Local chefs share their grilling tips for at-home cooks
Tips from New Hampshire chefs on how to make the best meals on your grill this summer
After several months of quarantine, there truly is no better feeling than stepping out into the sunshine and firing up your grill. By now, you’ve probably become a master chef in your own kitchen, but summer is the perfect time to become a grilling professional.
Fortunately, a few chefs across the state have offered up their best tips for your barbecuing endeavors.
Tip number one: the grill is for so much more than burgers and hot dogs (although, those always taste better on the grill, too). Meats such as sausages, chicken, pork chops, sturdy seafoods (think swordfish, salmon, and even shrimp skewers) and, of course, the almighty steak.
“If you are looking to purchase a great, store-bought steak, then I think butchers are the best. They often have higher quality meat than other stores,” said Andrew Lamson, executive chef at Backyard Brewery and Kitchen in Manchester.
If you are not marinating or glazing your steak, Lamson recommends buying traditional cuts like New York strip or ribeye – his personal favorites for a good quality steak. The more fat or marbling, the better.
“Despite the bad rap fat gets, it is where all the flavor is and makes for a juicier steak,” Lamson said.
Spending the time finding the perfect piece of meat, however, means you want to make sure you cook it right.
“A thermometer is the best bet,” said Rick Korn, chef and owner at Rick’s Food & Spirits in Kingston. “It takes all the guess work out of it. Nothing worse than an over-cooked steak or, even worse, an under-cooked chicken breast.”
Fortunately, meat thermometers are very affordable (and one would make a perfect Father’s Day gift), but if you’re yearning to grill steak right away — Lamson has a tip for you, too.
“To determine how cooked a steak is, you will have to see how it feels by gently pressing on your steak. The softer the steak is, the rarer it is, and the firmer the steak is, the more well-done it is,” Lamson said.
Now that you know what types of meat to look for and how to cook them properly, it’s time to focus on the side dishes (and garnishes). It’s easy to see the grill as a meat-only cooker, but certain vegetables — and even fruits — are welcome at the cookout, too.
“My family loves grilled garden vegetables, simply tossed in a bit of oil, some herbs, fresh garlic, and salt and pepper,” Korn said. “Cut a summer squash or zucchini the long way, half a red pepper, leave the mushrooms whole, thick-cut some red onion, toss them in your mixture and grill.”
Korn also suggests grilling baked potatoes in tin foil, low and slow, with a bay leaf, salt, and pepper for an even more satiating side dish.
Other heartier vegetables that stand up well to the grill include broccoli (or broccolini), asparagus, corn, carrots, and eggplant, to name a few. Outside of vegetables, certain vegetarian-friendly proteins grill up nicely as well, such as tofu and halloumi (a semi-hard cheese).
In addition to the savory sides, fruit can also be grilled to lend some extra depth and flavor to a main course.
“A nice garnish if you’re grilling up some salmon or swordfish: take some citrus — lemons, limes, oranges — halve them, toss them in your garlic-herb marinade [oil, herbs, garlic, salt and pepper], grill the open side of the citrus, and serve on the side of your seafood,” Korn said.
Once all your proteins are purchased and you have the sides ready to grill, which do you choose: gas or charcoal? Both chefs agree gas grills reign supreme.
If you’re really looking to jump into a summer hobby that includes cooking in your yard, then investing in a smoker might be another option for you.
“Smokers are a great way to cook,” Lamson said. “We use smokers every day at the Backyard Brewery and Kitchen. It definitely gives more depth in flavor. We cook some traditional menu items such as baby back ribs and brisket, along with comfort foods like meatloaf.”
The one downside to smokers, however, is the time needed to smoke meats. But does the smell of top-notch meat cooking all day really sound that bad to anyone? Especially if you have an ice-cold beer to enjoy while you wait for dinner to be ready.
“At the Backyard Brewery and Kitchen, we offer several beers that are brewed in-house. Monkee Bars Belgian Dubbel is a great choice because of the sweet and roasted notes, which pairs very well with barbecue. Our Haystack Hefeweizen is also a great choice for a more relaxed crisp beer to drink with your meal,” Lamson said.
So, here’s your summer to-do list: head to your local butcher, prep those vegetables, turn on your grill (and/or smoker), crack open a beer, and get cooking.
Michelle Lahey is a food writer who has been writing about (and eating) food in New Hampshire for over 10 years. Outside of food, you can find her sipping on a good IPA, correcting other people’s grammar, or hiking in the White Mountains.