Each week this summer, Cara Nicoletti of The Meat Hook is helping us get to know our favorite cuts a little bit better – and introducing you to a few new ones, too. Read on, study up, then hightail it to your nearest butcher.
Today: When you want something a little more special than burgers and dogs, give these meats a try.
Don't get us wrong: We've got nothing against a chubby, grill-marked burger. We're big fans of a charred hot dog, slathered in ketchup and mustard and maybe even some three-meat chili. We'd never turn up our noses at a juicy rib-eye, dripping with butter. And at the beginning of the summer, when even the smell of a charcoal grill was enough to start our stomachs rumbling, these old standbys were all we needed.
But this is Labor Day weekend, and we need to send summer off in style -- and with a large quantity of grilled meat. So we consulted with butcher extraordinaire and good time-haver Cara Nicoletti about some of her favorite meats to throw on the barbie, from overlooked classics to secret cuts. Hit up your butcher and stock up on charcoal -- let's do this thing.
You may have seen them most recently at a gourmet restaurant, arranged in an artful little fan, but lamb chops are primed and ready to be your new favorite summer grilling meat. Go for the extra-tender rib chop or the bolder, significantly less pricey shoulder chop. Coat them in a lip-numbing Szechuan rub, douse them in chimichurri, or follow Cara's lead and just sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Remember to let your chops come to room temperature before grilling, and let them rest for a few minutes after cooking before you dig in.
When it comes to selecting grilling cuts, you can't go wrong with a fatty T-bone -- but it will also set you back quite a bit. Enter these secret butcher's cuts: these are the cheaper (yet just as flavorful) cuts of meat that butchers like to save for themselves -- and now you can cash in on them, too. From bavette steak to pork secreto, these cuts are great in anything from carne asada to tacos. Take the money you saved and pick up a nice bottle of wine to pair with your perfectly charred meat.
Babyback ribs are so naturally tender, you don't have to do much to make them taste great. Coat your ribs with a Memphis rub or even plain old salt and pepper, and you're good to go. Extra points if you baste them with homemade barbecue sauce while grilling.
More: Before digging into those saucy ribs, think twice -- put on a bib. Your clean white shirt will thank you.
When you're sipping on cold beers this Labor Day, don't forget to save one for your chicken. Rub your bird with butter and barbecue spices, perch it atop an open beer can with a few garlic cloves swimming inside, and grill it over low heat. The result may look slightly ridiculous, but the second you bite into the incredibly moist, garlic-scented meat, you'll be a convert.
Flank steak is a well-known grilling staple, but one that's so incredibly versatile and affordable that it deserves more recognition. Since it's a relatively tough muscle, flank steak benefits from an hour or two of marinating before hitting the grill. Let your steak rest before slicing it against the grain, and you're well on your way to grill mastery.
More: Let your imagination run wild and improvise your own marinade -- we're here to guide you.
What will you be grilling up this Labor Day?
Photos by James Ransom