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Labor Day Grillin’ Tips

By Jamie Deen

It’s almost Labor Day!  Is your grill ready?

Labor Day is near the top of my favorite holidays. It’s the beginning of my very favorite season of the year—fall.

Ah, fall. The boys are in school, the Bulldogs are playing in Athens, and our temperatures here in Savannah may dip down into the 80’s. It’s also the opening of grilling season in earnest. I enjoy grilling all year round, but the shorter days and cooler afternoons call me outside more often, and I always discover a new piece of meat or technique.

There are proven rules of grilling as there are in all cooking, but the learning curve can be steep. Overcooking some pasta, breaking a sauce or losing a few dollars worth of chicken doesn’t quite have the sting of seeing a high-cut steak come out looking like a charcoal briquette.

Today I’m sharing a few simple tips that I’ve had success with while grilling. Grilling is fun and exciting and delicious—it’s also cooking with fire. Success will be judged by the result of each outing.

What’s your dinner plan? Meat, chicken, beef, fish, or vegetables? Preparing them on the grill can elevate all of these, but each demands certain techniques and equipment.

For today, lets stay simple. NY Strip. The first step starts at the butcher shop or your local grocery store. Look for a bright, fresh cut, and feel free to ask the counterperson for guidance or a fresh cut if your options appear sub par. I look for enough marbling, i.e. fat, but not an excessive amount. Fat equals flavor, and while a filet is going to be very tender, it lacks the fat that melts away leaving the deep beefy flavor that folks crave.

Season the meat with salt and pepper—I prefer coarse kosher salt and cracked pepper—and leave the meat out on the counter covered with foil or a paper towel. This is important. You want the temperature of the steak to be the same throughout. A cold center is going to cook slower and throw off your desired doneness.

Head out to clean your grill and get the fire going. Charcoal obviously takes time to burn off while gas is hot from the jump; with either method, a clean grill is essential. You can find any number of pads or machines or brushes, but I usually wad up a yard of tinfoil into a ball, and it works nicely

When your grill is ready, find a nice hot spot to put the meat and park it. Don’t flip it, cut it, poke it or move it. Park it. Seal all the juices in by allowing a nice char to develop. After 4 or 5 minutes, it’s finally time to flip it and repeat this process. After you get both sides sealed, slide it over to a spot to slow cook with indirect heat.  After years of cooking, you will develop a feel for grilled meat and will be able to estimate the internal doneness. In the meantime, buy a digital thermometer. It will take the guesswork out and make for happier eaters.

The last tip is to allow your meat to rest after you remove it from the grill. During the cooking process, all the juice is drawn to the center, and by cutting into your steak too early, it releases all the juices onto the cutting board. Waiting another few minutes will allow the juice to work its way back evenly through the steak.

You could fill a library with all the books devoted to grilling, but these few tips will help you have a better grilled meal today. Grilling is a passionate hobby that can produce delicious results, so go as far as your grill demands.

Y’all have a safe and happy Labor Day! Until next time, Do Good Things.

Jamie Deen - Jamie Deen is an entrepreneur, businessman, author, and son of American cooking and lifestyle icon Paula Deen. Jamie has been an integral part of the now legendary business The Bag Lady – the famous sandwich delivery service that launched Paula Deen's success. Working with his mom and younger brother Bobby, Jamie delivered the "lunch-and-love-in-a-bag" that kick-started his mother's professional cooking career in Savannah, Georgia.

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