We’re not saying that you need to shut the lid and put the cover on your grill after Labor Day. In Colorado, you can grill all winter long (just pop on a headlamp and let that open flame keep you toasty as you sear steaks on those cold nights that are to come). But Labor Day weekend is most definitely a good time to load up those grill grates and end your summer on a high note.
We asked Boulder experts for their top grilling tips to help you perfect your Labor Day weekend barbecue. Here’s how to grill your meat and veggies like a pro.
Tips for Grilling Meat
Our expert: Chef Justin Brunson, owner of River Bear Meats. Brunson uses old-world techniques to create everything from beef hot dogs to capicola to sausages. You can find River Bear Meats products at Alfalfa’s Market, 1651 Broadway in Boulder.
- When cooking large steaks, always have a hot or searing area on your grill in addition to a cooler roasting area. This way you can sear the outside of your steaks then move the meat to the cooler roasting side for a nice, even cook.
- When cooking a whole chicken, cook until the thigh and leg portion is 180 – 185 degrees Fahrenheit for that perfectly tender chicken. Chicken is cooked at 165 degrees Fahrenheit but eats a lot better at 180 -185 degrees Fahrenheit in the leg and thigh area. When your leg thigh area hits the 180/185 Fahrenheit mark, the breasts will be perfect and juicy too!
- Always keep your grill clean and well-oiled. This will keep all your meats from sticking to your grill and makes for perfect grill marks on all of your meats!
- One of the things I really like to do when I’m grilling on charcoal is to add some wood chips for extra woodfired flavor! I like milder woods like Apple Cherry. Don’t not soak them though, just add 10 pieces at a time so the flame doesn’t get too hot.
Tips for Grilling with Spices
Our expert: Michael Kimball, the product and food media manager at Savory Spice. The spice shop, which has a shop at 2041 Broadway in Boulder, sells hundreds of small-batch seasonings and BBQ sauces inspired by some of the best barbecue cities. Savory Spice also debuted a recent spice set collaboration with barbecue historian Adrian Miller.
- Don’t take wet meat directly from the marinade to the grill. Pat it dry first to allow for max crispiness, then reapply seasonings.
- Yellow mustard and pickle juice, aka “‘Cue Glue”, has long been a secret weapon of professional pitmasters. It can seal in moisture, amp up the flavor or your BBQ rub, and give your meats a perfect texture.
- If you’re smoking meat, use sugar-based, finer-textured seasonings for “low and slow” smoking as they create a fantastic crust. For grilling, consider a butcher’s rub, which isn’t sugar-based. Sugar-based rubs have a higher chance of burning on high heat!
Tips for Grilling Fruits and Veggies
- When grilling fruit, use a spatula as tongs can easily rip through gentle items like peaches.
- When grilling fruit, try to use just under-ripe fruit as it always grills better and the heat softens it up.
- Use a very hot grill for most fruits and vegetables unless it is a hearty vegetable like carrots in which case you want to move the produce just to the side of the direct heat.
- Use a brush to lightly brush fruit and vegetables with oil so you don’t get so much oil on the produce that it causes flare-ups.
- If tossing the grilled vegetables in a vinaigrette or marinade after grilling, make sure to have the sauce prepared before you begin grilling as tossing the hot, freshly grilled items right away allows the produce to pull in the flavor better.
- For those who are finding themselves with an abundance of zucchini or summer squash, thinly shaved the raw vegetable for a quick and easy salad. Toss well with red onions, mint, goat cheese and an apple cider vinaigrette.
- You can make the classic Mexican side dish Calabisitas by searing zucchini with onions, garlic, tomatoes, jalapeno, cilantro, then topping with queso fresco.