Here you'll find the four most important tips I have for grilling season:
1. Get the temp right
2. Use variable heat
4. The Best Burgers
Bonus: Some of my best grilling articles with more tips and ideas
This is really critical.
First you need a good thermometer which can get an accurate reading within 2-3 seconds. Here is an article I wrote specifically about thermometers.
It is easy to overcook a brat - just don't do it. Even the ever popular boiling in beer gets the fats and meat too hot for an ideal texture and flavor.
All our brats are pre-cooked at an ideal temp. Your goal is to sear the outside and bring them up to a comfortable temp for eating. If they are cooked at too high of heat for too long, they may burst and lose the fat and juices causing flare ups and a dry brat.
I usually have a fairly high heat, but turn them once a side starts to crisp up. I shoot for around 145-150 degrees before removing them from the grill since I know they are already fully cooked.
Consumers are told to cook ground beef to 160+ degrees; however food code for restaurants require a cook to 155 degrees and hold that temp for 15 seconds.
If you have an accurate thermometer, I like to shoot for that 155 degrees on the burger and then place them in a small covered container so they can rest/stay at that temp for 3-5 minutes.
I recommend 175 - 185 for thighs and 160 for breasts. Most of the cook time is spent skin down to get it super crispy.
A few degrees makes a big difference with steaks. I used to be in the more medium-rare minus camp; however, after taste testing lots of grass fed steaks from different farms I feel a bit more well done is better. I think the ideal texture is closer to medium - at least for most grass fed steaks.
I also generally prefer to not sous vide steaks, but it is harder to get the texture just right without a sous vide so there is a trade off and I switch it up based on how precise I feel like being that day or how much I planned ahead.
I shoot for about 135 degrees on steaks after the rest, but I often have temps closer to 140 with great results. If I overshot the temp a bit, I just make a point of cutting the steak faster rather than let it coast up to my final temp in the rest.
Pork chops really need a different temp than most people's default. Pork chops which have been frozen are safer to cook at lower temps than chops which have always been fresh.
I also think pork chops are more suited for the sous vide than steaks. I shoot for 138 degrees via the sous vide or on the grill
This is easier to do with some types of grills or on the stove, but i find that my food is much tastier if I can get a really good sear on both sides and then slow the cook down to reach the final temp.
I know it can work well the other direction where you'd either sous vide to the final temp or cook slower and sear last. However, if you're not using a sous vide, I find it is easier to get the timing right if we start off with the sear.
When I cook on our griddle, I often start with 400-450 degrees and make sure I've got some fat on the cooktop to support that high heat. Once the second side is almost done searing, I turn way down to 250 or so. If you have that much control of your grill, I'd recommend doing the same.
Also - don't be afraid of grilling meats that are still frozen. You'd want to start off a bit lower heat, but still go through the same process - adding salt and seasoning once it is thawed enough to stick to the meat.
The rest step of grilling is really important, don't skip it.
For smaller cuts like we're talking about, a rest of just 5-10 minutes is all that is needed, but be sure to keep the food covered during that time so it retains the heat for safety and also taste reasons.
If I get the timing just right when lowering the heat on the grill, I can sometimes perform the 'rest' step ON the grill or griddle. That really is great if the cooking area is cool enough where it isn't adding much of any heat and I finish that last cook steps in the rest stage from just the residual heat. This is impossible with some types of grills and not required.
As mentioned in the steak section, if I find that I've overshot my desired temp, I will forgo the rest stage to compensate - cutting the meat fairly quickly into small strips and then allowing it to rest a bit more once the cooking process has slowed down enough.
The key to a good burger is not handling it too much if you are forming your own patties. Ideally thaw the meat the day before, but it works OK if you also thaw in a plastic bag with a slow stream of running hot water into a bowl while you prep your sides and get the grill warmed up.
Gently spread the meat in a large bowl or plate and add your desired seasonings on top. Mix them in with the minimal amount of mixing around. Then form the patties, working them a little as is required for them to hold together.
I actually think Sous Vide works well for the burgers, but it is often too much hassle for me - I get darn good results with my nice thermometer and a hot grill/griddle.
The other thing to consider is trying our 'whole beef' hamburger, which includes 3% beef liver to boost the nutrient content and add a depth of flavor that many people report is even better than our already superior ground beef.
Our pre-made patties are made with a special machine that reduces the amount of handling in comparison to the larger scale machines - however, it still isn't going to be as nice of texture as you could do by hand.