Before you fire up the grill this summer, you want to make sure it's clean and ready for cooking. The same goes for your meat — it's important to know how to prep fresh steak, burgers, chicken and frozen meats for juicy, flavorful results. Armed with these helpful tips from master butcher Ray Venezia (AKA Ray the Butcher), you'll be grilling like a pro in no time!
The first thing you want to do is clean the grates, Ray says. Start by heating the grill up. Once it's nice and hot, use a metal grill brush to scrape all the sediment off. Then, let it cool before you clean the rest of the grill.
"You want to leave the flavor bars that are over the tops of the burners in place, so that more sediment doesn't fall into the burner holes and make the job even harder," Ray adds. Then, use a rag dipped in water and white vinegar to wipe down the inside of the lid.
Next, scrape the flavor bars with your grill brush before taking them out and wiping each one down with your water and white vinegar-soaked rag.
"The burners are very important, because a lot of people don't realize that's how they get those hot and cold spots in their grill. You never want to brush up and down. You want to brush across to open those holes up and get the sediment out," Ray continues. (Watch him demonstrate the proper technique in the video above.)
Once all the sediment is in the bottom of the grill, put your grill back together and you're ready to start cooking!
WHEN TO USE A MARINADE VS A DRY RUB
"A liquid marinade works well for any cut of meat that easily absorbs — like skirt steaks," the master butcher says.
When it comes to denser cuts of meat, such as brisket and spare ribs, a liquid marinade won't really penetrate. "That's how you get that ring around the piece of meat after it's cooked, because it doesn't go all the way through," Ray explains. He recommends using a dry rub for ribs, especially if you're going to smoke them — because if you use a marinade, the smoke won't penetrate the meat as well.
Ray also uses a dry rub rather than a liquid marinade when making something like a London broil. "The dry rub will not only add flavor better and penetrate better, but it will also help add a nice crusting as it's cooking to help trap even more of the natural juices inside."
HOW TO GRILL THE PERFECT STEAK
"Get your grill nice and hot, because you want to sear the meat as quickly as you can to help trap in the juices," Ray says. Put your steak on the grill and you should hear it sizzle as it starts searing the outside.
How long do you cook steak on the grill?
Basic steak: A basic steak (an inch- to an inch-and-a-quarter-thick) usually takes 6-8 minutes per side, according to Ray. "Once you can determine that on your grill, then you really can get it down perfectly, because everybody's grill will heat up a little differently," he adds. "And if it's 6-8 minutes on one side, then you want to take a minute or two off on the other side once you've flipped it."
Liquid-marinated skirt steak: When cooking something like a liquid-marinated skirt steak, you want to leave the lid open. When you close the lid to make it cook faster, "it traps a lot of the steam coming off inside, which gets back into the meat and can make it tough," Ray explains.
London broil: Something thicker like a top-round London broil, dry-rubbed to get that nice crusting, will take closer to 10-12 minutes per side.
Once it's cooked, let your meat sit for 5 to 8 minutes so it can absorb some of the juice back for more flavor.
HOW TO GRILL FRESH BEEF
Bring fresh beef to room temperature before grilling, Ray says. It'll cook quicker and the juices in it won't evaporate too quickly, so they'll have a chance to absorb into the meat.
HOW TO GRILL FROZEN MEAT
"If you're dealing with anything frozen, you don't want to thaw it out completely," Ray says. "You'll lose too much of the moisture that way… so you only want to thaw it about three-quarters of the way through, with the exception of your burgers."
According to Ray, burgers lose a lot of moisture during the meat-grinding process, so once they're frozen, throw them on the grill frozen.
Ray says the best way to keep flavor in chicken is to make a quick brine. For four pounds of chicken (whole or parts) all you need is two quarts of water and a half cup of salt. Refrigerate for two hours then take it out and bring to room temperature. Pat it dry, spray the grill down with a little oil and cook it skin-side down to start.
By following these steps, Ray says you'll get a "really succulent, juicy chicken."
Well, there you have it. Happy grilling!