"You're Gonna Wanna..."

Light a grill and he will come: the know-it-all meat expert—usually a male relative—with dubious advice. To help you silence such goons, Steven Rinella, author of The Scavenger's Guide to Haute Cuisine, shares his best cooking philosophies. Learn them and defeat all comers.

Backyard Cooking: A Guide

   Photo: Illustration by Kevin Sprouls


CHICKEN: Lemon is a good tenderizing marinade for free-range chicken. Mix the juice of two or three with pulverized fresh thyme leaves, crushed garlic, and olive oil.
QUAIL:Mix white wine, olive oil, Dijon mustard, and a little coriander and garlic for a perfect poultry marinade.
FLANK STEAK: The best thing to come out of a bottle in a long time is Original Allegro Marinade (25 oz, $6; worldfiner.com), from the great food capital of Paris Tennessee.

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1. Beef Rib Eye
A grain-fattened beef rib eye is hard to beat for tenderness, flavor, and moisture. Buy it with the bone in, and cook on a very hot grill, flipping once, just when the juices start to run clear. Sprinkle with fresh cracked pepper, coarse sea salt, and nothing else.

2. Quail
Nothing says "I'm a man, a delicate man" quite like whole grilled quail. Soak the birds two per person for two hours in a white-wine-and-Dijon marinade and heat one side of your grill until it's medium hot. Cook them on the opposite side, breasts up, lid on. Baste often, until you can pull off a wing without having to wrestle the bird for it. Singe quail over flames at the last minute for color and texture.

3. Flank Steak
The flank steak is the thinking man's cut of beef: It compensates for its lack of tenderness with complex flavors and textures. It jibes well with marinades, particularly milder soy-sauce-based concoctions, and it benefits from hot, fast cooking. But the real key to flank steak is the knife work: Let it sit a few minutes before slicing it, diagonally, against the grain.

4. Leg of Lamb
A leg of lamb exudes a barbaric yet elegant glory, but it can be a major time sucker. To trim down cooking time, buy a boneless leg or slice out the femur yourself. Then butterfly it by slitting the thickest parts of the meat; it lets the heat in. Use a Greek-themed rub and serve the slices as you cut them off the shank.

5. Pork Chops
There's no room for error with this cut: It's bland when overdone and potentially deadly too rare. Rub your chops with olive oil and cracked pepper, and place on an oiled grill over medium heat until the internal temperature hits 160.

6. Pork Ribs
Don't you dare reach for the barbecue sauce. Instead, cook ribs for a couple of hours with a light coating of a paprika-based rub. Place them on the grill, away from the heat, and baste with a sauce of cider vinegar and mustard until they start to fall apart.

7. Ground Beef
If you read Fast Food Nation, you know it's reasonable to fear ground meat. For safe burgers that can be eaten blood red, buy a choice roast and grind it in a food processor. Then add some diced, semi-cooked pork fat, like cheap bacon or fatback.

8. Elk Tenderloin
If a friend gives you elk, he likes you. If he gives you a loin, he's crazy count yourself lucky. Trim it of sinews and silver skin; turn it in oil and coarse salt, followed by a roll in a sage-juniper rub. Cook directly over a hot grill until the outside is lightly crusted and the inside is thoroughly warmed.

9. Chicken
Remember this: spatchcock. It's a method of flattening chicken by removing the spine. Buy young birds and slice out the backbone before marinating them in a lemon-garlic-thyme mixture. Cook them slowly, with the lid on, over indirect heat, while continuing to brush with sauce.

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