Fired Up to Feast: Grilling with the Experts
From good health to grill marks, Texas Tech faculty and staff share their barbecue expertise.
Written by Grace Acuña
July is National Grilling Month. Although not an official holiday, backyard summer cookouts have been a tradition since caveman times.
To celebrate, Texas Tech University experts shared their knowledge of preparing, cooking, and serving meat for this grilling season.
The first step of grilling is selecting the protein of choice, said Brad Price, director of Raider Red Meats.
“Before the grilling skills come into play you must start with a good piece of meat,” Price said. “You also need a grill that cooks evenly to create an excellent eating experience.”
For best results, know your meat and your grill.
Price said the best cut of meat really depends on a person’s preference.
“There are grills out there that fit every kind of meat based on desired grilling method,” he said. “Make sure you understand your grill, know how it cooks and know that hot spots exist.”
While working at Raider Red Meats, Price said he hears from customers who want to purchase meat that will taste the same every time they grill.
“I think that one of the most important things is to learn where you’re shopping for your protein,” Price said. “Learn how protein performs each time from these stores so you can ensure you’re getting a great steak every time.”
Raider Red Meats are sold at on-campus restaurant, COWamungus in the Animal and Food Sciences building, and all proceeds help fund scholarships for students within the Department of Animal and Food Sciences and Texas Tech’s nationally ranked judging teams.
The Heat is On
Mark Miller, a Horn professor of meat sciences, food processing and preservation, believes grilling is one of the safest ways to prepare food.
Avoid cross contamination, keep raw and cooked foods separate.
“Cooking your food with that kind of temperature, smoke and heat ensures any bacteria on the surface of the meat you’re cooking will be killed,” Miller said. “So it’s a very safe process.”
Although the grilling process is an overall safe one, the cook still needs to be careful of cross contaminating food. Miller said there needs to be separate plates for raw and cooked meats. A mistake people make is putting cooked meat in the oven for more than 20 minutes to keep warm while preparing their plates because it could ruin the flavor.
“You want to prepare everything else, all your other sides, have everything ready,” Miller said. “So when your steaks are ready, all the food can go immediately onto the plates and have everyone eating in a couple minutes.”
Debra Reed, a nutritional sciences professor and Helen DeVitt Jones Chair, said when it comes to healthy grilling there are three things to watch out for: overcooking the meat, portion control and including more vegetables and fruits.
Overcooking the meat can produce compounds that can lead to cancer. Instead, Reed suggests cooking meats at a lower temperature or pre-heating them in the microwave before grilling to reduce cook time.
“Overcooking, charring and burning can create production of cancer-causing compounds,” she said.
Grilling brings out sweetness in fruits and vegetables, which may please even pickiest eaters.
Reed recommended grilling fruits and vegetables for side dishes and dessert as a healthy option.
“Grilling brings out the sweetness; even people who don’t like fruits and vegetables may like the flavor.” Reed said. “Fruits and vegetables add lots of color and nutrients to our plates.”
According to the My Plate website half a plate should consist of fruits and vegetables. Reed suggests shish kabobs as a perfect dish to practice portion control and include some fruits and vegetables.
By making sure plenty of plant-based dishes are served and meat is cooked at perfect temperature, Reed believes grilling can be a great low-fat option for preparing food.
How to Score
“I think as long as fire has been around we’ve been grilling with it,” said Dewey McMurrey, the executive chef of operations at Texas Tech Hospitality Services. “You would just stick meat over fire, but it’s come a long way from that.”
McMurrey can list more than seven types of grills and many different grilling techniques to make a dish taste and look like it’s from a five-star restaurant.
Grill marks help sear in the perfect flavor.
Using the grill to make grill marks on the meat, McMurrey said, can make a plate look aesthetically pleasing. He said the key is to have the grill as hot as possible before adding the meat to seal in the flavor.
“The faster you sear it, the more flavors you’re going to catch inside and the juicier and the more tender it’s going to become,” he said.
Indoor grilling also has become popular over the years and McMurrey said it’s possible to have the same outdoor grilling taste while indoors.
“Just wrap foil around water soaked woodchips and place in the bottom of the oven,” McMurrey said. “Stick it in the oven and you will get the same flavor.”
McMurrey said he encourages first-timers to be creative while grilling.
“Don’t be afraid to experiment,” he said. “The more you do it, the more comfortable you’re going to be.”
Chef Dewey's Choice
Bullgogi Korean Barbecue Sauce
“The difference between our barbecue and Korean barbecue is that they soak it in this very thin sauce,” Chef Dewey said. “By the time they cook it, the sauce crystallizes around the meat.”
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups low-sodium Chinese soy sauce
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons ginger, minced
- 4 tablespoons sesame seed oil
- 3 tablespoons black pepper
- 1 white onion, grated
Whisk all ingredients together until the sugar dissolves and pour marinade over meat of choice.
Marinate red meats overnight, poultry for a few hours, and seafood for about an hour.
Pre-cooked meats should be treated like seafood.
Sauce will develop on meat as it cooks.
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