Holy Grill: Tips for Perfectly Juicy Grilled Food on Shabbat
The cover of your grill opens slowly. A brush of hot meaty aromas floods your senses as you tend to a succulent burger oozing with juices, the smoke slowly rising up around it. Dinner is served!
Grilling is one of the most effective ways to bring out flavor while infusing your food with a delicious smokiness and character. Just about everything tastes better off the grill…but not necessarily when made in advance. While most of us associate outdoor grilling with Sunday BBQs or summer entertaining, enjoying grilled foods is also special for Shabbat…but comes with some unique challenges. How do we know which items can be grilled in advance without getting dried out, and what’s the best way to reheat them well for Shabbat?
I try to keep it simple when I grill. Foods with a higher fat content (like a rib steak) generally require little more than a seasoning of salt and pepper to yield extraordinary results, as the fat keeps the food moist and juicy, even under extreme heat. For foods lower in fat or more delicate in nature, a little more care and consideration often has to be given. Here are some hints and tips for serving up your Shabbat grill with success!
1. Add moisture (and flavor!) A little fat goes a long way in terms of flavor and moisture and some is needed to prevent sticking to the grill! Don’t worry, we’re not talking about serious calories here.
- Brush it! Get yourself a paint or pastry brush that can be used to brush on a thin layer of olive oil as a means of “insulation” for low-fat or non-fat items that would likely get dried out (for example: vegetables, skinless chicken breast, etc. A little smear of olive oil can ensure the integrity of the taste and texture of a dish). Brushes are also great at greasing the grates of the grill to prevent sticking.
- Marinate it! Marinades can transform food, tenderizing tougher cuts and locking in extra moisture (especially for lean foods like poultry). Using strong, vibrant ingredients like chili peppers, fresh herbs, and citrus also boost flavor.
2. Know thy cuts…are they “Shabbat friendly”?
- Cuts of meat that are well marbled AND have little connective tissue are pretty forgiving and will stay moist when reheated. Good examples: strip steak, fillet spilt (minute steak split with vein removed), rib eye, etc.
- Avoid chopped meat dishes – hamburgers are amazingly juicy right off the grill…but more like hockey pucks the next day.
- Tougher cuts with connective tissue (like brisket) will only work if they are first cooked low and slow to a fully tender state.
3. Indirect grilling can also be helpful here for large cuts (like brisket or ribs) or for thick bone-in items like whole or spatchcocked chickens. Indirect grilling is where you turn off one or more of the burners and cook the food on the non-heated side of the grill: a gentler, low and slow method that allows the food to cook all the way through without getting burned from intense heat on the outside.
4. Use a meat thermometer. We all suffer from the nervousness of “what if it’s not done?” All too often, erring on the side of caution results in over-cooked food. This is especially problematic when reheating grilled items on Shabbat. You may have cooked your steak perfectly rare…until it sat on your warming plate (or blech) the whole morning and became well done. The more you grill, the more of a feel you’ll get for the timing and texture of your grilled foods. Take the guess work out of the occasion and use a meat thermometer. If planning to reheat on Shabbat, cook your meat to an internal temperature slightly less done than you would generally aim for to avoid over-cooking when reheating.
5. Do not pre-slice! For best results, avoid pre-slicing your meats/poultry until right before serving to prevent drying out.
6. Heat gently! Be careful not to overheat on Shabbat (better to serve warm instead of hot if it means your food isn’t overdone).
What could be better than the pleasures of the grill enhancing the pleasures of Shabbat?! With your grilling game plan in hand (and tongs in the other), your guests will be cleaning their plates!