GIMME SHELTER- There's the rub! Spicing up your summer grilling

BBQ Connection, Pigs on the Run

Q: We've been using our outside grill a lot this summer, but everything we cook ends up dry and tasteless. How do we spice up our meats and become better grillmeisters?

A: Of course, there are many ways to season your meat, but the simplest, most straight-forward way is to create a basic rub. Salt is the main ingredient in most rubs, as salt is a flavor enhancer and a "carrier of flavors." There are different kinds of salt: kosher, hickory smoke salt, table salt. Kosher salt is more course and is used on larger cuts of meat, such as a Boston butt. 

Next, add sugar. A little sweetness deepens flavors. Again, there are many types of sugars, both fine and coarse. Use the fine sugars for small cuts of meat like ribs, and the coarse for large cuts of meats like brisket.

       Now add equal amounts of onion powder and garlic powder. For another level of flavor, you can add ground bay, ground thyme, and a blend of black pepper (1/2 portion ), red pepper (1/4 portion) and white pepper (1/4 portion).

Put all the spices in a Ziploc bag and let it sit overnight. The next day, or the day after, sprinkle a little on some cooked meat. Use it sparingly, as you would salt. Savor the flavor, meditate over it. If you don't like it, sparingly add more of one ingredient. But be careful not to overpower your taste buds. Take time between tastings. Once you're satisfied, consider this your basic meat flavor-saving rub.

Of course, marinading your meat and creating sauces further enhances flavor, but this basic rub should take the bland out of your summer grilling season.   

To become a better grillmeister, here are a few other things to remember:    

Trim beef steaks to 1/8 inch fat–this reduces grease drippings and open flames. 

If you like your hamburgers juicy, use ground beef that is about 20 percent fat. 

Have fish fillets cut from 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick– anything thinner will dry out too quickly. 

Pork chops should also be at least 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick–this cut is ready when the meat is slightly pink along the bone and when the juices run clear. Today's pork loin can be served around 150 degrees. And remember, pork must cook to at least 145 degrees to prevent trichinosis, a very serious illness.

        For direct cooking on a charcoal grill, use a charcoal chimney starter, as lighter fluid can impart an unpleasant flavor. Make sure there is enough charcoal to extend in a single layer 1 to 2 inches beyond the area of the food on the grill. 

Always use a clean grill. A dirty grill can rob your food of its flavors. Also, use a cooking spray before you get started to prevent your food from sticking.

        Use tongs to turn the meat. A fork should never be used, as it will punch holes in the meat and allow the natural juices to escape, causing the meat to lose flavor and become chewy.

       Turn the meat only once. When grilling meat to a medium or greater doneness, use the lid to assist in cooking. This will decrease the cooking time by applying heat to all sides of the meat at once.

       Tomato- and/or sugar-based barbecue sauces should be added only at the end of the grilling process, since such bases will burn too easily.