It’s Labor Weekend, the beginning of the end of the grilling season. Grilling is fun any which way you do it but much like ANYTHING ELSE in life it is way more fun if you are good at it. So, we’re re-running this story from some of our favorite GRILL EXPERTS: Nathan Anda of Red Apron Butchery, Ben Eisendrath of Grillworks, Matthew Ramsey of PornBurger and Bennett Richardson of Politico (and seasoned BBQ party thrower) to help whip you and your meat in shape.
From Nathan Anda, of Red Apron Butchery
- Use a good quality blend. Our Red Apron house-ground 80/20 blend made with brisket, short rib, sirloin and round.
- When forming your patties, pack lightly. (no smashing, squishing or any other words like these)
- Season the patty with salt & pepper liberally (basically, more than you would think)
- Cook on medium heat. When using a coarsely ground blend like ours, you don’t want to scorch the meat or you’ll get an unpleasant burnt taste.
- No pushing the patty down on the grill – you’re just killing it at this point.
- Slice that cheese thin so that it melts evenly through.
- Don’t underestimate the power of a really good bun —I prefer Tiffany MacIsaac’s brioche buns.
- Keep it simple
- Garlic, olive oil & red wine vinegar
Too lazy/scared to venture and try this on your own? RED APRON has a summer-pick up burger package just for you:
- 4 Patties of Red Apron Blend (80% /20% blend of brisket, short rib, sirloin and round, coarsely ground Maryland beef)
- 4 oz. of Righteous Cheese’s Pick of the Week
- Gordy’s Pickle Chips
- A Perfectly Ripe Tomato
- 4 Brioche Buns Freshly Baked by Tiffany MacIsaac
From Ben Eisendrath of GrillWorks
Ben is the Owner and CEO of Grillworks, a specialty wood-fired grill design house long a favorite of chefs and grilling purists. His open-fire creations trace a heritage to Argentine techniques, stemming from a time his Dad based the family (and young Ben) in Buenos Aires. Though he now ships grills all over the world they are still hand built, in Michigan, near the cherry farm where Ben grew up. When not working out new ideas with chefs he writes about fire and food for Atlantic.com, Huffington Post and Edible. Ben lives in Washington DC.
- Bring your meat up to room temperature before grill time. Cold meat is too clenched to absorb seasoning and moisture well – you’ll end up with a tougher end product.
- Baste! Even if your grill doesn’t capture drippings (blatant Grillworks.com plug), a simple basting mixture of the same seasonings you’re planning for the meat in oil or melted butter will keep everything moist. Brush on liberally during cooking.
- Sear last, not first. Many grillers sear first for crust, then slow things down for the finish. Turn that around. You’ll better be able to gauge progress (see #4) by adding crust at the finish.
- A well-toned derriere means medium rare. My Father, originator of our family’s first grill, taught us that a perfectly done steak feels like a perfect ass when pressed. This remains my measure to this day.
- Over-season everything. The grill inevitably takes some of the seasonings away during cooking, so always use a bit more of everything than you would in other forms of cooking. Basting (see #2) will also help keep flavors around.
- Use wood if you can. Gas and charcoal are convenient, but one has no flavor you want to taste and the other has little left. If you’re running a charcoal grill, buy lump/chunk charcoal (not briquettes), then supplement it with chips or small pieces of a hardwood, like hickory or mesquite. An easy fire upgrade that makes a world of difference.
- Buy big and grill slow. Big cuts like rib steaks or porterhouse, at least 1.5″ thick, will cook more evenly and predictably than thinner, single serving versions. The right size steaks will weigh about 2 lbs each. Let everyone marvel at their appearance on the grill, then when done carve from them to serve guests.
- Always go bone-in. The meat and fat around the bone is some of the most flavorful you can find, and cooking it with the bone attached lets the bone itself gently cook the interior of the steak, enhancing this even further.
- Grill fish on an herb bed. Fish is very easy to turn into a hockey puck on the grill – it is delicate and dries easily. Use a fillet with the skin on. Buy several bunches of fresh dill or parsely, spread it into a bed over a low fire, then place your fish, skin down, on top of that, and again – baste (#2). Grill it slow. The fresh herbs will slowly burn, releasing lots of steam which has a flavorful poaching effect on the fish. Don’t turn it, serve when the top 1/4″ is still very rare.
