done.
And for those who like the thermometer: To get a medium rare, grill beef until the meat thermometer hits the 130 degree mark. Remember to let that meat rest after pulling it off the grill. It will continue to cook a bit while resting and come up a few more degrees to a perfect medium rare.
Mike’s Skirt Steak
Have you seen the price of beef these days? If you're craving a good steak and don't want to shell out the big bucks for a T-bone, try a skirt steak. It's a much cheaper cut of meat but packs a lot of flavor. It is a tougher cut of meat, so it needs a good marinade.
Here's a fantastic marinate for about two pounds of skirt steak:
- Half cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- The juice from half a lime
- Tablespoon of dried, minced onion
- teaspoon of garlic powder
- One packet of artificial sweetener
- Couple dashes of cardamom
Mix all ingredients for the marinade in a bowl or big measuring cup, set aside. Cut your skirt steak into four equal pieces (optional), place in a Tupperware bowl or a big zip lock bag, pour in the marinade. Refrigerate for at least one hour, four hours is much better, overnight is best. Skirt steak is great for the grill, remember to take the steaks out of the fridge about 20-30 minutes prior to placing over the coals. You’re doing this to inspect the meat, make sure it‘s well covered in the marinade. It’s not about letting the meat come up to room temperature like you hear some of the cooking show talking heads say, that’s just yada, yada talk to kill air time. The truth is, refrigerated meat won’t come up to room temperature in just 30 minutes, not even close. OK, back to the skirt steaks…..
Putting the steaks over medium high heat, let them sizzle for about five minutes, do NOT cover. This is a thin cut of steak so keep an eye on it and any possible flare ups. Flip after five minutes to a cooler spot on the grill and now you can put a lid on it, for about another five minutes (this is for a medium rare). Remove from the grill and let them rest. This recipe is a real crowd pleaser.
TIP: Never pour remaining marinade over meats or veggies you’ve just placed on the grill. It may sound like a good idea but it’s not. The spillage will cause flare ups - gas and charcoal grills alike - resulting in a blackened meat look and taste you weren’t going for. Spillage can also stir up the ashes down below on a charcoal grill, getting ash on your food. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of flavor in that meat, don’t pour.
Mike's Flank Steak Fajitas
Got a hankering for fajitas? Flank steak is a great cut of meat to use in fajitas. Like the skirt steak, it’s a less expensive cut of meat, a tougher cut of meat, yet packs a lot of flavor when prepared correctly. Try this the next time you fix fajitas or when tacos sound boring:
- Two pounds of flank steak
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup tequila
- The juice of a lime
- 2 healthy tablespoons of your favorite store bought fajita seasoning
- A few drizzles of canola oil
- Medium onion, large slices
- Green pepper, large slices
Mix the olive oil, tequila, lime juice and fajita seasoning in a measuring cup or small bowl. Pour over the top of the flank steak in a zip lock bag or plastic container. Marinate in the fridge for at least an hour, four hours is better, but NOT overnight, there‘s alcohol in this marinade and alcohol can tend to give meat that mushy texture if over-marinated. Grill over high heat, about five minutes on each side (for a medium rare) first five minutes lid off, last five minutes lid on. Pull the steaks off the grill, let them rest for five minutes. While the meat is resting, coat the sliced onion and pepper with canola oil and season with the fajita mix. Grill over direct heat until you get a bit of a char on both sides. Warm the tortillas on the low temp side of the grill, pull and stack. Slice the flank steak across the grain, plate and serve with the veggies. These are great of course, with Margaritas.
I like to use sirloin to make my kabobs, cutting the sirloin into one inch cubes. Don’t buy stew beef for this, it’s too tough a cut of meat, it’s OK if prepared in low and slow cooking, but sirloin is far more tender and packs better flavor, especially in this over the direct heat preparation. The marinade is simple, your favorite Italian dressing.
