Ahhh summer. For the next few months, backyards throughout Alberta will be filled with the smell of hickory and smoke, the sizzle of perfectly seared meat (hopefully), and the buzz and camaraderie that comes with long summer days and nights hanging outside with friends and family.
Two prominent Alberta chefs are eager to share their expert guidance to help you achieve master griller status this summer. Whether grilling a premium cut of meat or a humble vegetable, they can help lead you to grilling glory.
Chef Kenny Kaechele
WORKSHOP Kitchen + Culture (Calgary)
Although one might think grilling a steak is a no-brainer, not all steaks are created equal, so there are a few tricks to ensure consistency, perfect texture, and juicy flavour all summer long.
“You get what you pay for, so always choose high quality product and cut. After a long work week, you deserve nothing but the best. So treat yourself. Personally, I love a good New York steak striploin for home grilling,” said Kaechele.
“My first tip is to always start with a clean grill surface, so burn off any old food and give your grill a good scrape. Now you’re ready for some proper grilling.
“I’m a fan of the two-temperature sear and finish method. Set your barbecue on high heat on one side, and medium-low on the other, making sure you giveyour grill adequate time to get up to temperature. Always sear your meat on the high heat side first for about 90 seconds per side, rotating a quarter turn halfway through,” he advised.
“At this time, season liberally with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (or a steak spice of your choosing). Then move your meat to the medium-low side and slow cook to finish to your desired doneness. Only at this stage would I recommend brushing with a marinade or barbecue sauce (or the Chimichurri from the recipe below) as they burn easily on higher a heat.
“Because steaks and other meat come in different cuts and thicknesses, always use an instant read thermometer to determine doneness (135–140 degrees F for medium rare). A good thermometer is a cook’s best friend, and makes preparing meat pretty foolproof, leaving no excuse for over or undercooked meat,” he added.
“Once cooked to your liking, give that steak a good rest – it worked hard to get this tasty! By letting the steak rest on a plate for five to 10 minutes, the juices will have a chance to redistribute themselves throughout the steak. This will ensure each and every bite you take is dripping with juicy goodness.
“And finally, it’s not a requirement, but I love melting some butter on top of the steak as it’s resting, it really brings all the flavours together!”
See here for Chef Kaechele’s recipe for Workshop Chimichurri
Chef Lindsay Porter
El Cortez Mexican Kitchen and Tequila Bar (Edmonton)
Vegetables are most definitely the underdog of the barbecue. But they cook quickly, and are so delicious with just the hint of smoke from the grill. The bonus is you don’t have to stress too much about whether they’re over or undercooked like you do with meat.
“I love grilling vegetables,” said Porter. “I typically go with red peppers, asparagus, red onion and zucchini, but to really balance the flavours and add texture, I like to mix it up with grilled apples, pears, kale, Belgium endive and thinly sliced sweet potato or butternut squash.
“Vegetables dry out when they hit the heat without a little oil, so be sure to marinate in olive or canola oil, just enough to coat, but not saturate. Avoid using too much though, as it’ll only add unnecessary calories and unwanted flare-ups,” she warned.
“One of my favourite seasoning methods is to thinly slice garlic with a mandolin until almost paper thin. This produces a strong roasted garlic flavour and helps to crisp it up as it sits either in a pan or directly on the grill, quickly saturating the vegetables.
“To prevent burning, you can sear the veggies over a high heat to get a good char, and then move them to a cooler part of the grill to finish cooking throughout. Or you can precook them and just give them a few minutes on the grill to get some colour on the outside. Personally, I like to keep the temperature consistently in the medium range, being careful to not have the grill too hot, as a lot of veggies and fruit contain sugars that can easily burn.
“Finally, I love chilling to make a colourful vegetable fruit salad topped with either a honey lemon or honey apple cider vinegar dressing. And voila! It makes for a bright, healthy lunch or a tasty addition to dinner.”
See here for Chef Porter’s recipe for Grilled Fruit and Vegetable Salad