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Summer: the official start to grilling season


Although more and more of us tend to grill all year 'round, May and June have long been tagged as the start of the official grilling season.

And with social distancing still the norm, many folks will probably turn to outdoor entertaining so it's easier to stay apart. When the weather gets warmer, that's the thing to do.

But what if you're not an expert or new to grilling? With increasing beef prices, no one wants to ruin a great piece of steak.

That's when you turn to the folks who are the experts: the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. They've offered these tips for great grilling:

First, prep pays off. But while some grill experts emphasize the importance of bringing steaks to room temperature before grilling, the association's test kitchen doesn't recommend it for food safety reasons. Cook times listed for recipes included here are based on the meat going directly from "chill to grill." So plan on pulling the meat from the fridge, seasoning well and getting started right away.

Next, 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 your owner's manual and set the grill to medium-high.

While grilling, 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. Although grain is an important part of raising beef, in this case it refers to the direction of the muscle fibers in a cut of meat. Slicing "across the grain" means slicing perpendicular to the direction of the fibers, which helps make the meat easier to chew.

And finally, don't forget to marinate! Tender beef cuts can be marinated for 15 minutes to two hours for flavor; less tender cuts, such as flank steak, should be marinated for 6 hours, but not more than 24 hours.

Here are a couple of recipes to add to your grilling repertoire, one for Grilled T-Bone Steaks with a Barbecue Rub, the other for Citrus-Marinated Beef Top Sirloin and Fruit Kabobs. Both are courtesy of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

This could be called beef at its best. A simple rub including chili powder, garlic and brown sugar adds that special touch.

Grilled T-Bone Steaks with Barbecue Rub

Start to finish: 25 minutes

2 beef T-bone or porterhouse steaks, cut 1 inch thick (about 2 pounds) (see note)

For the rub:

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

Note: T-bone steaks are smaller than porterhouse steaks, but deliver the same tenderness and flavor.

For the rub: Combine all ingredients; press evenly onto steaks.

Place steaks on grid over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill, covered, 11 to 16 minutes (over medium heat on preheated gas grill, 15 to 19 minutes) for medium rare (145 degrees F) to medium (160 degrees F) doneness, turning occasionally. Remove bones and carve steaks into slices, if desired. Season with salt, as desired.

Cook's tip: To broil, place steaks on rack in broiler pan so surface of beef is 3 to 4 inches from heat. Broil 15 to 20 minutes for medium rare to medium doneness, turning once.

Makes 4 servings.

This recipe combines fresh fruit and steak in a colorful, easy-to-eat kabob. This "Beef. It's What's For Dinner" recipe is certified by the American Heart Association.

Citrus-Marinated Beef Top

Sirloin and Fruit Kabobs

Start to finish: 45 minutes, plus marinating time

1 beef top sirloin steak center cut, boneless (about 1 pound)

1 medium orange

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (optional)

4 cups cubed mango, watermelon, peaches and/or plums

Chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

Grate peel and squeeze 2 tablespoons juice from orange; reserve juice.

Combine orange peel, cilantro, paprika and ground red pepper, if desired, in small bowl. Cut steak into 1-1/4-inch pieces. Place beef and 2-1/2 tablespoons cilantro mixture in food-safe plastic bag; turn to coat.

Place remaining cilantro mixture and fruit in separate food safe plastic bag; turn to coat. Close bags securely. Marinate beef and fruit in refrigerator 15 minutes to 2 hours.

Soak eight 9-inch bamboo skewers in water 10 minutes; drain. Thread beef evenly onto four skewers leaving small space between pieces. Thread fruit onto remaining four separate skewers.

Place kabobs on grid over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill beef kabobs, covered, 5 to 7 minutes (over medium heat on preheated gas grill 7 to 9 minutes) for medium rare (145 degrees F) to medium (160 degrees F) doneness, turning occasionally. Grill fruit kabobs 5 to 7 minutes or until softened and beginning to brown, turning once.

Drizzle reserved orange juice over fruit kabobs. Garnish with cilantro, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.


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