- Two pounds of sirloin steak, cut into one inch cubes
- One green bell pepper, rough chop
- One red or yellow bell pepper, rough chop
- One medium onion, rough chop
- About one pound of button mushrooms
- Small bottle of your favorite Italian dressing
After you cube up the steak, put it in a Tupperware container or zip lock bag and pour the entire contents of a small bottle of Italian dressing over the meat. Let it marinade in the refrigerator overnight. The veggies don’t need to marinade that long, you can actually get away with dressing them just before you start the charcoal. If you’re going to use wood skewers, remember to soak them in water for about 30 minutes prior to loading them up with the meat and veggies. KABOB TIP #1: Always put your meat and veggies for kabobs on separate skewers. A meat and veggie skewer combo looks great in the meat counter display case at the grocery store, but the fact is the veggies on the skewer cook through much faster than the meat. You want tender crisp veggies with a hint of charcoal flavor, not dried out, charred veggies to go with that sirloin. KABOB TIP #2: Don’t overload the meat on the skewers, leave some space between the cubes. Meat that is packed too tightly won’t cook evenly, won’t look as nice when served and most importantly, won’t taste as good. Place your meat kabobs over hot coals to get a good sear, lid off. Turn a quarter turn after about two minutes, repeat through four rotations giving you a medium rare kabob. Place your veggie kabobs on the grill after the meat kabobs are cooked halfway through. Serve together with rice pilaf and warm pita bread.
Rib Eye Steak: This is my personal favorite when it comes to grilling up a steak for a traditional steak dinner. These tender steaks have good marbling of fat throughout and that means great natural flavor. With that in mind, these steaks don’t need a lot of doctoring, no marinade required. I keep it simple, salt and pepper both sides and let that marbling go to work on the grill. Put your presentation side down first and let it sit over the coals for about five minutes. Then flip and move it over to the lower heat side of the grill, lid on until it reaches your desired degree of rare, medium or well done. Just before you plate, brush the steak with melted garlic butter.
TIP: Whether you’re grilling steaks, hamburgers or even hot dogs, keep a small ‘grill safe’ bowl of garlic butter in cool zone corner of the grill. There’s all kinds of uses for it. You can brush it on steaks, apply it to burgers just before you put on the cheese, or brush those hot dogs to add another layer of flavor. Put it on toasted buns, apply it to fish, shrimp and veggies. It’s another dose of YUM! And if you’re not really into garlic, just go with melted butter, it’s still another dose of YUM!
Sirloin Steak: This is also a more tender cut of beef, but it’s a leaner cut. It doesn’t have the marbling of fat like a rib eye and if you don’t feel like shelling out the money for rib eye, this is a good alternative. You can prep and grill this steak just like you would for a rib eye, but before you hit it with the salt and pepper, dress it with some olive oil. Because sirloin is a leaner cut, it can tend to dry out on the grill and it needs a little help with flavor. Olive oil does the trick, about a teaspoon on each side. Salt and pepper those sirloins up and grill just like a rib eye. Hit it with the garlic butter just before plating.
Bacon Wrapped Filet Mignon: Like the sirloin, this is a tender, but leaner cut of meat. Hence, the bacon, which is going to keep the filet from getting too dry and it adds some flavor to boot. Use the standard salt and pepper preparation and then wrap some thick sliced bacon around the outer edge of the steak and secure with a water-soaked toothpick. This steak requires a reverse sear style of grilling. When you put this steak on the grill, put it on the lower heat side of the grill first with the lid on. The bacon doesn’t require the high heat to crisp it up until the finish and if that’s done first, you’ll end up with burnt bacon. So place the steak on the lower temp side to start things off, let that bacon fat slowly seep into the steak as it slow cooks for about 10 minutes with the lid on. Then finish the steak on the hot spot of the grill without the lid and until that bacon is sizzling just right! You may have to stand the fillets on end to get that bacon crisped up just right. Brush on the melted garlic butter just before plating.
T-Bone Steak: Most people think of this cut when they think about steakhouses. Now you can give your dinner guests a steakhouse quality dinner, in your backyard! I like to put a little kick in my T-Bone. Rub both sides of the steak with your favorite rub. One of my go-to rubs is Cookies Flavor Enhancer. Sear on the hot spot on the grill for about five minutes, rotating the steaks a quarter turn for those diamond grill marks at about the two to three minute mark. Flip after the five minutes of sear time is up, placing the steaks on the lower temp side of the grill with the lid on to finish cooking to desired level of doneness. Hit it with the garlic butter just before plating.
Breakfast Steak: I like to use beef shoulder or “butchers steak” for this preparation. This cut is thin, lean but very “meaty” tasting, great for a quick hot sear on the grill and an excellent partner with a couple of eggs over easy. Simply season both sides of your steak with salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder (red pepper flake is optional). Grill over direct heat for about five minutes like you would a T-Bone or a Rib-eye, flip it over and move to a lower temp side of the grill but not totally off the heat to finish cooking. While that’s happening, crack two eggs into your cast iron skillet that’s been drizzled with olive oil and heating up over the hot coals. Season with salt and pepper, serve on top of the steak (can you visualize that golden yolk goodness?), along with two slices of Texas toast.
