There are very few pleasures in life that can surpass a good meal. Outdoor grilling can be as good as it gets. The difference between indoor and outdoor cooking often lies in the method of preparation. Outdoor cooking normally requires preparing food on the grill over an open flame.
It is generally accepted that cooking is an art form, but the very essence of the process is really a science. There are some general rules that apply for both, but also some that apply specifically to outdoor grilling. The most important aspects of the cooking process are time and temperature. For this reason, especially when cooking something that is new for the cook, it is good to have a recipe with an instructional guide. Different foods require a different process. You cannot just light the grill and throw something on it.
The initial process is usually some form of flavor enhancement. Some chefs use BBQ rubs and spices. Many also utilize the marinade process, which is really the most effective in terms of tenderness. A common method is to put the cuts in a bag with spices or sauces, often with a small amount of water. A small amount of vinegar is always an essential ingredient. The amounts are determined by the amount of food being marinaded. The vinegar provides a natural low-temperature heat source while the marinade is taking effect. The heating properties of the vinegar actually begin the cooking process and force the breakdown of natural juices. Different marinades can also require different time periods for soaking.
The first tip in cooking meats is making sure that the grilling surface is sufficiently heated before placing the item to be cooked. Tenderness is the general priority for proper meat preparation. This is acquired by heating the grill to 400-425 degrees before placement of the steaks. The steaks should be placed on the grill for about a minute on one side and then flipped to the other side in the same manner. This is known as the “searing” process. The purpose of searing is to seal the edges of the cut in order to maintain the cut’s natural juices. The minimum temperature for searing any meat is 375-380 degrees. In order to achieve crossed grill marks, the steak should be moved slightly during the searing process on each side.
After searing both sides of the item, the cut should be returned to the original seared side and the cooking temperature reduced to around 350 degrees. If the grill has a lid, close it. From this point the “trick” for a tender steak or chop is to let it cook on each side for the proper amount of time. The amount of time on each side is determined by the thickness of the piece being prepared.
There is one critical component to the process at this point. Know how long to let it cook on the first side and only flip the piece being cooked ONE time. Allow it to cook a similar amount of time on the reverse side or until the cut is cooked to an acceptable level. Do not flip it back. These levels are normally rare, medium rare, done and well done. An accurate grill thermometer is essential is achieving the perfectly prepared steak or chop, but the real truth is that “perfection” lies in the preference of the individual who will be doing the eating.
A fallacy about steaks and chops is that a sauce is needed to make the flavors come alive. For the individual who likes BBQ sauce, the sauce should be applied in the final stages of cooking. Often, a steak sauce is applied after it is removed from the grill. Many people prefer their entree without any sauce, as a steak that is properly prepared normally does not need any sauce to be a very enjoyable eating experience.
Of course, the proof is in the eating.