Nothing kicks off summer like cooking outdoors! Whether you’re grilling a quick, light and healthy summer meal or hosting a cookout with friends and family, there is no better way to celebrate summer grilling season than with beef. Executive Chef Beau Carr from El Gaucho Portland, the Northwest’s steakhouse legacy located in The Benson, offers his tips for a flawlessly grilled meal, and El Gaucho’s recipe for a delicious summer cocktail to complement your next cookout.
Temperature is key. Allow your steaks to rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes before grilling. This tempers your steak and allows it to cook more evenly. Set up your coals or burners so that you have a high heat area, a medium and a low heat area. Depending on how you like your steak cooked will depend on which area you will use to grill your steak. If you like your steak more well done, you should choose a medium to lower heat area so the steak cooks through before becoming overly charred. If you like a rare or medium rare steak, choose a higher heat area to obtain a nice char without overcooking your steak. You can also move back and forth between these areas to get your steak exactly how you like it.
Knowing when your steak is done. A common question about cooking steak is how to know when it’s cooked the way you want it. There’s no replacement for experience here, and simply cooking by time alone is not your best option. Consulting a meat temperature chart while using an internal thermometer is a safe bet. If you wish to become a master of the grill, you’ll learn to judge by a combination of time, thickness of your steak, the type of steak, the level of heat you’re using and the firmness of the steak as it cooks. Whether beginner or expert, remember to always rest your cooked steak in a warm area for about 5 minutes before eating.
Elevate those flavors. Marinades and rubs are a great way to take beef to the next level with minimal effort. Rubbing steaks with seasonings, herbs and spices before cooking is a great way to add flavor and texture to the outside of your steak. Apply rubs in advance to allow flavors to penetrate. Marinades are another great way to not only add flavor to your steak, but tenderness too, as the acidity in most marinades tenderize the meat.
Make the most of your garden. Grilled veggies and fruits are the perfect addition to your grilled protein. The flavor of smoke and char adds a dimension that enhances their sweetness, plus adds color, texture, flavor and nutrition. Peppers, yellow squash, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes and eggplant make for easy grilling, and soaking them in a marinade like garlic and herbs will ensure their tenderness.
Fruits are best grilled when the coals have begun to die out or when placed on the outer edges of the grill, using indirect heat. Softer fruits like peaches, nectarines, plums, and papaya benefit from leaving their skins on as it helps maintain their shape and holds them together as they’re cooked. Brushing fruit with melted butter or your favorite oil will help to keep the fruit from sticking to the grill grate.
Citrus can also add a burst of flavor to your summer meal. If you have a softening lemon, a browning lime, or that single orange you forgot in the back of the crisper – don’t throw it out! Slice in half, place cut side down on your hot grill and let it char. Then squeeze the juice over any protein or vegetable on the grill, or use the juice to make salad dressings with a hint of smoky sweetness.
A cookout would not be complete without a cool and refreshing drink! A favorite of Chef Carr is the Strawberry Basil Smash. It’s light, easy to make, and filled with the season’s freshest ingredients. Here are the simple steps for mixing up this delicious summer cocktail:
- TOSS – 2 sliced strawberries, a sprinkle of sugar and a handful of torn basil in a glass
- POUR – 2oz white tequila. Cazadores Tequila Blanco is Carr’s recommendation, but any tequila you like will do (this recipe is also great with gin or vodka).
- SMASH – Add a few cubes of ice and SMASH! Smash until your heart’s content or the strawberries are no longer intact, whichever comes first.
- SERVE – Top with ice and soda water, then serve with a lime or strawberry slice garnish.
- DRINK – no explanation needed!
If you’d rather don a shirt and tie than a grill apron for a night out, Chef Carr and his culinary team at El Gaucho Portland are ready to serve you. Indulge in fresh seafood and 28-day dry-aged Niman Ranch all-natural Prime Certified Angus Beef and custom-aged Certified Angus Beef tenderloin filets on their one-of-a-kind charcoal grill in their open kitchen. El Gaucho Portland is located in The Benson Hotel on SE Broadway in downtown Portland, and is currently open for dinner Tuesday-Saturday. Reservations for exceptional dining and old-school table side service that is the El Gaucho hallmark can be made by visiting elgaucho.com.