TIP: Lightly brush your Texas toast with melted butter prior to putting on the grill for toasting.
The breakfast steak meal is a great way to start off a Saturday morning, especially when you’ve got some other grilling in mind, like enjoying brisket, a roast, or ribs later in the day. After you are done grilling your breakfast steak, you can re-arrange your coals for low and slow cooking.
Roast Beef: Yes, you can do a roast on the grill! Crock pots are for non-grillers. If you’ve got a grill big enough to accommodate a roast with the lid on, this will be some of the best roast you have ever eaten. It doesn’t matter what cut of roast you have, whether it’s a chuck, top round, rib or rump. The key here is a great dry rub and low and slow cooking using the “Snake Method” style of arranging your coals. The night before grilling, rub the roast down with Cookies Flavor Enhancer or your favorite rub. If you don’t have a favorite rub, here’s a quick and easy rub to try.
Dry Rub Ingredients
- One tablespoon Kosher salt
- Two tablespoons of granulated garlic
- One tablespoon onion powder
- One tablespoon dried oregano
- One tablespoon paprika
- One teaspoon dried mustard
- One teaspoon black pepper
- After rubbing down your roast, put it in a big zip lock bag or plastic container and refrigerate.
Your grill set-up is going to use the ‘Snake Method.‘ After you’ve lit your charcoal chimney with about 15 starter briquettes in it, pull your roast out of the refrigerator, inspect, dab off any excess moisture (if any) with a paper towel, let that roast air out, reapply some rub if needed. Once your charcoal in the chimney is ready, pour those hot coals at one end of the snake, making it the head of the snake. This is good for about a 225 - 250 degree temperature and up to six hours of cook time (depending on the size/length of the snake) as the snake burns from head to tail. Don’t forget to add a few chunks of fruit wood, chips or pellets, as they really do add to this preparation! To keep the roast moist, nestle one of those disposable foil pans into the open space at the bottom center of the grill. Add two cups of hot water to the pan. The pan serves two purposes, not only keeping the roast moist, but also catching the roast drippings during the cooking process for an Au jus. Get your grilling grate in position and place your roast, fat side up, in the center of the grate and put the lid on. That roast fat (flavor) is going to slowly sizzle down the sides of the meat adding to the texture and flavor of that roast, before it drips into the pan of deliciousness below. You want that, if you did fat side down, you just won’t get as good of a final product. Check your roast - do NOT turn - after about two hours. When your roast hits that magic 145 degree internal temperature mark (155 degrees for well done), about 4 to 5 hours depending on the size of the roast, it’s ready to pull and rest. Slice thin and ladle some of that Au jus over the top. Enjoy!
Beef Short Ribs: Ah, meat on the bone, cave man style…. There’s just something special about meat, fire and then forgetting about the knife and fork, taking pleasure in eating meat right off the bone. Make no mistake, bone-in meats means built-in flavor. That’s why this recipe does NOT call for BBQ sauce. There’s no need for it, as short ribs tend to render a good amount of fat and marrow. Besides, we’re grilling after all, not barbecuing. How to BBQ is covered in another chapter and will be featured in my second book, along with more great recipes.
Prepare the ribs the same as you would for a roast, applying your favorite dry rub or the simple rub mentioned in that Roast Beef recipe (add a tablespoon of chili powder) the night before and refrigerate. And also like the roast recipe, set up your grill to use the “Snake Method.” Cook for about two hours. This is the halfway mark. At this point wrap the ribs in foil and cook for another couple hours, until tender. Remove from the grill, and let those ribs rest, still wrapped in the foil. Carefully unwrap the foil, hit them with some of that Au jus, serve and enjoy. Excellent with iron skillet baked beans and grilled corn-on-the-cob!
- Three pounds of crosscut beef short ribs
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- The juice from one lime (if you don’t have any limes handy, substitute with 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar)
- Two fresh green onions, chopped
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon dried ginger
- 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
Make the marinade, then pour over the ribs and refrigerate overnight. These ribs are cooked over direct heat, lid off (consider adding some pecan wood, or pecan pellets to your charcoal), about three minutes per side or until done to your liking. These are a thin cut style rib, so they grill up quick. Excellent paired with rice and sautéed snow peas.
Related: Beef cuts and how to grill them