Be great on the grill

Tips and tricks for upping your grilling game

Summertime barbecues tend to conjure up images of different varieties of meats, sizzling away on a hot grill, little kids covering hot dogs with entirely too much ketchup, cold drinks packed into ice-filled coolers and maybe a slip-n-slide marathon or two. There's nothing better than smelling the piquant aroma of grilled meat drifting over the rooftops and throughout neighborhoods, signaling that summer is upon us and making people's mouths water. 

For many people, outdoor grilling is a favorite pastime. They are the family and friends that we have lovingly dubbed the grill masters among us, and you're almost certain to see them, spatula in hand, manning the grill at any barbecue. They take pride in creating personalized meat rubs, have secret ingredients that they add to burgers and seem to have a sixth sense about how to cook a perfect, made-to-order steak. For others, though, grilling is an anxiety-inducing guessing game. These are the people who would rather be in charge of every single side dish than faced with the possibility of being responsible for burning an entire pack of hot dogs, turning an expensive steak into a tasteless hockey puck or sending their guests home with salmonella from undercooked chicken. 

Keeping the latter people in mind, I reached out to Erin Shovlin, sales and marketing manager at Weber Grill Restaurant and Weber Grill Cooking Academy, located in the St. Louis Galleria. Shovlin has worked for Weber Grill for the past 18 years, and during that time, she's tasted her fair share of grilled meats. Her knowledge of grills and how to grill is impressive, making her the perfect person to ask for advice on how to transform the worst grillers among us into barbecue champions.

"The first thing you need to remember is that if you're looking, you're not cooking," says Shovlin. "Opening your grill too often can dramatically slow down the cooking process, and because of that, we recommend keeping your grill closed as much as possible." Another common mistake she says that people make while grilling is that they oil their grill instead of their meat. "Your meat should be oiled, not your grill," she says. "If anything is sticking to your grates, that just means that you're flipping your meat too early." 

Shovlin also stresses the importance of heating up your grill and cleaning it before you add any food. Once it's ready, sear your meats over direct heat and then move the food items to places on your grill where they are exposed to indirect heat and can be brought up to their desired temperature. 

If Shovlin's easy-to-follow advice has inspired you to try cooking something other than the usual hot dogs, burgers and brats this summer, might I recommend my favorite trick for grilling a steak that's full of gobsmacking flavor?

First, choose your favorite cut of meat. I love filet mignon for this recipe, but any cut of meat will do, and let it come to room temperature before oiling the meat and seasoning it with salt and pepper. Once you have prepped and cleaned your grill, place the prepared steak over direct heat and sear it for about two minutes or until it is nicely charred on the bottom. Flip your steak and repeat the searing process on the other side. This will give you juicy, medium-rare steak, so if you prefer your meat a little more done, let it cook longer. 

Once your steaks have cooked, remove them from the grill and place them on a cutting board to rest. The hardest part of this recipe is resisting cutting into your steak too early, but doing so causes valuable, delicious juices to seep out of your meat. While your meat is resting, heat ¼ cup of olive oil in a small skillet on your grill over medium heat. Add eight good quality anchovies to the oil and stir them with a spoon until they begin to dissolve. Once the anchovies have melted, add a teaspoon of finely chopped rosemary leaves to the oil and let it cook for about one minute until it blooms and loses its woody edge. Finally, slice the steaks, drizzle them with the anchovy mixture and sprinkle with a little salt. If you have concerns that the anchovies will cause your steak to take on a fishy flavor, I promise that won't happen.  Instead, they give your steak a surprising punch of umami that you and your guests will love.

Lana Shovlin is a freelance writer who lives in Springfield. She grew up eating charred hot dogs, lovingly referred to as Gooley Dogs, with her best friend and sister, who is now a grill master. While they both still enjoy an occasional Gooley Dog, their palettes have evolved and they can't wait to grill up some juicy steaks this summer.

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