Fire 'em up

May 21, 2003|by ANDREA ROWLAND

To grill or not to grill? For Roger Martin, that's rarely ever the question.

"I grill all year long," said Martin, owner of Penn Avenue Meats in Hagerstown.

With the onset of warmer weather and Memorial Day weekend, many other Tri-State area residents likely will fire up their gas grills and stoke the flames in their kettle cookers and hibachis to cook tasty meals over open flames. And in Big Green Eggs.

The egg-shaped ceramic grill is marketed as the "World's Best Smoker and Grill." The Egg, which is a new take on the ancient Oriental Kamado cooker, has been a big hit with serious outdoor cooks, said Dave Imwold, who sells Eggs at Shawley's Superior LP Gas in Hagerstown.

"There's nothing like an Egg. They burn hotter and faster than anything else," Imwold said. "They're amazing."

The Egg works like a kiln, heating to 1,000 degrees. And it cooks the best steak Imwold has ever eaten, he said.


Once the grill's temperature has reached 700 degrees, throw a handful of Jack Daniels wood chips on the fire. Put steaks sliced 3/4- to 1-inch thick on the grill and close the lid. Wait one minute before lifting the lid and flipping the meat. Shut the lid for another minute before flipping the steaks again. Close the lid, shut the grill's top and bottom air flow controls, and smoke the steaks for two minutes. Remove the medium-cooked steaks from the grill.

"It's the tastiest food you'll ever eat in your life," Imwold said.

Steaks and other meats should be removed from the refrigerator about a half-hour before grilling. That way, it doesn't take as long for the meat to cook to its correct internal temperature, Martin said. He also suggested:

  • Creating a cooking log for your grill. Since all grills cook differently, it's important to know how long it takes for your grill to cook meats to the right temperature. Just about every cookbook contains temperature charts. Creating a log helps grillers avoid continually stabbing meat - releasing juices - with meat thermometers.

  • Avoid grilling sugary marinades, which burn. Instead, heat these marinades on the stove top and pour over grilled food before serving.

  • Use ground chuck that's about 85-percent lean for hamburgers. It won't shrink or cause burger-burning flames.

  • Mix about half a pack of onion soup mix into two pounds of ground chuck for hamburgers. The dry soup mix contains beef bouillon, which makes it especially good in hamburgers.

  • Keep burgers to about 1/2-inch thick so they cook more quickly without drying.

  • Only turn burgers and steaks once, when they are three-quarters finished cooking. Each flip causes flame-ups.

  • Cook chicken with skin facing up so it doesn't catch fire. Turn chicken skin down for last third of cooking time.

  • Cook on foil to save on cleanup time and keep seasonings close to food. The foil will not affect food's grilled and smoked flavor.

  • Remove meat from the grill when its internal temperature registers about 10 degrees below its desired final temperature. Quickly wrap the meat tightly in foil and let it rest for about 10 minutes. The meat will continue to cook in the foil and retain juices.

    Just as important as grilling meats and vegetables to perfection, Martin said, is grilling with creativity. Trade burgers for shish kebabs made with fresh vegetables and chicken or beef. Substitute grilled pork chops for steaks. Move the hot dogs over to make room for lamb chops.

    "Try not to get in a rut and do the same thing every time - especially this early in the season," Martin said.

    Russell Schwartz, former owner of the Old South Mountain Inn in Boonsboro and creator of Russell's Famous Pork Seasoning, added a few grilling tips of his own:

  • Make sure the coals are white-hot before grilling.

  • Don't let the flames kiss the meat unless you like your food to taste burned. Studies have also linked charred food to cancer because carcinogens called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are formed and deposited onto food by smoke or flame-ups that char or blacken it, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research.

  • Never flatten grilling burger patties with a spatula because doing so squeezes the juices from the meat.

"And always use Russell's Famous Pork Seasoning. It's great on everything," said Schwartz, whose seasoning is sold locally at the Wal-Mart Superstore in Hagerstown, Pittman's Grocery in Hancock, The Butcher Shoppe in Chambersburg, Pa., and Sunnyway Foods in Chambersburg and Greencastle, Pa.

Use one level teaspoon of seasoning per pound of ground beef, pork, turkey and chicken, Schwartz said.

Penn Avenue Meats' Barbecued Pork Spareribs

  • 5 pound pork ribs

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar

  • 1 1/4 tablespoons dry mustard

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 teaspoon ginger

  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce

  • 1 cup orange juice

  • 2 tablespoons onion, minced

  • 3 tablespoons parsley

  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

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