I’m starting to figure out that grilling season is most enjoyable in the shoulder seasons. It’s cooler, there are fewer bugs, and the fire is a welcome heat. Grilling over fire in the heat of July is cool if you feel like melting your face off to get dinner going. Especially if you need to be standing in the sun to get the job done. So a-grilling-I-have-gone this spring. Can I still call it spring? I think so, if folks in the province are still getting frost.
Top seasonal grilling item? Last year’s chickens are long gone and this year’s are but wee chicks. The braising roasts, confit cuts, and bacon sides have been pillaged through the winter in some form of comfort food or another. What’s left are largely lean cuts for steaks – beef rib steaks from my front quarter, pork chops, and all kinds of game cuts fit for the grill. Aw, darn.
As I’ve been doing a lot of it lately, some thoughts on how to grill game successfully: First, try to let it not be super-cold inside before it meets fire. Let your meat warm up at room temp for a while [without throwing food safety out the window]. Instead of oiling the grill – a nasty and never effective job, especially ineffective when the grill is over wood fire – I like to lightly oil the cut with a neutral oil. My neutral oil of choice right now is canola, as the fields around here get yellow with it in a couple months, so I figure it just makes good sense. Season well with salt and pepper. Now meat, meet fire. A hot part of the grill is good – sear is good, as you’re not looking for a slow cook here. The next bit always requires judgement on the part of they who are manning the meat: don’t overcook it. Babysit it. Press it gently to determine doneness as you go – one of the experience-required-skills of cookery. Try to get it off the grill just pre-the doneness you’d want, and let it rest for quite a few minutes. Optimally, slice and season to taste with salt. Not complicated, but omit any of those parts and you may end up with sub-optimal results.
Give wood fire grilling a shot. You may not go back. I haven’t.