Grilling and roasting….salt and pepper, dry rub or marinade…which to use and on what?

I started this post a while ago with some seasoning guidelines and it became so complicated that I started making charts. It was then that I realized that anyone reading this would quickly loose interest. Too much information!

But, seasoning is not simple!

Seasoning is learned, from your Mother, from chefs, from experience. It’s also learned by preparing recipes from a variety of cuisines.

So, minus the charts…

Tenderloins, such as pork, beef and veal are best seasoned with salt, black pepper and bit of olive oil and allowed to rest at room temperature up to an hour before preparation.

Lean cuts of beef, such as flank steak, sirloin steak, or the less expensive cuts of strip loins are better when marinated for up to an hour before cooking. Marinades add flavor and help to start the cooking process by breaking down tough fibers. I have included an all purpose steak marinade, just click on the link for the recipe.

Marbled Steaks. Well marbled cuts or cuts that are traditionally served medium rare to rare only need salt and pepper and do not even require olive oil. These cuts include Rib Eye, a good Strip Loin or any other cut of beef which is well marbled. I will also add Rack of Lamb to this category, as salt and pepper is the only seasoning that I ever use for Rack of Lamb. Marinating is unnecessary and will in fact, hinder the development of a crust which works to retain moisture resulting in juicy steaks or roasts.

Grilling Beef, these cuts include Skirt, Hanger, Flat Iron, Short Ribs, Tri Tip and Flap steak. They are all full of flavor and have a fairly high fat content. In my opinion, these are best when seasoned with a dry rub and are cooked in a preheated cast iron skillet or grilled over very high heat.

Pork, Lamb and Veal Chops. I almost never grill pork chops because no matter what, I find them to be incredibly dry. However, I do grill Lamb, both Loin Chops and Chops from the Rack. I usually use a spice rub for lamb which contains both herbs and spices. Veal Chops are a little different as the meat is very mild. These are best when marinated in olive oil, grated garlic, lemon zest and salt and pepper.

Beef and Lamb Roasts are roasted the same way and should be seasoned with only salt and pepper and a bit of fresh garlic sliced and inserted in the fat.

You must season the roast well, put enough salt on it so you can see it, as my Mother used to say (this is also true for Turkey). And, equally important, season at least 2 hours before roasting. It’s even better to refrigerate overnight, (more on this in upcoming posts).

Pork Roasts. First, and for the same reason I don’t grill pork chops, I never make a pork roast out of a loin of pork, the meat is just too lean and dry with roasting.  But, a pork roast from a Pork Butt or Pork Shoulder is absolutely delicious! If you like cracklin’ then buy this with skin on, but be forewarned, getting cracklin’ right can be hit and miss, I’m about 50-50 with each try.

Pork roasts like salt and garlic. I don’t use black pepper here, and some may ostracize me for this, but I only use garlic powder, or garlic salt, and kosher salt.

Turkey and Duck are included in this roast group (again, more on this in upcoming posts) as they do have some similarity to roasting pork but the only seasoning is salt, nothing else and the other secret is roasting the birds slow and low, same as pork.

As with all roasts, I am a great believer in determining when any meat, including turkey, is done, by the color; if it has reached that picture perfect color, the roast is usually done.

So, this is a simple guide to seasoning some roasts and some grilled meats. This barely scratches the surface and is certainly not exhaustive. There are other important factors when grilling and roasting. Here are my rules, I guarantee that you will enjoy the results!

  1. Always season before you cook,
  2. Always allow the meat to come to room temperature before you start cooking
  3. Always allow at least 30 minutes after seasoning and before cooking, an hour is better, and in some cases, overnight
  4. Always allow the meat to rest for 5-10 minutes before carving
  5. Use only one kind of salt, I use Kosher salt and only one variety,
  6. Salt from on high, that way you spread the salt evenly

Happy Grilling and Roasting!




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