By Bruce Stambaugh
A trio of local Amish country grilling aficionados shared a few tips on how to ensure your summer grilling efforts are successful. Here’s what they recommend.
1. Plan your menu.
This may sound pretty obvious, but with today’s varying diets and preferences, there’s a lot to pick from. According to our local experts, you can grill your entire meal if you want.
Rueben Erb, owner of Sugar Valley Meats, Sugarcreek, Ohio, Roy Weaver, general manager of Weaver Furniture, Sugarcreek, and Ray Haas, owner of Shreve Custom Meats, Shreve, Ohio, each had excellent suggestions for successful grilling. In fact, Haas posts recipes online.
What you grill, including vegetables, all depends on your personal preferences. But they all agreed that planning is the important first step.
2. Prepare the food.
Another step that gets overlooked is preparing the food. Too many people simply want to light the fire, throw the meat on and take it off when it looks like it’s done. There is a lot to do before ignition.
Weaver is extremely particular about how he prepares his fillet. Just ask Erb.
“I have people ask for ‘Roy’s cut’ all the time,” he said. When they do, Erb knows exactly what they want, a two and a quarter inch thick piece of well-marbled fillet.
Besides how it’s cut, Weaver follows a lockstep method of seasoning the fillet.
“Meat should always be at room temperature before you season it and definitely before you grill it,” Weaver said.
Once it’s ready Weaver adds his own sequence of herbs and seasonings. He continues the seasoning during cooking, along with basting the meat with melted butter. The result is what he refers to as a crusted steak.
Haas’ approach is more basic. He just uses garlic salt to season his sirloin steak, a cut he said is overlooked by many people because it is generally a cheaper cut of meat.
With the advent of gas grills, people turned to rubs and liquid barbeque sauces to add flavor, according to Erb. He said that skinless chicken breast should be marinated prior to grilling, while chicken with skin should have the sauce applied during the cooking.
3. Use the right tools.
To ensure both excellent results and safe cooking, Weaver said it is important to use the correct tools when grilling. For example, Weaver uses two different wood cutting blocks when he grills, one for preparation, the other to use for the cooked food.
He also uses tongs to turn the meat with ease. A sharp knife, stainless spatula, a brush for basting, a timer and an apron are always at his ready, too.
Erb said using a meat thermometer is essential to know that whatever you are cooking is hot enough at its center.
4. Choose your fire.
In today’s grilling world, there are lots of choices. Our three experts each had their own preferences.
Erb prefers to grill using a wood fire, even though it takes up to two hours to get the fire hot enough to cook. He uses hickory or apple to get that smoky flavor in the food that gas grills can’t provide.
Haas enjoys a mix of charcoal and wood for his grill, also for added flavor.
Weaver uses an infrared grill, which he preheats the grill to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit before putting on the meat.
5. Properly grill your food.
Regardless of which method you choose, half the fun is in the grilling. All three agreed that time and temperature were critical in ensuring that the other half, eating, was as much fun.
The methods vary according to meat selection, the fire you have chosen and your own personal preference on how well you like your meat, chicken or fish cooked.
Haas said he uses cast iron grates on which to grill. “Once the meat releases, I flip it,” he said. “It’s done when the other side releases.”
Each advised grilling vegetables in aluminum foil. Use salt, pepper and olive oil to season the veggies and keep them moist. Weaver said it is important to watch the vegetables so they don’t overcook. For fish, Erb recommended taking the fish off once it begins to flake.
Whatever your taste palette desires, summer is the time to satisfy it by grilling. Following simple but important steps can make your efforts all the more enjoyable.
This article first appeared in the Holmes County Bargain Hunter, June 14, 2010.