“A great grill starts with the meat,” Lee Morcus states. “Then it’s all about how you season it and cook it.”
The co-founding principal of Kaiser Restaurant Group should know. His company’s restaurants — Chop House, Kaiser Grille, Hog’s Breath Inn, Jackalope Ranch, and Grind BRGR BaR — are noted for superb barbecue and grilled food.
“To get a good piece of meat, first befriend your local butcher,” Morcus advises. “Talk to him or her about your grilling intentions, and have the meat cut fresh for you. Don’t buy out of the butcher case.”
Morcus recommends grilling it the same day or the next day at the latest. Organic meat is ideal, as that means it’s been raised free of synthetic hormones, pesticides, and antibiotics.
“If it says ‘natural,’ that may mean the meat just hasn’t been fed hormones in the last 12 months before finding its way to the grocery shelf. Ask for ‘never never’ meat — as in never used growth hormones or antibiotics. Grass-fed is another step up in terms of flavor, quality, and nutritional benefit.”
From ground chuck to prime cuts of beef, Morcus has particular expertise in choosing the best options. “Great-for-grilling cuts include filet mignon, tenderloin, rib-eye, prime rib, Porterhouse, and T-bone. I always prefer grilling meats on the bone. The old butcher saying that the meat is sweetest on the bone is true,” he adds.
When it comes to burgers, he says, it’s important to keep an eye on the ratio. “For great hamburgers, you definitely want to have some fat. Chuck beef that is 80 percent lean and 20 percent fat is a good combination. Other cuts such as round, top, and clod [neck or shoulder] may be blended in for texture and flavor. Grilling meats with too little fat content will make your meat taste dry and rubbery.”
Morcus is equally well versed in best bets for poultry and other types of food for the grill. “Stay away from boneless breasts of chicken. They can be too dry. Chicken thighs and other parts with the bones are the juiciest,” he says. “If it’s a leg of lamb you want, I’d suggest cooking it on a rotisserie. Because it’s thick, leg of lamb grilled over intense heat would only cook on the outside, and the inside would be raw. A good rule of thumb is that the bigger the cut of meat, the harder it is to grill at high temperatures because it won’t cook inside before burning out the outside.”
“When grilling, use recipes for basic inspiration,” Morcus says, “Food is more resilient than you think. Always aim to undercook it a little, and let the meat rest before serving.”