How much do you love meat? The answer’s in where you buy yours. Level one, supermarket. Level two, farmer’s market/local butcher shop.
Then there’s Chris Carter and James Peisker, who weren’t satisfied by the quality of meat available anywhere in Nashville. Instead of lowering their standards, they opened up their own butcher shop. Then brought it online to serve meat-devotees nationwide. That’s Porter Road. Call it the top level.
Dry-aged beef kebabs are best neatly cubed, skewered and seasoned alongisde oil-brushed veggies for a nice mix of colors and flavors. These look great (and serve easily to a crowd) piled up on rectangular platters.
So when it came time to fire up the grill for a Snowe event, it was the obvious choice to bring in Porter Road cuts. And we tapped Chris – as well as our own chief grillmaster, co-founder Andres Modak – to help bust some common grilling myths. Maybe you’re planning to host your own summer cookout, or are just looking to hang out, chatting near the grill, while someone else does the work. Either way, we promise you’ll impress with this info (and even more so, with your food, after following this advice).
Kebabs on the grill, working up some color. Sweet farmer's market-fresh spring onions complement the meal well and hold their own alongside.
ON THE GRILL
Myth: Burgers are your easiest choice.
It’s the complete opposite, in fact. “When you’re grilling for 10 people, it’s a lot easier to be focused on one big ol’ piece of meat, like a flap steak, than worrying about 10 hamburgers going at the same time,” says Chris. Plus: You’re more likely to overcook a burger. No one wants that.
A meal-on-a-stick has never looked so good. It's all about the context, of course, with help from classic dinner plates and a crisp rosé.
Myth: Grab that spatula and press down on the meat.
“Why is that everyone’s first instinct?!” (It clearly makes Chris wince to see amateurs do this.) If you’re wondering if there’s ever a right time to make this move, heed this warning. “Only if you don’t like flavor.”
Lamb ribs, watermelon salad and cool labne: Not mainstays at every cookout. But, they should be. The flavors pair brilliantly thanks to the deep flavors of the lamb and the sweet, bright watermelon.
Myth: Man can live on meat alone.
Live, sure. But really to really live? Hit that fired-up grill with some fruits and veggies. “Super high-quality meat calls for locally-sourced vegetables, ones that can hold their own alongside the main dish,” says Andres. “Brush veggies with a nice olive oil, salt, and maybe some Za’atar and Sumac, and add them to skewers of meat for a crowd-pleasing, eye-catching presentation.” And if you’re grilling up some fattier cuts, like lamb ribs, you’re primed for bright, fruity flavors to cut the heaviness. Andres’ first pick for this? Grilled watermelon topped with mint and creamy feta.
Lamb Ribs do well when thrown on a screaming hot grill – the flavor gets more intense with a nice char on them (though proceed with caution: the fat cap will flare up).
Myth: Marinate meat overnight for the best outcome.
Not only will sugary marinades burn on the grill, but Chris is clear that a quality piece of meat simply doesn’t need it. “Keep it simple. Kosher salt. Pepper. Maybe some chimichurri afterward,” Chris says. “A great piece of meat can stand on its own and you’ll taste that flavor.” As for supermarket steaks? Sure, go ahead. Marinate away.
These fattier cuts crisp up nicely on the grill and make for an epicly satisfying meal for all that manages not to be too filling.
ON THE TABLE
Myth: The work stops when the meat’s off the grill.
Nope. Slicing is almost as important as grilling. “Slice against the grain,” Chris explains. “That further tenderizes the meat and leaves less work for your teeth.” You may have an easier time identifying the grain – the way the fibers run across the meat – before you throw it on the grill, so take a look in advance so you know which way to slice afterward.
No marinade necessary: The beautifully-marbled Denver Steak has a natural richness, so it's perfection at medium/medium-rare. For a delicious accent, add a Chimichurri that's equal parts light, bright, salty, and acidic. A grilled peach and fennel salad is the ultimate partner in crime.
Myth: Casual grilled meats call for paper plates.
“You eat with your eyes first,” says Chris. “You should plate your meal on something beautiful.” Plus, he adds, it’s just more fun, and adds a restaurant-like atmosphere when you plate a quality meal on quality dinnerware. Sure, we’re biased. But how good does that Denver steak look on our dinner plate?
No beer, no problem. We're all about chilled, light reds to go with grilled meats. Go for a Pinot Noir as a reliable standby, or go for something unexpected like a Gamay or Beaujolais.
Myth: It’s easiest to rely on store-bought side dishes.
Please, please, step away from the deli potato salad. Instead, lean into side dishes that complement the flavors of what you’re cooking and take minutes to put together. Case in point: Mexican corn. Pop ears of corn on the grill until the kernels start to char, then top with butter, chili powder, lime and grated cotija cheese. Or grill up some sliced peaches, then mix with shaved fennel. No recipes needed, it’s more about what’s seasonal, and what can support the main dish.
Quick-cook sausages like Kielbasa are an easy choice for an easy meal. Pro tip: be sure to cook low and slow so casings don’t burst. Even more pro tip: Go with a mustard/pickle pairing; it's classic for a reason.
Myth: You have to get creative with your plating to impress.
Put down the edible flowers. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. “Sometimes classic pairings just work,” says Andres. “Kielbasa paired with bright and acidic pickles, grainy mustard, and a crisp, hoppy beer – that’s what guests are here for.” (It’s true; all these things were gobbled down quickly after this shot.) Meanwhile, if you really want to make a big impression, go simple with some scattered chopped cilantro or parsley, or even a dash of chimichurri. Easy, delicious, and elevates things instantly.
At 1/2 a pound per link, these are prime for sharing. Also no fillers or flavor additives here. Not that you thought there would be.
Myth: All you need by the grill are your tongs, towel, meat, and plate.
You forgot the drink. “There’s something great about drinking a whiskey while you grill – a little smoke from the fire, a little smoke from the glass,” says Chris. (Fear not, for early afternoon grills he’s usually there with a big water bottle instead.) Meanwhile, when it’s time to sit down and eat, it’s hard to beat a crisp beer, though Andres is also a fan of bringing in a chilled, lighter red like a Pinot, Beaujolais, or Gamay. It’s a fun change and stands up to the flavors of the meat.
Feeling inspired? Or maybe, just a little hungry? Makes sense. We’re excited to top off these myths with a little extra incentive to make your next cookout even better. Enter your email below for a chance to win gift cards from Porter Road and Snowe.