Grilling is an art; it takes practice and experience to produce a juicy steak with perfect grill marks! Some people seem to have a knack for it, while others turn out dry and overcooked cuts of meat. Recently I had the opportunity to chat with two Center Grove area “Grill Masters,” Kurt Kuehn and Lee Tetrick, who were kind enough to share some tips and secrets.
Any discussion on grilling has to include the subject of gas vs. charcoal. For Kuehn and Tetrick, both of Greenwood, it boils down to convenience. Although Tetrick, a retiree, prefers the taste of charcoal grilling, he enjoys the instant heat from the flip of a switch and the ease of clean up that gas grills offer. In fact, his wife, Rhonda, jokes that although their grill is several years old, friends and guests assume it’s brand new. His secret is cleaning the grate with a balled up piece of foil and a damp rag both before and after cooking. Kuehn, a physical education teacher, prefers gas because it’s cleaner, easier to work with, and helps him avoid the burnt taste that sometimes comes with charcoal grilling. Just don’t do what he did, he jokes; once when changing out the propane tank, he inadvertently put the old one right back on and didn’t realize his mistake until he tried to fire up the grill again.
Both grill guys enjoy using foil while grilling. Tetrick places a sheet of foil on top of the grate when he cooks fish like salmon, and foil “packets” are something both men employ. Kuehn takes rinsed raw shrimp, sprinkles them very lightly with seafood seasoning, wraps it in a foil packet, heats the grill to medium, and in five minutes has a delicious appetizer or entree. Tetrick uses foil packets to cook any kind of vegetable but especially sliced peppers to serve as a side. He drizzles the vegetables with a little olive oil, seals the foil up, and cooks them for 15 to 20 minutes. He claims, “That’s the only way to go. I guarantee that if you do it once, you’ll do it again.”
While Tetrick uses rubs on steaks, pork chops, and chicken breasts, Kuehn is a marinade man. One of his signature dishes is chicken shish kabobs marinated in Greek salad dressing. Both men advocate using medium heat to avoid burnt, charred food caused by a fire flaring up. In fact, Tetrick states that on most gas grills, the temperature gauge may register 300 to 350 degrees, but it is actually about 400 to 425 degrees.
So how do those great grill marks come about? According to the Weber Grill Company, the trick is to sear the steak on high heat (450 to 550 degrees) and then finish the cooking at a lower temperature. They suggest you place the meat at a 10 o’clock angle for two minutes and then move it to a two o’clock angle for two more minutes. Repeat on the other side to get those gorgeous crosshatch marks.