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Chef Adam's Grilling Tips: Choosing Meats & Seasonings

If you saw the Naperville Sun feature on Chef Adam Tanner, you know he loves to grill. Here's Part 2 of Chef Adam's grilling tips. And if you missed Part 1, you'll find it here
Want more? Join Chef Adam for a grilling demo, discussion and 3-course meal  3-5 p.m. Saturday, May 19. Limited to just 20 participants @ $40 each. Reserve your spot at 630-718-1010.

CityGate Grille Executive Chef Adam Tanner is back with his second installment of tips to make the most of your grilling season:

Get a BBB (Best-Bud Butcher) before your BBQ: There’s that old saying, “It’s not what you know but who you know,” and I’ll halfway agree. What you know matters a lot. But it also helps to get to know your local butcher, whether at a specialty shop or behind the meat counter at your nearby grocery store. They can help you find the best quality and freshest meat available, answer most of your questions and help you decide on what to buy when you are planning a barbecue or dinner party. Also, they may let you in on “butcher cuts” – meat you won’t see in the display case – that tend to be more tender and flavorful, and better priced, than many popular cuts.

Choose Wisely: Picking the right cut isn’t so cut and dry. The cut of meat you select will impact cook time, flavor and juiciness. If simply grilling a steak, a lean filet will be more tender, but the fattier ribeye more flavorful. So ask your butcher for a thin-cut filet to cut cook time and prevent dryness, and a thicker cut ribeye as it can withstand longer cooking thanks to its fatty content. If you can’t decide, a New York strip is a good in-between choice. And when it comes to pork or lamb, keep in mind that more fat tends to equal a tougher cut.

As for the bone in or out debate, it may be easier to serve and to eat bone-out meats, but bone marrow is packed with flavor that will enhance the taste when you cook and serve bone-in cuts, especially chicken.

Grades Count: Prime grade beef, the kind we serve at CityGate Grille, is produced from young, well-fed cattle. Choice grade is high quality, but has less marbling than Prime. Select grade is very uniform in quality and typically leaner, but it’s a less flavorful lower grade than top-quality Prime or high-quality Choice. When selecting beef, pork or lamb, your Prime and Choice grades typically can be grilled for a flavorful meal with little extra effort. Select grade meats, however, may need a flavor boost via a marinade or cooking it wrapped in a fatty product, such as bacon.

Make the Grade: Marbling, the intermingling or dispersion of fat within the meat, is the primary factor in determining quality grade. Specifically, meat graders evaluate the amount of marbling in the ribeye muscle when they cut beef between the 12th and 13th rib to grade meat. Look for, or ask your butcher, for marbling to match your need; more flavorful or less fat. Also be sure to select or ask for steaks with no veins or silver skin, which will cause meat to become chewy. Remember, marbling is not just something you look for when it comes to beef; pork will have marbling and so will lamb

Soak or Rub: No, we didn't just switch to laundry tips. Whether to use a marinade or dry rub, and how to decide which to use when, is something I'm often asked. I say marinate cheaper cuts of beef, chicken and seafood since they tend to have lower fat content and will more quickly become dry when cooking. That said, remember marinade won't make meat more tender but it will keep it moist. Dry rub, also known as dry seasoning, is ideal for adding your own special flavor to moist Prime and Choice meats. My go-to seasoning mix is salt, fresh cracked pepper, a little brown sugar, chili powder and crushed red pepper flakes. If you choose to buy pre-mixed seasoning, check how much salt is in the mix. it can be surprisingly high. Salt, and high-salt mixed seasoning, should be added just before cooking because it will start to draw moisture and, if added too early, dry out your meat.
Wishing you a happy grilling season and when you don't feel like cooking, we'd love to see you at The Grille!