If you've got a backyard grill at home, now's the time to haul it out. Cooking outdoors is a great way to spice up summer meals; it's also an opportunity to get the guys in your life involved in feeding the family.
Last year, NPR reported that men are more than twice as likely as women to be the primary griller in a household. In a 2010 story on the grilling gender divide, Forbes writer Meghan Casserly offered her theories on why men prefer cooking on an open flame.
Among them: danger. "Grilling is exciting," she wrote. "You've got lighter fluid, a match, a breeze and a miniature pitchfork to stab things with."
The gender bias holds true in my life. I've changed a flat tire more often (twice) than I've grilled a steak. And, though I'll happily eat anything my husband grills, he's no Bobby Flay. So I went searching for a local dad to give me a few grilling tips. I found Max Holzman on the playground of my kids' school.
With his beard, tattooed forearms and Harley Davidson ring, Holzman fit the grill master part. He also graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and went on to cook in restaurants in the Berkshires and New York City. He's currently a stay-at-home dad who serves as executive chef for his Chittenden County family, which includes his wife, who works full time, and their two kids, both under 10.
He offered this tip for getting kids to eat: Put food on a stick. You don't even have to cook the food on a stick, just as long as it ends up on one. "You're probably adding 50 percent to your consumption if it has a stick in it," he advised.
Holzman grills year-round on a Weber Genesis gas grill. He told me he prefers a cast-iron cooking rack because it conducts heat evenly and sears well. Searing "is the key to cooking any sort of meat, so the juices stay inside," he said.
Then he pulled out his phone and scrolled to a photo of a recent grilled meal he cooked up: salmon resting atop a timbale of sticky rice next to asparagus spears perched like shingles on lightly charred corn. "I still do plate presentation at every meal," he explained.
According to Holzman, the keys to successful grilling include fresh ingredients, sharp knives, cleanliness and organization. Have a plan to take you from the supermarket — or your local farmers market — to the table. Then, oil the grill rack so food releases easily. And be sure to preheat. High heat produces a nice crust, he said.
Time to marinate? Twelve to 24 hours is ideal, but even 10 minutes to an hour adds flavor, he said. For steak, try rosemary leaves and garlic in olive oil. Also: Flank steak and steak tips tend to be less expensive, but just as flavorful, as other cuts.
For pork, Holzman recommended a dry rub — kosher salt, black pepper, cumin, smoked paprika and a bit of cayenne. "I tend to experiment," he said. Rub it on and grill immediately so the rub stays dry and forms a crust. For chicken, try lemon and garlic or lemon, soy and garlic. Let it sit — or not. "I go for sort of the quick marinades," Holzman said, or no marinade at all so that the meat itself is the dominant flavor.
Fired up yet?
Grilling doesn't have to be complicated. Max Holzman can get this salmon prepped and on the table in about 45 minutes:
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