It’s grilling season and you have questions to ask the butcher. We have answers — about cuts people don’t think to grill and about how to lighten up meals in hot weather. Josh Applestone also gives his tips for keeping meats moist on the grill. Read on. And if you want to ask the butcher anything, drop us a line.
What’s an unusual cut you like to grill? I always grill steaks and I’m looking to try something new.
Try split lamb shanks. They have marrow running through the shanks. You just have to cook them for a while. Get a French steel pan, put them in there with potatoes, onions, and carrots. Drizzle olive oil and salt. Cover it or don’t cover it, it doesn’t really matter. The key here is indirect heat. If you have a charcoal grill, do your heat on one side. If you’re using a gas grill, keep one side off. Then leave it there in indirect heat for two or three hours and see what happens. I can tell you what will happen: It’s going to be caramelized and delicious. The marrow will run out and baste everything. The olive oil and the salt will pull everything out. It’s in a pan, so that will catch everything and it’s not going to cause a fire. You’ll have to add more charcoal at some point, but basically it’s 275 to 300 degrees for a few hours. If you are patient, you can make the toughest cuts the most buttery thing ever. Eat it as is or pull it to make a shred to use later.
I’ve been eating too much. How should I lighten things up?
At this time of year, I’m eating everything with salad. I like crunchy salads. Mixed lettuces, too. I do whatever is organic and local and I always have a variety of stuff in a salad. I like to chop it small; it’s easier to chew. We’re talking about woody stems and fiber. It looks pretty, too. Also, you can grill anything, not just meat. It’s all about fresh vegetables. I don’t cover my vegetables in oil before I grill. That can cause fire. I do use fresh herbs and spices and drizzle olive oil once they’re done. The Hudson Valley is known for its bounty — fresh corn, onions, broccoli, asparagus. I grill it all. Plus, it makes it less hot in the house.
Sometimes I dry meat out when I’m grilling and smoking. Any tips to keep it moist?
Some people like it dry, depending on what they’re cooking. I grew up with dry chicken. Now, I like to keep things so moist my kid refers to chicken breasts as “white steak.” For keep whatever you’re cooking moist — brisket, pork ribs, anything — get a pan and put some water in your grill. Next to the heat, not over the heat. It will slowly evaporate over time. It makes the air humid. It’s called a wet bowl effect. The humidity evenly distributes heat through the meat, helping it retain moisture and cook more evenly. For a water pan, I use a cast iron cornbread pan, but you could easily just put some water in an aluminum foil or metal pan. When I’m smoking during the winter, I use with snow and ice. It evens out the heat while giving moisture.
Another way to keep things moist is to spray your meat with diluted apple juice or cider — fifty fifty — in a hand spray bottle. Spray a few times as you cook, how many times depends on the cooking time, but it’s not very often. Some people also use liquidy sauce as a light mop, but if it has sugar in it, you do risk burning.
If you’ve dried something out, maybe something that didn’t have a lot of fat in it, you can always add sauce later (try these recipes to make your own). We’ve all been there.