- Grill dessert! An easy wow is finishing off a grilled meal with something sweet and smoky. Half peaches, pineapple quarters or other high-sugar fruits do some amazing caramelizing over flame. Sugar the cut surfaces, then let them sit over the low heat of the dying fire until they’ve begun to soften. Like bananas? They go molten – turn them until the skin is black, then split lengthwise and let your guests scoop it out alongside ice cream.
PRO TIPS: 9 Ways to Not F**k Up Your Memorial Day BBQ
By Bennett Richardson, resident grillmaster.
Greetings, BYTers. I’ve thrown more than my fair share of backyard grilling ragers, and I always end up taking over the grilling duties at other people’s BBQs. Here are a few of the rules I follow to make sure no grill-related party ever sucks.
- CHARCOAL VS PROPANE: It’s about quality vs. quantity. If you’re throwing a party this Memorial Day weekend and you have any sort of outdoor space, you’re gonna be grilling, and you may be debating the lifelong question: charcoal grill or propane? It really just comes down to size– how big your party is, and how big your grill is. Food cooked on a charcoal grill will taste smokier and more delicious 100% of the time. But, those beautiful little black Weber orbs are generally half the size of a standard propane grill, and while the charcoal will get hotter at first, it’s much harder to maintain consistent heat for an extended period of time. So, if you can fit all of your grillables onto a charcoal grill, then charcoal it shall be. But if you’ve got two dozen burgers and 50 brats and twenty seven veggie kebabs to grill, you’re probably better off with a gas grill. Got access to both? Cook burgers, chicken, steaks, etc on the charcoal, and cook anything cured — hot dogs, sausages etc — on the gas grill. The cured stuff won’t benefit from the woodsy smoke as much as the raw meats will.
- OVERSTOCK. People eat more than normal when everything is hot and delicious and constantly going straight off the grill and into their mouths. I’ve seen dainty little ladies put away two burgers and a footlong brat at a backyard BBQ when they’d normally pick at a salad in another setting. Get a little extra so you don’t run out. You can always work those leftovers– try dicing up the leftover meats for a nice hangover hash the next morning.
- FLIP, DON’T SQUISH. Many people think that you can only flip a burger once. THIS IS A FALLACY! The brainiacs at Serious Eats have scientifically proven that flipping a burger multiple times can actually reduce cooking time, while also improving the doneness consistency of a burger. So flip away! Just don’t go nuts. Flipping into the air like it’s a goddamn pancake is the unsportsmanlike conduct of BBQs. Oh, and heaven forbid you commit the faux pas of pressing down on the patty with the spatula… this will cause delicious burger juices to get squeezed out and dry out the patty. Do not do this.
- DON’T FORGET THE VEGGIES. Vegetarians love grilling too, folks, and chances are pretty good that they’ll be a few non-carnivores at your shindig. Cut some thick slices of portobellos, zucchini and summer squash and toss them in a simple combo of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper before they hit the grill. Also, forego that extra bag of chips and grill some sweet potato slices with olive oil and S&P. They’ll be so delicious that even the meat lovers will be fighting for them. (Sidebar: you can grill dessert too! Cut peaches into quarters, slap a little butter on each piece and stick them on the grill for 10-12 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream or gelato.)
- APARTMENT DWELLERS CAN MAKE DECENT BBQ. Don’t have a smoker or a grill but love BBQ? Do not fear, my urban culinarian. Get a pork shoulder at your local butcher/grocer, rub it with your favorite spices, stick it in your Crock Pot with a diced Vidalia onion, and cover it with a bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce. Let her cook for 8-10 hours on low. Serve your delicious indoor pulled pork on Martin’s potato rolls with extra sauce on the side. They’ll love it, I promise. (Sidebar: you can make pretty much anything delicious in a Crock Pot. It’s the workhorse of your kitchen, especially for dudes who don’t want to spend a lot of time prepping. Throw a meat and a sauce in there and let it cook for 8 hours and it will be delicious. Want to go Mexican with some tacos? Chicken breasts and a jar of spicy salsa in the crock = delicious spicy pulled chicken 8 hours later. Get one. You’re welcome.)
