April 2009 Issue
Secrets of Success
Smart tips for easy summer grilling.
Ever since behemoth stainless steel grills that outprice season tickets to the ballpark became backyard staples, it seems grilling has replaced baseball as America’s pastime. And with our constant pursuit of the perfect backyard party comes a need to go beyond a basic burger every once in awhile.
“The grill is pork’s best friend,” says Heather Hetterick, spokesperson for the Ohio Pork Producers Council. “It works with rubs, sauces, marinades, or you can brine it or even stuff it,” she says.
Pork is no stranger to the grill. Summer isn’t summer without throwing a slab of ribs or bacon-wrapped chops on a hot grate. And while pork’s versatility lets you use just about any cut when you’re cooking outdoors, familiarizing yourself with some basic cuts and grilling techniques will help ensure a sizzling success every time.
Grilling is cooking on a rack over direct heat, and almost any food that works under the broiler can be grilled. It is one of the few cooking methods that uses direct heat, and unlike braising or roasting, which generally use longer cooking times and a lower temperature, this method of cooking gives the meat that slightly charred character on the outside that makes our mouths water.
High heat levels mean grilling is best done with thinner cuts of meat (less than an inch thick), because it’s easier to reach the recommended internal temperature without overcooking. If you’re working with a thicker cut of meat, most chefs recommend starting the cooking over higher heat, then moving the meat to a cooler part of the grill or raising the rack so it is farther away from the heat after the initial browning.
Generally speaking, the best cuts of pork for this cooking technique are the tenderloin, rib chops and center-cut chops. Baby-back, country-style and spare ribs will all work on the grill, too, though a trip down South will confirm that you’ll find your best success with barbecuing these cuts instead of grilling them. Barbecuing — which is different from grilling because it tends to use an indirect heat source for longer periods of time— can also be done on the grill.
“I like to use pork tenderloin, because it’s the leanest cut,” says Hetterick. Last year, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) evaluated pork tenderloin and found that it has just 2.98 grams of fat per 3-ounce serving — the same amount as a skinless chicken breast.
To ensure that your meat is tender, juicy and flavorful, Hetterick suggests cooking pork to an internal temperature of 145 degrees. “Cooking it to the temperature above will ensure it won’t dry out,” she explains. As the meat rests, it will rise to the USDA-recommended 155 to 160 degrees.
As the grilling season begins to wind down, take full advantage of the short cooking times and no-fuss dishes like this recipe for pork mignons.
1 1–1 1/4 lb. pork tenderloin
4 slices bacon
salt and pepper
garlic mustard butter (recipe below)
Garlic Mustard Butter
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick), softened to room temperature
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
-Prepare garlic mustard butter by combining butter, mustard and garlic in a small bowl until well mixed. Wrap in waxed paper and shape like a stick of butter. Refrigerate while pork is cooking.
-Cut tenderloin in 8 slices (medallions) approximately 1 to 1 1/4-inch wide. Place two medallions on top of each other and wrap one bacon slice around both pieces to create a pork “mignon.” Secure with wooden pick. Repeat with remaining pork medallions and bacon. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Pre-heat grill to 400 degrees. Place pork mignons directly over high heat. Close grill lid and grill for 6 to 7 minutes per side or until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees on a meat thermometer. Remove from heat and let meat rest 5 to 10 minutes; pork will rise to a temperature of 155 to 160 degrees.
-To serve, cut garlic mustard butter into fourths and top each pork mignon with one portion before serving.