Memorial Day Weekend is the unofficial kickoff to backyard grilling season and Stew Leonard’s has heaps of fresh-from-the-farm food to make it a memorable – and tasty – start to summer! The average American family will grill outdoors more than 20 times from mid-May through mid-September*, so having a go-to menu of hearty steaks, freshly ground burgers, chicken from the Amish Country, and local vegetables will keep your grilling fresh and easy.
“It’s important that our shoppers know where their food comes from,” said Stew Leonard Jr., president, and CEO of Stew Leonard’s. “We visit our ranchers in Kansas and our fishermen off the coast of Long Island. We count farmers in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut as neighbors and friends. My family and I want our customers to really make the most of the season with fresh and local foods for their families!”
No matter what you’re grilling this summer, Stew Leonard’s chefs have the tips and tricks to help you create an unforgettable outdoor meal!
Stew Leonard’s Top 5 Summer Grilling Questions
1. What’s the best way to cook steaks on the grill?
When buying steaks for the grill, ask for a custom cut and trim. Some fat on the cut is great for flavor, but too much fat can cause flare-ups on the grill and give food a burnt flavor, so be sure to ask your Stew’s butcher to trim away any excess fat. The best thickness for grilling is 1” or 1 ½” – anything less may cook too quickly and dry out the meat. We recommend a bone-in steak for extra flavor, like a ribeye, Porterhouse, or NY Strip.
Make sure the grill grates have been brushed free of burnt food, then oil well with a high smoke point oil, like canola oil or a light olive oil. Then get the grill good and hot (450°F – 500°F). Rub the steaks with a little oil of your choice and season both sides with salt and pepper.
To sear and make those iconic grill marks (a diamond crisscross effect) on your steak, place the steaks on the grill with the ends at 10 and 4 o’clock (at a 45° angle). Let them cook without moving and, after a minute or two, lift to check for solid grill marks, turn the steaks clockwise with the ends at 2 and 8 o’clock. After a minute or two, flip the steaks over and cook for about 5-6 minutes or until desired doneness. Once done, use tongs to remove the meat so you don’t pierce it and lose any juices. Always cover meats and allow them to rest before carving to allow the juices to redistribute into the meat. Individual steaks should rest for about 5 minutes.
2. How can I make fish and shellfish on the grill without it drying out or falling apart?
When cooking delicate foods like seafood, it’s best to use indirect heat and to cook them slowly. Grilling shrimp on a skewer is a great trick. They grill up quickly and are great to serve as an appetizer or as part of your main meal with fresh vegetables like corn on the cob. Grilling a delicate fish fillet, such as salmon, can be a challenge as you don’t want it to fall apart on the grill. The trick to grilling fish is to rub the fillet with oil, season with salt and pepper, and place skin side down and diagonal to the grate slats. Lower the flame, cover, and cook the fish until the skin is browned and crisp. Flip the fillet and repeat the process. You can also grill the fish on a cedar plank for more flavor or simply wrap in aluminum foil.
3. I’m keeping it casual and just want to grill chicken, burgers, and hot dogs. Any tips?
Grill burgers over medium-high heat (300°F – 400°F). Burgers will naturally “puff up” in the middle, so it’s best to create a shallow indent with your thumb or the back of a spoon in the center of the burger patty before they hit the grill. For hot dogs, grill them on medium-low (300°F) so that they don’t burst. Roll them frequently on the grill to allow them to cook evenly. Boneless chicken breasts work great on the grill if they are flattened slightly with a meat mallet to ensure that they cook evenly. If you’re planning to serve your chicken with BBQ sauce, brush the sauce on during the last few minutes of cooking so the sauce doesn’t burn.
4. What’s the secret to the best corn on the cob and veggies on the grill?
Corn on the cob, asparagus, and Portobello mushrooms are Stew Leonard’s chefs’ go-to veggies for grilling! To grill corn, heat the grill to medium-high heat (300°F – 400°F) and husk just before grilling so they keep their moisture. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill, turning often, until tender and charred in spots, about 5 – 8 minutes. For asparagus, trim and lightly coat with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill over high (450°F), direct heat for 2-3 minutes until lightly charred and fork-tender, turning often so they brown on all sides. To grill Portobella mushrooms, lightly oil the inside of 2 Portobella mushrooms (stems and gills removed) with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil per mushroom. Splash each with 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Place a couple of dollops of goat cheese between the two mushroom caps to make a sandwich, wrap in foil, and grill at medium-high heat (300°F – 400°F) for about 5 minutes per side. Let cool for 5 minutes, then open. Cut and serve with grilled ciabatta bread slices that have been brushed with olive oil on both sides!