- DELEGATE. Your friends who are coming to your BBQ want to help. Don’t tell them to just “bring something,” though, because you’ll end up with eight bags of chips and one six-pack between ten people. When people ask what they can bring, tell them specifically. I usually take care of the meat and a punch or two and then delegate beers and side dishes. There is always someone who loves to make potato or pasta salad in your crew, I promise. You need only discover this person, and then simply let their backyard domesticity shine.
- THIS IS A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT. If you plan on hosting people for several hours but start doling out hard liquor to everyone the moment they arrive, you’ll have someone pissing in your fern before you even make it to the main course. BBQs are meant to be long-lasting day-drinking activities. Start off with a couple pitchers of shandies — just half good beer and half lemonade, ginger beer, or whatever tasty mixer you have on hand. Top with a splash of whatever delicious liqueur you have lying around (think Grand Marnier, Lemoncello, Aperol, St Germain, etc.) It will be just as delicious as any cocktail, but the half beer/half mixer combo will keep you from getting blotto before you can even flip the burgers.
- BE BETTER THAN BUD LIGHT. There are so many delicious and inexpensive beers in cans these days that you really have no excuse for filling your cooler with only shitty domestic beer. Dale’s Pale Ale, Harpoon IPA, Brooklyn Summer Ale, Avery’s White Rascal, Sixpoint Sweet Action, anything from DC Brau — it’s all delicious, and it’s all in cans.
- ACTIVITIES! Give your guests something to do so they stay longer and have an easier time mingling with people they’ve just met. Dust off your old cornhole boards and rab a cheap bocce or horseshoes set. Hell, just put out a deck of cards and a few dice and see what people do with ‘em– BBQ guests are an innovative people. Games are great icebreakers, and everyone loves a little competition.
Nothing screams warm weather like a hot, juicy burger or a cool ‘n’ tangy pickleback shot. Luckily for us, Mathew Ramsey–the self-proclaimed Burger Pervert behind the epic foodporn site PornBurger & the recently released mouthwatering cookbook of the same name found an ingenious way to combine both. He let us in on the method to his madness with an exclusive recipe for his latest, The Pickleback. Take it away, perv…
What does a phallus patty of pickled goodness have to do with whiskey anyway? Turns out: everything. If you aren’t already familiar with the pickleback, you’re only hurting yourself. The concept is simple: a shot of whiskey, followed by a shot of pickle juice. For this week’s burger, I’ve changed the game but kept the rules the same. A shot of whiskey, followed by a mouthful of fried pickle, spicy cabbage slaw, beer-braised pork cheek, and a naughty cheddar-beer sauce. Hold onto your butts.
RECIPE (Makes 5 Sandwiches)
6 shots of whiskey (traditionally Old Crow or Jameson are used for picklebacks, but feel free to mix it up)
1 ½ lb of pork cheek (available for purchase from Harvey’s Market at Union Market)
½ cup of flour
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
½ tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
½ tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
½ red onion, quartered
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, smashed
4 guajillo chilies
1 pint of pork stalk (available for purchase at Red Apron Butchery)
½ can of DC Brau Corruption IPA
1 teaspoon of juniper berries
1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
½ orange, quartered
1 bay leaf
8 sprigs of cilantro
6 sprigs of thyme
kosher salt to taste
Purple Cabbage Slaw
2 ½ cups of purple cabbage, shredded
1 jalapeno, minced
½ red onion, diced
1 tablespoon of sesame seeds, toasted
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted
1 tablespoon siracha
2 tablespoons of cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 ½ limes, juiced
salt and pepper to taste
DC Brau Corruption IPA, Cheddar Cheese Sauce (h/t Chow.com)
½ cup of cold DC Brau Corruption IPA
14 grams of sodium citrate (available for purchase on Amazon)
13 ounces of white sharp cheddar, shredded (5-6 cups)
Fried Gordy’s Pickle Jar Hot Chili Spears, Pickle “Patty”
1 jar of Gordy’s Hot Chili Spears, halved and drained on paper towels
½ cup ap flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup of ap flour
1 cup of corn flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of cumin
½ teaspoon of cayenne
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 can of DC Brau Corruption IPA (12 oz.)
season with salt and pepper to taste
peanut oil for frying
5 Soft Rolls
Go out and buy ‘em. Treat yo’self.
