Warmer weather means more time spent outside, and what better way to spend your evenings than behind a grill cooking up some smoky, sweet, mouthwatering meals for family and friends. Last Thursday, City Market class participants gathered at the Intervale Center down by the Winooski River for a Grilling Fundamentals class. The class was taught by our very own Executive Chef, Michael Clauss. From managing his own catering business to running restaurant kitchens, Michael had tons of tips and tricks to share with the group. We had a full class who all came to learn basic grill techniques, including building and controlling your fire, marinating meat, cooking meat to temperature and grilling vegetables and fish.
To start, Michael showed everyone how to start your grill with a charcoal chimney starter. It is quite easy to start up and the main takeaway is when using a chimney starter, you are heating up a smaller surface area, so your charcoal will heat up a lot faster and ultimately give your grill the kick start it needs.
Michael then went into the importance of a hot grill. Before you place anything on your grill to cook, you want to make sure you have a hot surface to work with. Have you ever put on a piece of fish on your grill and had the skin stick, and the result is a big fishy mess? It was probably because your grill was not hot enough.
Another important part of grilling is keeping your grill clean. Again, it is easier to clean your grill when it is really hot so be patient and wait until you feel the heat to start scrubbing. Also, making sure you have the right grilling tools is essential for cleaning. Michael explained that there are a number of different grill brush options but most importantly looking for one with stainless steel bristles and a tool with a long enough handle so you will not burn yourself are two crucial traits. Pro tip: In restaurants, they will roll up cloth towels, tie twine around them, and leave them in buckets of oil so when they need to oil their grill they just use tongs to run the towels along the hot burners. Obviously this would not work for everyone but if you are having a grilling party extravaganza, it could be a fun trick to try out!
Once the grill was up to temperature, Michael transitioned into the food portion of the class. He noted that it is best to place room temperature meat on the grill. Additionally, if the meat is not marinated put a little, but not too much, oil and some sort of salt/pepper or rub on before placing on the grill to enhance the flavor and keep it moist. It will also help you get those perfect grill marks you’ve always wanted! With that, he threw on a hardy piece of marinated flank steak and seasoned strip steak, both from LaPlatte Farm, a local meat producer in Shelburne, and participants watched the meat sizzle away.
Michael then pulled out a beautiful piece of salmon that he placed on the grill after adding a little olive oil, salt and pepper. As the salmon began to cook, Michael took out some skewers and began sliding some onions, cherry tomatoes, and shrimp on, one after another. He mentioned that both metal and wooden skewers work fine for grilling, but if you plan to use wooden skewers, it is necessary to soak them in water the night before. This will prevent any unwanted burning of your skewers before your food is cooked.
Just before the salmon was ready to be taken off the grill, Michael added a heaping tablespoon of herb compound butter (butter mixed with herbs and spices), that began to melt around the edges of the flaky piece of salmon. Is your mouth watering yet? Pro tip: Make sure your butter is at room temperature so when it melts on top of your meat or fish it does not remain a hard block.
As the grill began to cool down, Michael placed some big, juicy, local asparagus from Pomykala Farm in Grand Isle, on the grill. When the asparagus was grilled to perfection, Michael threw together a quick salad of chopped asparagus tossed in some house made pesto and topped with grilled onion, tomatoes and burrata cheese (cream filled mozzarella), from Maple Brook Farm. Participants were then able to try the two meats, fish, skewers and salad. Everything was divine!
To finish off the evening, Michael lightly grilled peaches accompanied by vanilla yogurt, making for a quick and decadent dessert.
From strip steak to peaches, what a way to spend a perfect Thursday evening outside, and no one left class hungry!
Can’t get enough grilling tips and tricks? Here are 10 tips from Chef Michael to get you started on your grilling adventures. Below you will find recipes for a basic marinade, Montreal steak seasoning and herb compound butter. Happy grilling!
- Keep your grill clean – grill brush before and after cooking for easier cleaning
- Be aware of your “zones” of temperature on the grill – especially when slow cooking
- Make sure to remove excess marinades and oils from items before grilling to prevent burning and excess carbon build up
- Use different woods and herbs to infuse flavors
- Use skewers to keep smaller pieces of meats and vegetables from falling through the grates.
- Soak wooden skewers in water prior to prepping to prevent burning
- When cooking proteins, rotate 90 degrees for even marking
- Be patient – allow proteins to naturally caramelize and release from the grates on their own to prevent sticking and tearing
- Allow proteins ample resting time before serving to preserve natural juices
- Keep a mister or jar of water handy to control excess flames from fattier proteins
Montreal Steak Seasoning
Makes: about 1 cup
3 Tbsp black peppercorn
2 Tbsp mustard seeds
1 Tbsp fennel seed
1 Tbsp coriander seed
3 Tbsp coarse kosher salt
2 Tbsp dill weed
3 Tbsp granulated garlic
3 Tbsp granulated onion
2 Tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
- Combine peppercorn, mustard seed, fennel seed, and coriander seed. Grind in a mortar and pestle or coarse grind in a spice grinder.
- Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl and add the remaining spices.
- Ready to use spice mix can be stored for up to a month in a mason jar or air tight container.
Makes: about 2 cups
1 cup soy sauce
3 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 Tbsp garlic, minced
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp brown sugar
3 Tbsp parsley, chopped
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
- Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk together until combined.
- Reserve for marinating.
For Fish: Substitute lemon juice for red wine vinegar and dill for parsley
Herb Compound Butter
Makes: about 1 lb
12 oz. unsalted butter, room temperature
3 Tbsp parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp thyme, chopped
1 Tbsp rosemary, chopped
2 Tbsp shallots, minced
1 Tbsp lemon zest
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper, coarse ground
- Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and smash together to combine.
- Transfer mixture to a piece of parchment paper and roll into a log – 2” diameter
- Chill for 4 hours or freeze before using.
Interested in other City Market classes? Check out our classes and events listing here.