Since my husband and I are empty nesters (and are trying to cut down on our meat consumption, too) I find myself grilling smaller cuts of pork tenderloin; boneless, skinless chicken breasts; and salmon fillets. Because they will dry out if left on the barbecue too long, small cuts of meat need a little help developing those gorgeous grill marks that make the meat look appealing and taste great. The secret is very simple: a searing hot fire and a rub or basting marinade containing sugar that will help the meat brown.
Your grill is an outdoor oven. It needs to preheat! To properly heat a grill, turn all the burners on high for at least 10 minutes. If you've got a temperature gauge, it should register about 500 degrees. By then the grill grates will be blistering hot and ready to sear. Close the lid as soon as you've got your cuts on the grill. This way the grill has all the browning power of stove top cooking and all the enveloping heat of the oven.
Preparing the meat
A few years back I read that sugar was the chef's secret to beautifully seared meat. It made sense that sugar-sprinkled meat would caramelize more quickly. You can keep it as simple as a light dusting of sugar, or try some of my recipes below that use molasses or orange juice concentrate instead.
Note that sugar-coated meats can stick to the grill, but as long as you follow the preheating instructions and lubricate the grates with a well-oiled rag, you won't have any problems.
Last, don't play with the cuts — turn them only once. If there's any doubt about when to turn them, leave them on the first side until they're impressively brown. (Remember, you only need one side to look good!)
Grilled Pork Tenderloin With Molasses and Black Pepper
Tenderloin often come two to the pack, and leftover pork is great for building a sandwich or tossing in a salad for lunch the next day.
- 2 pork tenderloins (about 2 pounds)
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 2 tablespoons coarsely ground pepper
Lightly sprinkle each tenderloin with salt, brush with molasses and sprinkle with pepper.
Meanwhile, heat the grill. If using a gas grill, turn all burners on high until fully preheated, 10 to 15 minutes. Use a wire brush to clean grill rack and then lubricate it with an oil-soaked rag; close lid and make sure the grill returns to temperature before adding tenderloins.
Place tenderloins on hot grill rack; close lid and grill-roast for 6 minutes. At this time, impressive dark brown grill marks should have formed. Turn tenderloins, close lid and continue to sear until dark brown grill marks have formed on the other side, about 5 minutes longer. With the grill lid still closed, turn off grill heat and let meat continue to cook 5 minutes longer. At this point a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest end of the tenderloin should register between 145 and 150 degrees. Remove tenderloins from grill and let rest for 5 minutes. Internal temperature will continue to rise during the resting period. If the meat weighs a little more than listed here, increase grilling times to 7 minutes on the first side, 6 minutes on the second side and 5 minutes in the turned-off grill.
Cut tenderloins into 1/2-inch thick slices and serve immediately.
Grilled Chicken Breasts With Orange-Cumin Glaze
Serves 2 to 4
If the tenderloins are still attached to the breasts, remove them and grill them separately or reserve them for another use.
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 pound), trimmed and halved crosswise to form 2 thin cutlets
- 1/4 cup orange juice concentrate
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- Ground black pepper
Lightly sprinkle chicken with salt and then coat with concentrate, cumin and a sprinkling of pepper.
Meanwhile, heat the grill. If using a gas grill, turn all burners on high until fully preheated, 10 to 15 minutes. Use a wire brush to clean grill rack, then lubricate it with an oil-soaked rag; close lid and make sure grill returns to temperature before adding chicken breasts.
Place chicken breasts, skinned side down, on hot grill rack, close lid and grill-roast until grill marks form, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn chicken breasts and continue to cook until grill marks form on the other side, about 3 minutes longer. Remove and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve.
Grilled Salmon Fillets With Sweet Thai Chili Sauce and Cilantro
Avoid cuts from the tail end of the salmon, which are thin and tend to overcook quickly.
- 4 salmon fillets (1 to 11/2 pounds)
- 1/4 cup sweet Thai chili sauce
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Lightly sprinkle salmon with salt. Mix chili sauce and cilantro and brush over salmon.
Meanwhile, heat the grill. If using a gas grill, turn all burners on high until fully preheated, 10 to 15 minutes. Use a wire brush to clean grill rack, then lubricate it with an oil-soaked rag; close lid and make sure that grill returns to temperature before adding salmon fillets.
Place salmon fillets, flesh side down, on hot grill rack; cover and grill until grill marks form, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn salmon and continue to cook until fillets are just opaque throughout, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Remove and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve.
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