(I used pretzel, but ol’ fashioned dinner rolls would perfect too!)
Procedure, Pt. 1
1.) Pour a shot of whiskey, and drink it. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F.
2.) Combine the flour, salt, and black pepper in small bowl.
3.) Remove any remaining silver skin from each of the cheeks, and lightly dredge in the flour mixture.
4.) Sear each side of the cheeks, in a large pot over high heat (I prefer cast iron). Once browned, set aside and allow the meat to rest. You can do this in rounds, if need be.
5.) In the same pot, over medium heat, sauté the onions and celery in olive oil. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
6.) Once the onions begin to soften, add the garlic and the chilies, stirring as needed. Continue to cook until the garlic becomes fragrant.
7.) Add the pork stock, beer, juniper berries, peppercorns, orange slices, bay leaf, cilantro, and thyme. You can add more beer (or water) to makes sure the pork cheeks are fully submerge.
8.) Bring everything to a boil and cover the pot with tin foil. Put the pot in the oven and braise for about 3½ hrs. or until the cheeks are incredibly tender.
Procedure, Pt. 2
1.) To make the pickle “patty,” you are going to skewer three spear halves with two toothpicks (one from left and one from the right).
2.) To make the “patty” nice and compact, the two outside pickles should be facing up and the middle one, facing down. Repeat until you’re out of spears.
3.) Set the “patties” aside on paper towels, allowing them to drain. The last thing you want is hot oil splattering in your face as you deep-fry these fellas.
Procedure, Pt. 3
1.) For the purple cabbage slaw, mix and combine all of the ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.
2.) Set aside and allow the flavors to meld as you begin prepping the next components.
Procedure, Pt. 4
1.) For the dry pickle dredge, combine the flour, salt , and pepper.
2.) To make the beer batter, combine the all purpose flour, corn flour, baking powder, cumin, cayenne, egg, beer, and seasoning in a medium sized bowl. Whisk the batter until all of the ingredients are fully incorporated.
Procedure, Pt. 5
1.) In a medium sized pot, over medium heat, bring the cold beer to a simmer and add the sodium citrate, stirring until dissolved.
2.) Gradually add the cheese, one cup at a time, stirring until emulsified.
3.) Using an immersion blender, pulse the sauce. This will help make a super creamy texture. Keep warm over very low heat, stirring occasionally.
Procedure, Pt. 6
1.) Once the pork cheeks finish braising, remove them from the braising liquid, allowing them to cool slightly.
2.) Once you can safely handle the cheeks with your hands, shred them using your fingers, and place in a bowl with a little bit of the braising broth. This will keep the meat nice and succulent.
Procedure, Pt. 7
1.) In a medium pot, heat the peanut oil (enough to cover the pickles) to 375 degrees F. It’s important to keep the oil hot or your pickles will get mushy.
2.) Dredge the pickles in the flour mixture and then fully submerge into the beer batter.
3.) Carefully place the pickles into the hot oil and fry, until golden brown. Use tongs to gently handle the patties, as they’re a little fragile.
4.) Drain the pickle patties on paper towel and allow them to cool and crisp.
5.) Using the tongs again, take the fried pickle patties and once again submerge them into the beer batter and then the hot oil. That’s right, we’re double frying these dudes. Once fried to a golden crisp, remove them from the oil, and once again drain on paper towel.
Procedure, Pt. 8
1.) Time to assemble. Warm your rolls in the oven.
2.) Pour yourselves some shots of whiskey.
3.) On each roll, place a healthy portion of cabbage slaw, followed the pickle patty (toothpicks removed), pork cheek, and then smother in the cheese sauce.
Procedure, Pt. 9
1.) Toast, shoot, and devour.
And there you have it, grill fans. Have any tips or tricks we missed? Let us know in the comments.