Taggrill

On The Side…

[NOTE: This is a sponsored post from STOK Grills.]

On a grill, it’s usually meats that take center stage. One of the reasons I wanted to get into grilling with this particular model was the ability to do a full meal at the grill – no more running inside and outside to keep up with a pan on the stove and a steak on the grill. (I’ve done it. It’s aerobic.) Here are some of the grilled sides I’ve been able to make at the same time.

Preparing mushrooms - Spoon & Knife

Clean, quarter, and oil mushrooms.

Grilled Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. white mushrooms
  • Olive oil to generously coat
  • Salt

Instructions

  1. Clean the mushrooms, remove stems, and quarter.
  2. Toss the mushrooms in olive oil until well coated and season with salt.
  3. Preheat grill with vegetable tray insert.
  4. Lay mushrooms in a single layer in the vegetable tray and roast, stirring occasionally, until browned and tender.
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I do have to say, two things stuck out to me. One, it’s such an ingrained habit to be able to pick up a pan and toss the mushrooms – which isn’t really possible with the tray insert. (The insert handle that comes with the grill is great, but I didn’t want to risk it.) Two, olive oil is flammable. There were plenty of flames. Christine kept lowering the camera and saying “Umm…” with concern to the amount of smoke involved. No, the mushrooms didn’t taste burnt, but next time I might cook them with less direct heat and more indirect heat – lower the burners under the mushrooms and crank up the other side.

Flame Roasted Broccoli - Spoon & Knife

Flame Roasted Broccoli

FLAME ROASTED BROCCOLI:
(what doesn’t sound cooler as “flame roasted”?)
2-3 broccoli crowns, cut into florets, larger ones split in half
2-3 cloves of garlic, slivered
Olive oil, salt

Toss the broccoli and garlic in enough oil to shine (not soaked) and season.
Preheat grill with veggie tray insert.
Lay broccoli in a single layer on the tray and cook, stirrring occasionally, until tender and browned.

This was good, but goes a bit into “this is why we test recipes first” category, which is why I still want to include it now. I know how to roast broccoli, and by now I have a decent sense of how the grill cooks, but I haven’t really translated all my indoor tricks to the outdoor kitchen yet.

Long story short, while I liked the broccoli well enough, Christine wasn’t yet a fan. Part of it is heat management – it went dark and lightly charred on the outside before it got completely tender. It was good, and had a bit of crunch. But the biggest issue was “torch taste”.

Torch flavors are a side effect of any gas flame. The exact science has been written about elsewhere, but it has to do with the compounds that form when food and natural gas burn. It’s very distinctive. Personally, I don’t mind a little of it here and there. Christine found it inedible. If you’ve ever had gas grilled food that tasted like, well, gas? That’s torch taste.

Similar to the mushrooms, the fix is to drop the direct heat on the broccoli. I had all four burners cranked on high to keep the temperature up with the lid closed, but that meant there was a LOT of direct heat on the broccoli in the pan. Lowering the flame under the broccoli would help it cook more evenly and without the torch taste char. Bear that in mind when you try this at home.

Cooking – it’s a constant educational experience. Enjoy the journey!

Grilled Steak Shootout

[NOTE: This is a sponsored post from STOK Grills.]

Grilled steak. As iconic Americana goes, that’s right about at the top with Norman Rockwell’s Thanksgiving feast. And like so many shared cultural foods, if you ask ten people the best way to grill a steak, you’ll get twelve surefire answers. I wanted to set up a little side-by-side shootout for myself, to decide a) what works best for me, and b) whether I could finally grill a steak without overcooking it.

Steak Contestants - Spoon & KnifeThe contenders are bone-in strip steaks each clocking in right around 16 ounces. I don’t mess around with steak.

I wanted to try three methods:
• Grilling lid closed, single flip.
• Grilling lid open, single flip.
• Grilling lid open, constant flip.

While getting to know the grill again, I’ve found that foods cook more evenly with the lid closed. This makes me a bit twitchy as a cook. I firmly believe that when you put heat to food, for the most part you leave it alone – I don’t stand there and poke and prod food in the pan. However, I do have use of all my senses – sight, smell, sound, touch, and when appropriate taste – to know how food is cooking. Is it cooking faster than usual? Unevenly? Ready to toss, turn, or flip? Cooking times are at best approximate – if I tell you to grill a steak for two minutes, I don’t mean precisely-to-the-second, because there are so many variables to consider.

Steak Oiled For Grill - Spoon & Knife

Oiled and salted for the grill.

Cooking with the lid down is like the scene in Star Wars when Luke Skywalker practices lightsaber use against a floating drone with the helmet’s blast shield down. It’s blindfolded cooking. You can kind of hear the food cooking, and you can generally smell it, but you can’t see it without opening up the grill, and doing that drops the surrounding temperature.

Still, it’s hard to argue with results, and in all the recipe testing I’ve done, I’m getting better results with the lid closed. All the instruction books say to do that (that I’ve seen, not just from STOK), and why argue with a manufacturer?

Open Grill Side By Side - Spoon & Knife

Open Grill methods, Side by Side

For the grill open test, I had two techniques to consider. One school of thought is to only touch the steak once (three times if you twist it for diamond grill marks), and otherwise? Leave. It. Alone. I generally follow this kind of rule on the cooktop.

The other technique is a constant flip. By flipping every 20-30 seconds, you’re in effect pulsing the direct heat hitting the steak, the argument being that the steak will cook more evenly (less of a band of grey overcooked steak around the center). I haven’t tried this before, although I certainly get the arguments.

STEAK MASTER RECIPE:
One steak (I like strip, ribeye, or sirloin; try for 1″ to 1-1/2″ thick)
Salt
Oil

Just before putting on a hot grill, season the steak with salt and brush a thin film of oil on.
Grill steak. On a hot grill, this is roughly 3:30 per side for medium rare, but that really depends on many factors – use an instant read thermometer to be certain.

Steak Results - Spoon & Knife

Clockwise from top left/top: open/single flip, open/continuous flip, closed/single flip.

The results? Better grill marks are observed on the closed lid steak. The constant flip did cook more evenly to the edges, and seared more evenly – no time to develop grill marks. The open lid single flip had the largest gray band of overdone meat around the outside. And flavor? All three were fantastic, although Christine and I tended to prefer the closed-lid steak (and I’ll work on my timing to keep from overcooking).

Of course, it never hurts to finish the grilled steak with a little lemon brown butter, alongside some grilled broccoli… but those are another post.

Seen in this post:

Grilled Steak

Ingredients

  • One 16 oz. strip steak, about 1" thick

Instructions

  1. Dry the outside of the steak and preheat the grill.
  2. Salt the steak and brush on a thin layer of oil
  3. Place steak on grill and close cover. Cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Rotate steak 45 degrees (diamond hash marks) and cook for 1 minute 30 seconds more.
  5. Flip steak and repeat.
  6. Let steak rest at least 10 minutes before cutting and eating.

Notes

NOTE: Cooking times are very approximate. Judge for yourself or, better, use an instant read thermometer.

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