Grilling: America’s pastime

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Thinking back to childhood and straight into adulthood the coming of warm weather meant one thing – the return of the cookout.

Grilling is an American tradition as families and friends all across the country gather at a location of choice and partake in some fine food cooked on the grill as well as some tasty beverages. No matter the food or drink that is prepared and shared one thing is for sure, and that is a good time is had by all.

As an adult I believe most men and some women will say they are the best cook when it comes to grilling out and their way of grilling is the only way. I am here to set things straight. There is no wrong way to grill if the end result is what the cook set out to create.

When it comes to grilling food there are a number of steps one has to follow before the cooking begins. The first question confronting those new to grilling is what kind of grill to use with such options as charcoal, gas or wood-fired grills. The choice of grill is left up to the one who will use the equipment the most. Everyone has an opinion but there is no wrong choice since this is a matter of preference. Personally, I will choose a wood-fired grill whenever one is available.

For today’s column, I am using the gas grill my wife bought me for my birthday.

Once the grill is chosen, it is time to select the food. Everything from fruit and vegetables to steak and seafood can be prepared on the grill, and pizza has experienced a surge in popularity for being cooked on the grill in the last few years.

In my opinion, there is nothing better than a fat, juicy rib-eye steak cooked medium rare, a nice side of grilled asparagus and a refreshing mojito to wash it all down. My mouth is watering just typing this out.

After deciding on the cut of meat for grilling, it is time to consider seasonings. People everywhere have their own ideas including everything from ancient family recipes to just a good old dose of Montreal Steak Seasoning. I go a different direction with a preference for just a little salt and pepper.

The first thing I do is pull the steaks from the package and let them sit out and bring them up to room temperature. I then fire up the grill. Once the grill is up to temperature and clean, I salt and pepper my steaks and gently lay them on the grill.

After about two minutes, I lift the steak from the grill and turn it approximately 20 degrees and sit it back on the grilling surface in hopes to see those magical grilling cross marks when I flip it. I let the steak cook about another two minutes after turning and then I flip it over and repeat the cooking process. I prefer my steaks medium rare where others eat them well done so cook times will vary.

Once the steak is cooked to my likeness I remove it and let it rest. Do not cut into the steak too soon because that lets all the liquid goodness run out all over the platter.

Let’s talk about the side dish. Grilled asparagus can be a tricky vegetable to cook on the grill. Asparagus burns if the heat is too high, but if it is too low, the cook will be there to see Rumplestiltskin wake up before they finish. When prepared correctly asparagus stalks become salty crispy bursts of delightfulness to the taste buds.

To prepare asparagus melt about a half-pound of unsalted butter. I add some coarse salt to the melted butter. I then place the asparagus onto the grill and let them start to cook. After a few minutes, I roll them around and baste them with my butter and salt mixture. I continue moving the asparagus around the grill and basting them until the desired softness is achieved. I like them with just a little snap left.

To finish I like to sip on a clean, refreshing mojito while eating my grilled steak and asparagus. The combination of food and drink really does not matter. The real importance here is the bonds made between family and friends while enjoying themselves through the warm days of the year by gathering for one of America’s truly great pastimes, the cookout.