Memorial Day signaled the unofficial start to summer, so it’s only natural that the next part in The Good Cook series should be about grilling and barbecuing. Here’s a quick primer to get you started.
Direct Heat vs. Indirect Heat: The first thing to think about when grilling is how long your food will take to cook and that all depends on what you’re making. Quick-cooking items like sausage links, steak and shrimp cook best when placed directly over the heat source (i.e., flame or hot coals). This is called direct-heat cooking.
Brisket and ribs, on the other hand, need a long cooking time to become tender, so you want to use an indirect cooking method. This simply means the coals are piled, also called “banked,” on one side of the grill, or just the outer gas burners are turned on. The food is placed on the rack, away the flame or hot coals, and cooks from the radiant heat. It’s akin to turning your grill or barbecue into an oven. With this cooking method, you’ll also need to keep the grill closed to maintain a consistent cooking temperature.
Gas vs. Charcoal Gas Grills
Today we’re talking steak as part of The Good Cook series. Generally, cooking steak involves a direct-heat cooking method, such as a very hot skillet, an oven broiler or taking it outdoors to the grill. Deciding which cooking method is best all depends on what kind of steak you bought, also known as the cut of steak.
New York strip, sirloin and rib eye, familiar steak house favorites, cook up quickly in a very hot skillet on the stovetop (I love using my cast iron), or on the grill. A rare to medium-rare steak needs only three to four minutes on each side. If you prefer your meat cooked medium or medium-well, finish it off in an oven preheated 350 degrees F to keep it tender and juicy.
Flank, skirt and London broil are best prepared using your stove’s broiler or on the grill. These cuts are also best served medium-rare; cook them about five minutes per side, otherwise they become too tough. The way you slice these cuts of steak is another important detail. Hold your knife at a slight angle, about 45 degrees, and slice it across the grain.
I hesitated for a long time before including a recipe for roasted chicken in my cookbook. It seemed so basic and simple, but as I talked to more and more home cooks it became apparent that roasting a whole chicken is an intimidating kitchen project for many people. And when I use the word project, I mean it very loosely, because really there’s no fuss in doing it.
The real key is the right cooking temperature; that’s what ensures a super crispy skin, but also keeps the white meat juicy and moist. And forget about trussing — this isn’t your mother’s roast chicken. In fact, I’ve found that the chicken cooks more evenly if you leave the legs wide open. It allows the heat to circulate throughout the chicken, so the dark and white meats cook evenly.
Learn how to make a roast chicken
You learn so much about people when you step out from behind the computer screen. I’ve been on tour for my debut cookbook, Homemade with Love, and it’s given me a chance to connect with readers in a way I never imagined. One person at my Chicago book signing inspired me to start a miniseries of sorts here, called The Good Cook.
Too often I hear people say they’re not good cooks. A little digging, though, and it turns out the way we see ourselves isn’t always in line with the way the people we love view us. Being a good cook shouldn’t be defined by how many recipes we know. The real determining factor in being a good cook is a rather simple litmus test: 1) do you like what you cook? and 2) do the people you prepare meals for enjoy what you cook? When I asked these questions at a few separate events, it turns out most people answer yes to both.
The real root for many people judging themselves so unfairly in the kitchen is they feel like they’re always cooking the same few favorite recipes. It’s really about expanding your comfort zone and, in some cases, learning a few new techniques. That’s where I come in. Over the next few posts, I’m going to explore techniques and tips to help get you out of your cooking rut. Please leave a note in the comments, letting me know which recipes or ingredients are on your “must-learn” wish list. Today, I’m going to start with an easy upgrade, a simple way in which you can add some oomph to your everyday meals.
Learn how to make a compound butter