5. What can I put on the grill for dessert?
Juicy and sweet fruits of summer taste even better when cooked on the grill. Grilling removes water from the fruit and caramelizes the sugar, intensifying the flavors and sweetness without having to add any other ingredients. Stone fruits – such as peaches, nectarines, and plums – should be cut in half, pitted, and cooked on a clean, well-oiled grill on medium-high heat (300°F – 400°F) for about 2-3 minutes per side. As the fruit comes off the grill, drizzle with honey, sprinkle with brown sugar, and use to top your favorite ice cream or Greek yogurt. You can even serve over a slice of grilled pound cake with a dollop of Crème Fraiche or whipped cream. For the ultimate banana split, cut the bananas in half lengthwise, leaving the peel on. Grill cut side down for about three minutes per side. Peel the bananas and serve immediately with a scoop of ice cream, a healthy drizzle of chocolate sauce, and a sprinkling of chopped nuts.
Stew Leonard’s Grilling Tips
While backyard grilling practically becomes a way of life during the summer months, even the most accomplished of grill masters can use a refresher on grilling how-to’s at the start of the season. Here are Stew’s Grilling Tips for a delicious and safe summer grilling season!
** Prepare the grill. Just before cooking, lightly oil the grilling rack or grates to keep meat and vegetables from sticking to the grill.
** Don’t skip cleaning the grill. The best time to clean the grill is when you’ve finished cooking and the grates are still warm. Use the back of your spatula to scrape off any stuck-on food bits. Then use a wire brush to scrub the grates clean. After cleaning, be sure to close the lid and keep the grill dry in-between use.
** Cook your food in batches so that you don’t overload the grill. Overloading the grill will make it hard to cook things evenly and will increase your cooking time.
** Grill Safely.
** Wash hands and surfaces often.
** Cook all foods to their proper temperatures using an instant-read thermometer. Ground beef should be cooked to 160°F, or until the centers are no longer pink and the juices run clear. Steaks should be cooked to 140°F for medium and 160°F for well-done.
** Do not re-use plates and utensils that were once used for raw meats.
** Always refrigerate leftovers right away.
Recipe: Stew Leonard’s Grilled Chicken Breasts with Rosemary and Lemon
Ready to up your grilling game? Here, Stew Leonard Jr. shares his recipe for a tasty chicken dish with fresh rosemary, garlic, and lemon. Serves 4-6 people.
6 boneless chicken fillets (about 1 ½ pounds)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp. melted butter (optional)
Preheat grill to medium-high.
Place oil, lemon juice, chili powder, turmeric, rosemary, garlic, salt, and pepper in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the chicken fillets and toss to coat. Cover and place in fridge for about 30 minutes.
Place chicken on the grill and close the cover. Cook about 3-5 minutes. Flip the chicken and continue cooking, covered, for about 3-5 minutes or until done.
Remove the chicken and brush tops with melted butter, if desired.
Recipe: Stew Leonard’s Grilled Swordfish with Mediterranean Marinade
A quick marinade adds great flavor to grilled juicy and meaty swordfish that cooks in minutes. Serves 4.
6-8 garlic cloves, peeled
1/3 cup Stew Leonard’s Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
3 Tbsp. fresh Lemon juice, plus more for drizzling
¼ cup chopped Cilantro
1 teaspoon Smoked paprika
¾ teaspoon Ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground Black pepper
4 Swordfish steaks, about 4-5 oz. each, 1-inch thick
1 lemon, sliced for garnish
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
In a food processor, pulse to blend the garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, cilantro, spices, salt, and pepper until combined.
Pour the marinade over the swordfish, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand for about 10 minutes while you heat up the grill.
Heat a gas grill on high (450°F) and oil the grill grates generously.
Place the swordfish steaks on the grill, cover, and cook for 3–4 minutes per side. Fish is ready when it flakes easily with a fork.
Plate and finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, lemon slices, and sprinkle with the crushed red pepper flakes.
*Source: The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA)