With record-breaking high temps this week, I’m sure a lot of people are turning to their trusty grill to get dinner on the table. I know I was pretty excited to fire up some pastured beer brats from Brick Farm Market! And while abandoning the oven for the next five months may sound like a dream to some people, others may be hesitant of firing things up outside. After all, it’s not like you can set your grill to exactly 400 degrees Fahrenheit! It’s a bit more unpredictable cooking, and when you throw grass-fed/pastured meat into the mix, it can be even more fickle due to the nature of small farms and how their varied practices.
Grass-fed meat has higher protein and lower fat levels, usually requiring 30% less cooking time than grain fed meat. Because of this, you’ll want to add a sufficient amount of fat to your meat before and throughout the cooking process. If you’ve tried grilling grass-fed or pastured meat before and wound up with overcooked, dry barbecue, this is probably why. So here are a few tips that will change your grilling game, no matter which meat you choose to throw on the fire:
Selecting & Preparing Meat
- Lean beef cuts like New York strips and sirloin steaks can benefit from a marinade. Choose a recipe that doesn’t mask the flavor of the beef but will enhance the moisture content.
- To avoid any lamb gaminess, choose cuts from the middle and back half of the animal, like the loin and rack.
- Score your pork – this allows the fat to render and release, making it more juicy and flavorful
- Bring your meat to room temperature before cooking . . . do not cook it cold straight from a refrigerator. This will allow the outside and inside to cook more uniformly.
On The Grill
- Always set your grill up with two heat zones: one really hot and one almost off. Once you get the meat seared with a crust, move it over to the cooler side to finish it off.
- Stop flipping! You’re always going to want to leave your meat alone for longer than you think you should. The tell-tale signs that a cut of meat is ready to flip: edges begin to curl upward or seize inward.
- Use a thermometer. Sure, you can get lucky by trying the ‘touch’ tactic, but even the best of chefs use a thermometer! With grass-fed and pastured meats, you won’t want to go below medium-rare. Take your meat off the grill 10 degrees below your ideal temperature.
- Let meat beef sit covered and in a warm place for 8 to 10 minutes after removing from heat to let the juices redistribute. Meat should rise to your ideal temperature during this time period.
I’ve learned these lessons the hard ways over the years… following recipes for cooking regular old meat, not taking into account that grass-fed and pastured meat are completely different animals (almost literally).
While I am more of a dry-rub than marinade gal, if you’re still buying store-made marinades loaded with sugar, you’ll want to check out this handy guide for making your own marinades.
Spice rubs can be just as efficient to retain moisture and add flavor. I personally love some minced fresh herbs, garlic, and smoked sea salt and pepper. But if I ever get bored with that, I turn to Southern/Cajun, Jerk, South American, and Middle Eastern spice blends.
Another fun thing to experiment with is compound butter! This adds flavor to your meat (particularly steak) at the end of the cooking process. When you go to a French restaurant and there’s a little circle of butter on your filet, that’s what I’m talking about. Isn’t that delicious?? And they’re so pretty and colorful, too. Not to mention, when you make yours with grass-fed butter, you’re actually making a healthy choice. (just ask Dr. Axe)
If you’re a grilling newbie, I will leave you with these final words: the only way to get better at grilling (and cooking in general) is to just do it as often as you can. The more you grill, the more comfortable you will get with it. And don’t ignore the tools (like your meat thermometer) which make it so much easier!