There are few things that shout “summer” quite like a good old-fashioned barbecue. And with the return of larger gatherings with friends and family this summer, it’s time to refresh yourself with the tips and tricks that will carry you and your trusty grill through the season. To learn more, we turned to the team at Berkshire Food Co-op in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, a go-to for local and sustainable food at accessible prices since 1981.
Prep Your Grill for Success
Before you start throwing things on the grill, it’s important to make sure your equipment is well maintained, says Kyle Pezzano, Fresh Foods Manager at Berkshire Food Co-op.
Before your next party or al fresco dinner, he recommends that you prep your grill by getting it up to about 500ºF, closing the lid, and letting any residual grease cook off for 15-20 minutes. Then, scrape down the grill grates with a sturdy grill brush and lightly re-season them with an oil with a high smoke point like grapeseed, canola, or sunflower.
Now, you’re ready to bring the temperature back down to 350-400º and load up your grill with all the good stuff. Just remember to set up all your necessities—grill-safe tongs, spatula, serving platters, and the like—nearby, so you don’t have to run back inside once you fire things up.
Choose Your Meat, Seafood, and Plant-based Proteins
Pezzano is partial to cuts of meat like hanger steak or chicken thighs, which have a higher fat content that will help keep your meat moist on the high heat of the grill. For leaner cuts like chicken breast, he recommends marinating in advance. When it comes to fish, he recommends opting for hearty cuts like swordfish steaks or salmon fillets that will hold up better on the grill than the more delicate, flaky varieties like cod. No matter what you choose, your meat and fish should be well-oiled (or marinated if you prefer) to help prevent them from sticking to the grates.
If you want to invite smaller seafood options like shrimp or mussels to the grill party, Pezzano recommends reaching for a cast iron pan, which you can add directly to the grill to preheat, then add in your pre-oiled or marinated seafood along with some complementary veggies.
Adding tofu into the mix? Let it hang out for a while in a bold marinade, then add it to the hotter part of your grill just long enough to bring out those picture-perfect grill marks.
Add Your Seasonal Stars
Summer grilling is nothing without the stars of the season—asparagus, sweet corn, peaches, squash, and more. When you’re scoping out what seasonal goodies you’ll add to the grill, Produce Team Member LJ Conway recommends waiting until just a few days before your event to shop to keep everything you buy at peak freshness. To make sure you get in on the week’s best, you can even call ahead to find out when produce deliveries will occur (Berkshire Food Co-op’s happen on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday).
When you’re in the produce aisle, look out for evenly shaped vegetables with more available surface area, like yellow squash, zucchini, and eggplant, which will give you great grill marks. Add some variety to your meal with a non-grilled salad or fruit plate starring seasonal favorites like fresh watermelon, strawberries, or blueberries.
Think Outside the Grill
Want to enjoy your day of grilling to the fullest? Gather up all the goodies to put together a killer snack plate, along with some refreshing drinks. This time of year, Specialty Foods Supervisor Tilly Adams loves to pair soft cheeses with seasonal gems like berries and stone fruit.
She recommends matching up Schroon Moon, a creamy, cow’s milk cheese with fresh lemon and poppyseeds from Nettle Meadow with a crusty baguette, sliced strawberries, and a glass of white wine. If you want to branch out on your drink options, she recommends seeking out a bottle of vermouth for cocktails or bubbly Pét-Nat—perfectly crisp, refreshing complements to any lazy, hazy summer grilling event.
For even more tips, recipes, and inspiration, visit Berkshire.coop.