With Memorial Day right around the corner, many of you will be firing up the grill for the first time this season – or at least entertaining a crowd to celebrate the long weekend. To insure the best results from your cookout, I’ll don my “Kiss the Cook” apron this week and offer some grilling tips to make your life easier, happier and tastier.

The Fire

I’m a purist – charcoal is the way to go. I use a chimney starter. A handful of pine needles, as opposed to newspaper, under a tower of charcoal briquette and I’ve got cooking ready coals in about 20 minutes without the risk of charcoal lighter fluid taste.

When flames begin to appear out the top of the chimney, dump the coals into a pile that fills only half to one–third of your grill. Open the bottom vents, the top vents and put on the lid for about five minutes — we want the grill surface to get searing hot.

The Meat

Burgers: a little fat means flavor, and I like to add about 25 percent of the total weight in ground lamb for a hint of gaminess. Pat out burgers with minimal handling – larger than the buns you’re using to accommodate shrinkage. A quick thumbprint in the center of each burger’s top side will help reduce puffiness. Salt, pepper, then let sit for a few minutes at room temperature.

Steaks: I like a peppery dry rub, or at least lots of ground black pepper. Then let steaks sit to reach room temperature. That makes your cousin’s rare New York Strip nice and warm in its red center.

The Sear

Burgers or steaks go right onto the coal side of the grill for just a couple of minutes, then flip for another two minutes. Then move ’em off the heat, onto the “cool” side and put the lid back on the grill. No poking, prodding, mashing or torching.

For an average New York Strip or Ribeye, allow about 15–20 minutes to reach medium to medium–well, less for medium rare. Burgers get about the same amount of time. Remove your meat du jour and wrap in aluminum foil for another 15 minutes.

My late ex–father–in–law used to judge a grilling job by how many beers it takes – burgers and steaks, two beers; par–cooked ribs, four beers; chicken, 3–4 beers depending on the cut of chicken.

He was also a D–Day vet who escaped three times from German POW camps before being reported as KIA to his family. He returned from WWII very much alive and lived a very full, rich life filled with lots of grilled foods, cold beer and great friends.

This is his grandson’s first Memorial Day without him – we will both miss him.



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About The Author

Tim Rutherford

Tim Rutherford

Tim Rutherford grew up in rural Kentucky – then left home to pursue more than three decades as a photojournalist and newsman. A ground-breaking meal in New Orleans in 1979 set him on a path exploring food and wine. Six years ago he changed career paths – now spending his time writing about the people and places... more

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