Playing with Fire: Well-done Summer Grilling Tips and Recipes

Food & Drink

Ever wonder why summer days are so much longer than those in the other seasons? Scientists may hand you some line about the sun’s path around the earth, blah, blah, blah. Here’s the real reason: grilling. Summertime is grill time, so it stands to reason that the sun is hanging out in the sky after 8 p.m. to generously grant grillers the extra time they need to let the flame work her sweet, sweet magic.

Great grilling takes time. It also takes the right tools and technique, both of which can be acquired by matriculating your eyes down this very page. We put down the meat claws for a moment to type up some rare summer grilling tips. And in honor of the season of sizzle, we’ve assembled grilling gifts designed to help tong-twirling men make this the tastiest summer ever.

1. Where There’s Smoke, There’s Flavor
When world-famous grilling greats step out for a smoke, they return with a platter of smoldering meats that taste as if they were pulled directly out of the trunk of a hickory tree. Sure, they get to lean on the most advanced grilling equipment in the biz. Yet with a cast-iron smoker box and wood chips, any man can bring a little piece of smoldering heaven to his backyard.

Put this in your grill and smoke it
To transform a gas grill into a lean, mean smokin’ machine, step this way:

1) Place wet wood chips into the smoker box and close the lid. Pro tip: To keep wood chips from burning too fast, try soaking them in water or a low-proof bourbon for 2 hours.

2) Position the box over the grill grate and light the burners.

3) Use tongs to add more wood chips as needed.

The natural stream of smoke will seductively dance around your meats, sealing in a woodsy FLAVOR that will make your tongue double over in delight. For top-quality hickory and mesquite wood chips, plus a hand-picked selection of the finest meat-wrangling tools you can find, check out our Pit Master Crate.

2. Tender Clubbing Care
Candy bars, gum and marshmallows are best when they’re chewy. Meat, not so much. Which is why it’s important to tenderize those tough cuts. Not every steak will be a melt-in-your-mouth filet mignon. So if jaw exercises aren’t on the agenda, take the following approach to make that stiff slab of anything-but-Angus softer than an Air Supply hit.

  • Meat and greet – When picking up that plastic-wrapped meat package at the market, a griller should know what to expect. Chuck roasts, flank steaks, round steaks and stew meats are going to put up the biggest fight.
  • Face the fats – Share some tender moments right out of the package and inspect the fatty areas closely. Removing tendon, gristle and that pesky connective tissue with a knife will help soften the cut. However, leave any marbling and fats that will help keep the meat moist. Charred fats add a complex layer of flavor that top grillers welcome.
  • Whac-A-Meat – For cuts that still feel firm, a meat mallet will come in handy. Or you can punch it out like a streetfighter with the brass-knuckle meat tenderizer included in our Grill Master Crate. Whichever blunt instrument you choose, just be sure to pound evenly for about 30 seconds to achieve full tenderization.

3. Rub-a-dub-yum
When a man comes to the fork in the road of meat preparation, he can get saucy or stay dry. Going down the path of a dry rub provides two taste-enhancing benefits: 1) A crisp, crumbly coat of flavor on the outside, and 2) A seal that locks all the natural juices inside. Dry rubs can be of the all-purpose variety or they can be a specific blend of herbs, peppers, seasonings and spices that’s best massaged into either steaks, burgers, ribs or seafood. Which kind won’t rub you the wrong way? We’re partial to Rufus Teague’s Meat Rub, which “just makes stuff taste real good.” Then there’s our Mount Rubsmore collection, the perfect foursome of punch-packing rubs—plus, it pays homage to America’s favorite face-chiseled monument.

Recipe Reco: The Hunk of Burning Rub Burger
With more fire than a presidential debate, this is the ultimate manburger. Serve with beer, whisky or feats of strength.

3 tbsp. George Srirachington Rub
2 1/2 lbs. grass fed ground beef
Sea salt to taste
(makes about 7-9 medium-sized burgers)

– Form hamburger meat into patties and cover both sides generously with the dry rub. Don’t be a baby, get that Sriracha hotness all over there.
– Let the burgers sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before cooking.
– Grill 4 minutes each side for medium, less for rare, more for well done.
– Optional: sprinkle sea salt on burgers on the grill.
– Mandatory: Moving this burger into your “favorites” folder of grilling recipes.

