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Level Up Your Grilling Game

Rob Levitt, the owner of the esteemed Butcher & Larder in Bucktown, knows his meat. Here he shares six tips for mastering the flames.

Photos: Clayton Hauck

1 Prep your grill like a pro.

Whether you’re cooking with charcoal or gas, your aim is the same: keep part of the grill hot, for cooking over direct heat, and part unheated. “There’s a macho-type desire to get everything raging hot and cook everything fast, but cooking things on the cool side lets the fats render in your meat,” Levitt says. With gas, turn one burner off and set the other to high; with charcoal, bank your coals on one side.

2 Use an alternate cut of beef.

 

Chuck eye steak

Instead of rib eye, try chuck eye.

“It comes from the same muscle as the rib eye but is more economical and still really satisfying,” says Levitt. Cook it the same way: Let it sit on the cool portion of the grill for three to five minutes per side until the interior hits about 115 degrees (for medium rare).

Bavette steak

Instead of skirt steak, try a bavette.

“If you’re having lots of people over, the bavette is thicker, longer, and basically a giant skirt steak,” says Levitt. Char the meat on the hot side of the grill, let it sit, and, when done, slice it against the grain.

 

3 When it comes to burgers, less is more.

Burger

If you start with high-quality beef for your patty, there’s no need to grind up additional cuts like short ribs, brisket, and sirloin. “Some restaurants do this to make the burger seem fancy, but they’re really just trying to balance out lesser-quality meat,” says Levitt. He recommends freshly ground, well-salted all-beef patties that are 80 percent lean.

4 Don’t pop your sausage.

“If I handed you a water balloon and told you to put it on the grill without popping it, you’d set it on the coldest part of the grill,” says Levitt. Likewise with sausage dogs. Cook them through (to 140 degrees) on the cool side of the grill, then use the hotter area for a quick browning, no more than a minute or two.

Zucchini

5 Treat veggies like meat.

Levitt suggests zucchini, summer squash, or Japanese eggplant. Cut vegetables in half lengthwise and roast on the grill’s cool side for four to five minutes, then use heat to char the outside. And slice them after cooking. Says Levitt: “It’s way easier than putting a bunch of small pieces on the grill.”

6 Don’t skip dessert.

Slice peaches in half (butter the cut side if they’re underripe) and grill for two minutes on high heat. Top with a scoop of ricotta cheese or vanilla ice cream. “It’s a meat guy’s phoned-in dessert,” says Levitt. But oh, so yummy.

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