While there are a lot of events crammed into our summer, sometimes the best way to enjoy the season is to just sit in your backyard with a few friends, a few beverages and a few big slabs of meat on the grill.
That’s exactly the situation Avenue’s Backyard Guide is designed to help you make the most of. With tips and tricks for everything from furnishing a backyard to attracting some feathered friends, it’s got everything you need to make this summer spectacular.
What are those subtle tricks that allow you to grill a perfect steak?
Janine Kolotyluk, senior community educator with ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen, points out that the first step to a perfect steak is knowing your grill. “You don’t need anything fancy, but you definitely need to know which spots on your grill are hotter than the others.”
Other essentials include a meat thermometer and a pair of long-handled tongs. Once you have your tools, Kolotyluk recommends leaving your steak out at room temperature for up to 20 minutes, then rubbing the steak in oil before putting it on the grill to prevent any sticking.
“Turn your barbecue on high and let it get hot all over,” Kolotyluk explains. “If you want your steak cooked more all the way through, turn the temperature down to a medium part-way through. But if you want a sear on the outside and some pink on the inside, leave it on high.”
The steak should be cooked with the barbecue lid open for eight to 10 minutes, turning it only once to ensure it stays juicy and you get deep grill lines.
For Paul Shufelt, corporate chef for the Century Hospitality Group, which includes Lux Steakhouse, cooking a perfect steak at home is fairly simple.
“I don’t put any oil on it,” Shufelt explains. “I just use a bit of kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper, then a bit of Montreal steak spice” as well as Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce.
Once on the grill, the heat stays on high (between 700°F and 800°F), cooking between three and four minutes on each side. Then, he lets the steak rest for a couple of minutes to let the juices reabsorb into the meat.
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The trick to chicken is in keeping it juicy. Cooked wrong, your chicken breast can be so dry, it’s inedible. On the other hand, serving undercooked chicken isn’t exactly safe.
Kolotyluk has some tips that help make sure that your chicken is perfectly cooked. “It’s better to cook chicken indirectly,” she says, if you’re cooking a whole chicken. “You want to keep your barbecue’s heat on medium to low, and you want to turn the meat often to make sure it’s cooked all the way through.”
Kolotyluk points out that, on average, chicken breasts and thighs should take 12 to 15 minutes to cook on a medium heat. She stresses using a meat thermometer to make sure your chicken is at a safe temperature, between 170°F and 185°F. To add flavour to your chicken and prevent it from sticking to the grill, Kolotyluk recommends brushing the meat with oil and marinating it for 30 minutes to two hours in your fridge.
Other cuts of chicken, such as wings or even whole chickens, can be cooked on the barbecue as well, but take a little more time.
Propane is the most common grilling fuel and tends to cook food quickly because it burns hotter than any other outdoor-cooking fuel.
Natural gas is the cleanest burning and cheapest of the grilling fuels, though you need a gas line from your house to your barbecue to use it.
Charcoal can create the most variance in flavour, but it’s hard to control your barbecue’s temperature and requires a fair amount of grilling skill to use effectively.