Winter grilling can be a pain. But when you’ve got barbecue on the brain, tuna casserole just won’t cut it. At times like these, when you can’t win honestly, I say it’s okay to cheat, especially if it means getting the taste of summer when it’s cold enough outside to freeze your beer.
Cheat #1 Back ribs
As good as slow-smoked over delicate fruitwood? No. But better than any take-home versions you’ll buy. Remove the membrane from the concave side of the ribs (or don’t bother), and apply a light coating of cooking oil to both sides of the rack. Sprinkle ribs liberally with barbecue rub, and either cook right away or wrap and refrigerate overnight. Place the ribs on a cookie sheet, bone-side down, and bake uncovered at 300°F for 2–2 1/2 hours until deep cracks appear in the meat when you bend a rack. Remove ribs, adjust the oven rack to the highest position, and set the oven to broil. Sauce the ribs, and slide them under the broiler until some of the fatty bits are crispy, and the sauce has blackened in places.
Cheat #2 Cheeseburgers
Thank Julia Child for this one. I make these a lot. Sometimes I eat two on one bun. Finely mince one shallot, sauté in butter until soft, and let cool. Divide ground beef into 4 oz or 5 oz portions, flatten, then add shallots, salt, and pepper to each. Chop the shallots into the meat, then shape into wide 1⁄4″-thick patties. Sprinkle salt over the bottom of a very hot (but not smoking) frying pan, then add patties, browning for 30 seconds or so, then flip and cook another minute. Add cheese, and serve.
Cheat #3 Easy steaks
Some of the best steaks I’ve had were done on a flat-top griddle. So who needs a grill? Rub some cooking oil on all sides of a steak that is a least 1″ thick (not “fast fry”), sprinkle with salt and pepper, steak spice, or garlic powder, and let sit at room temperature for an hour or so. Heat a griddle or a cast-iron pan, and add regular olive oil. When the pan is very hot, but not smoking, add steak, flipping often to brown both sides evenly. As it begins to brown, lower to medium-high, add a knob of butter, and baste as you continue to flip (total cooking time of 7–10 minutes, depending on thickness). For medium-rare, remove from the pan at an internal temperature of 125°F–130°F. Let rest before carving.
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