No doubt about it, summer is time for grilling. It keeps the heat out of the house and adds a flavor to meals that cannot be replicated with indoor cooking.
I love to cook chicken, pork and shrimp on the grill, but my favorite is beef. It helps that we usually have a freezer stocked with it and ready to use at any time.
To get some expert beef grilling tips, I went to the Wisconsin Beef Council’s website, beeftips.com. To grill beef to perfection, follow these guidelines:
• Some grill experts emphasize the importance of bringing steaks to room temperature before grilling, but we don’t recommend it for food safety reasons. Plan on pulling the meat from the fridge, seasoning well, and getting started right away.
• Make sure your grill is clean (to prevent flare-ups) and the rack is well-oiled (to prevent sticking). If you’re using charcoal, follow the directions for how much you’ll need and how to build the charcoal pile. For gas grills, refer to the owner’s manual and set the grill to medium-high.
• Use an ovenproof or instant-read thermometer to monitor doneness, and let it go — don’t flip the steaks so much! One flip is usually all you need, but take care to avoid charring or burning and be ready to turn down the heat (or move to a cooler spot on the grill) if necessary. Keep in mind the internal temperature will continue to rise for a few minutes after coming off the grill.
• Here’s another step novice cooks often overlook: resting the meat before serving — even if you’re hungry. It’s seriously worth the wait, because it prevents all those tasty juices from draining onto your plate. For most grill-friendly cuts, about five minutes is enough.
• If you're slicing the steak before serving, be sure to go across the grain. There’s no shortage of tips for assembling a great burger. For steaks, we recommend topping them off with a compound butter or serving with a sauce.
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Grilled Chicken Gyros
Cucumber yogurt sauce:
3/4 C plain Greek yogurt
3 Tbsp sour cream
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried dill
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
3/4 cucumber, unpeeled and seeded, cut into thin and short matchsticks (about 3/4 cup)
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1.5 to 2 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/4 red onion, peeled and sliced thin
1 tomato, chopped
4 to 5 flatbread pitas (preferably without the pockets)
Cucumber yogurt sauce
Add yogurt, sour cream, vinegar, lemon juice and olive oil to a medium bowl. Whisk to combine. Add dried dill, salt and pepper and mix together thoroughly. Add cucumber and garlic and mix until combined. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
To make the chicken, heat oven to 350 degrees. Add olive oil, vinegar, oregano, salt, pepper, lemon juice and garlic to a large bowl. Take the chicken breasts and poke holes into each piece of chicken with a fork. Then, cut into 1.5-inch cubes. Add the chicken to the bowl with the marinade and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.
Heat a grill pan on medium-high for 5 minutes. Add the chicken and cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Remove chicken from the pan and allow to rest for at least 3 to 4 minutes. Wrap four to five flatbreads in a piece of foil and place in the oven for 5 to 6 minutes to heat through.
To serve, add lettuce, chopped tomatoes, sliced onions and cucumber yogurt sauce to each flatbread. Add chicken and more cucumber yogurt sauce on top. Wrap each in a piece of foil to make it less messy when eating. Serve immediately. Makes 4 to 5 servings. Recipe and photo courtesy of thelittlekitchen.com.
Grilled Vegetable Salad
4 medium ears sweet corn, husk and silk removed
4 small to medium yellow squash, ends trimmed, quartered lengthwise
2 medium zucchini, ends trimmed, quartered lengthwise
2 large red bell peppers, stems, seeds and any large ribs removed, and cut into 3 to 4 pieces each
1 large red onion, ends and skin removed, sliced into 3 to 4 large intact rings
1 lb asparagus, tough ends snapped off
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lb cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
Herby lemon vinaigrette
4 oz blue cheese, crumbled, or wide shavings of Parmesan
Herby Lemon Vinaigrette:
1 C freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice (or regular lemon juice)
1/3 to 1/2 C honey (use a bit more when using regular lemons)
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2/3 C extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp minced shallots
1 Tbsp minced fresh thyme
1/2 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Preheat grill to 400 degrees. Make sure grates are scrubbed clean and then oiled.
Place prepared corn, yellow squash, zucchini, bell pepper, onion, and asparagus on a large rimmed pan. The pan will be very full. Drizzle olive oil over all vegetables. Keep sliced rings of red onion intact, brushing the olive oil evenly over the cut surfaces.
With your hands, gently fold the rest of the vegetables until they are all nicely coated with the olive oil. Sprinkle vegetables fairly generously with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and fold again using your hands. Sprinkle one more time with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Depending on the size of the grill, you may need to grill in batches. Cooking times will vary with each of the vegetables, so check on them regularly and remove them when they're done to your liking. To give the ears of corn some char, set them on the hottest part of the grill to get some quick char, and then remove them. The asparagus cooks the fastest. Once the vegetables have charred and are cooked/softened to your liking, remove them back to the rimmed pan.
Once the vegetables have cooled enough to handle, cut the kernels from the corn and chop the rest of the vegetables into bite-size pieces, about an inch or so in size. Place everything into a large serving vessel. Add the tomatoes and fold everything together. Drizzle with a bit of the herby lemon vinaigrette, and then fold. Add more vinaigrette if needed. Sprinkle with Blue cheese. Serve just slightly warm or at room temperature. Makes 8 to 10 servings.
For the vinaigrette: In a medium bowl, whisk together lemon juice, honey and Dijon mustard. Add the olive oil and whisk again. Add shallots, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper. Whisk to combine. Place in a jar with a tight fitting lid, and then shake to combine. Serve over grilled vegetable salad. Recipe courtesy of afarmgirlsdabbles.com.
Lamb Burgers with Pesto Whipped Feta
1 lb ground lamb
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
For the whipped feta:
4 oz feta cheese, softened
1/4 C plain cream cheese
2 Tbsp milk
1 C fresh basil leaves
1 C arugula or spinach
1 garlic clove
1/4 C olive oil
To make the burgers, add all ingredients to a bowl, then mix it together with your hands. Once everything is combined, form the mixture into burgers. Heat the grill as you normally would, or heat a skillet with 2 tablespoons olive oil, then add the burgers and cook until the meat is done to your liking.
For the whipped feta: Add the basil, arugula, garlic and olive oil to a food processor and pulse until everything is combined. Add the feta, cream cheese, and milk and pulse until the pesto and feta are mixed together. You may need to pour everything into a bowl and stir by hand a bit if your processor won’t completely mix it.
To assemble, place burgers on a bun, then top with a spoonful of pesto whipped feta. Recipe and photo courtesy of thealmondeater.com.
Beer Cheese Burgers on Pretzel Buns
2 lbs ground beef
1 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Arugula (or your preferred lettuce)
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
8 oz beer
1/4 C milk
4 oz cream cheese
2 C sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
Caramelized beer onions and jalapeños:
2 Tbsp butter
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 to 2 jalapeños, thinly sliced
1 C beer
Place ground beef in a large bowl and add salt, pepper and Worcestershire. Use your hands to combine.
Form into 6 patties, 1/3 pound each. Place burger patties on a sheet pan and place in the refrigerator while you make the caramelized onions and jalapeños and beer cheese.
Melt butter in a large frying pan on medium heat; add onion and jalapeño. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions and jalapeños are soft and slightly caramelized, about 10 minutes.
Add beer and stir to combine. Continue to cook on medium until beer is completely cooked down, about 10 minutes. (Make the beer cheese while you wait.)
To make the beer cheese, melt butter in a large saucepan on medium heat. Sprinkle flour over melted butter and use a whisk to fully combine. Cook for about 1 minute.
Pour in beer and milk; whisk to combine. Continue whisking while mixture thickens, about 2 minutes. Add in cream cheese and whisk until melted in. Remove from heat, and add Cheddar cheese and whisk until melted in. Cover to keep warm.
Heat grill to high and cook burgers 3 to 4 minutes until golden and slightly charred, then flip and cook another 5 minutes on the second side until slightly charred and cooked to your liking.
Spread butter on the inside of top and bottom of pretzel buns, and place buns in frying pan (or on grill) with the butter side down. Toast on medium-high heat until buns reach a golden brown color inside, about 1 to 3 minutes.
Place arugula on toasted bottom bun, then top with burger. Drizzle a generous portion of warm beer cheese over the burger. Top with caramelized beer onions and jalapenos. Cover with toasted top bun and prepare to get messy! Recipe and photo courtesy of modernfarmhouseeats.com.
Grilled Chicken Caesar Flatbreads
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 C Caesar dressing, plus more for the salad
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Chopped romaine lettuce
Place chicken in a large, zip-top bag. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 cup of salad dressing and lemon juice. Add to bag. Seal and marinate chicken at least 2 hours, up to overnight.
Heat grill to medium-high heat. Grill chicken until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. For the last couple minutes of cooking, add the flatbreads to the grill and cook until marked and slightly crispy.
Let chicken rest for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the romaine lettuce, additional Caesar dressing and Parmesan cheese and toss to mix well. Slice the chicken on an angle.
Add some of the salad mixture to each flatbread. Top with sliced chicken. Serve immediately. Makes 4 to 6 servings. Recipe and photo courtesy of letsdishrecipes.com.