4. Some Like It Hot
It’s happened to everyone. A friend throws a pool party. DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince is blaring. People are splashing. And the guy working the grill has apparently adopted the motto: “safety second.” His “medium-well” is bloodier than Stephen King’s Carrie. This is why you should ALWAYS carry a meat thermometer. Or four. Get a holster, if you must. Pop it and make sure the meat moves the needle to your desired temperature. For chicken, aim for 165 degrees. For meats that vary by personal preference, kindly refer to this temperature guide:

    Beef & Lamb     Pork
Rare     125 + 3-minute rest     Don’t do it!
Medium Rare     130-135     145 + 3-minute rest*
Medium     135-140     155
Medium Well     140-150     150
Well Done     155+     160
Ground     160     160

* Unlike with chicken, it’s okay if pork is a little bit pink in the middle.

5. Let It All Soak In
Microwaving is the hare. Grilling is the tortoise. It’s a labor of love. A master griller has a solid motive for taking his sweet time in front of the grill…it’s less time he has to spend away from it. With that mindset, we implore guys to do it right. Have patience with those rubs and marinades The spices will seep into the meat for a more even distribution of flavor. They’ll also bond well with other seasonings, like barbecue sauce, are applied during the grilling process. And allow ribs the chance to reach fall-off-the-bone—nay, fall-off-your-chair levels of tenderness. Delicious things come to those who wait. Here’s a list of pleasantly time-consuming grilling tasks.

Dry rubs – 3 hours, if you’re in a rush – 24 hours, if you’re committed to excellence
Chicken marinades – At least 2 hours (varies quite a bit, refer to the recipe)
Beef marinades – Up to 24 hours
Fish marinades – 30 minutes – 1 hour
Bone-in chicken breasts, thighs and drumsticks – Cook 40 – 50 minutes
Brisket (6-8 lbs.) – Cook 2.5 – 3 hours
Tri-tip (6-8 lbs.) – Cook 2.5 – 3 hours
Slow-cooked ribs – Cook up to 8 hours

6. We’ve got spirit, how ‘bout you?
The easiest way to start a bar fight? Go into a Carolina waterin’ hole proclaiming Kansas City barbecue can’t be beat. Or brashly inform the denizens of a Memphis bar that St. Louis-style ribs are America’s favorite. Across the country, there are dozens of distinctive grilling styles. And they all come with a huge helping of pride. But for grillers, it just gives us more choices.

Recipe Reco: United Sauces of America Ribs
Meat your match. Introduce your sauce of choice to ribs and watch the flames of love envelop them both.


2 slabs pork spare ribs, tips still on (2 1/2 pounds each)
2 tablespoons chili powder
Coarse salt and ground pepper
¾-1 cup of your choice of sauce. Brush on both sides, and pour a little more to put on the table for dipping.

– Heat the oven to 325 degrees and place a rack at the middle level. If you rubbed the ribs in advance, set them aside at room temperature for at least 20 minutes, while the oven is heating.
– Place the ribs in the oven and roast until fork-tender, about 2 hours.
– Heat grill to medium-high; lightly oil grates. Carefully remove ribs from foil, pouring off any accumulated liquid.
– Brush ribs generously with sauce; grill until charred, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

7. The Leftovers
Still hungry for more tips? Check out these tasty morsels left over from the last time we got giddy about grilling gifts for men. Also makes for a nice re-read.

Best Supporting Cast
Cast Iron
 – And the award goes to the versatile skillet for its high volumetric heat capacity that keeps it hotter than a sweat lodge.

Take It with a Slab of Salt
Himalayan Salt Block
 – All he needs to take the savoriness of steaks and seafood to new heights.

Plank You Very Much
Wood planks
 – Cedar’s not just for closets anymore. Check out our recommended meat pairings and help your grilling guru get ready to lay the wood next time out. You’re very welcome.

Pile on the Tile
Slate Tile
 – Look no further than the floor for to inspire his next cooking breakthrough.

Coal oriented
Coals – Lumps of coal get a bad wrap as gifts, but they can be an integral part of a burn-free barbecue session.