By Ann Warner
The Saturday of the Weber Grilling event was one of those types of days that just screamed, “Go outside! Have a beer! Barbecue!” Sunny, only a few clouds in the sky, baseball on the radio, and enough breeze to keep you from overheating. Perhaps the grilling deities were looking down and smiling upon the Des Peres Schnuck’s as Weber’s Grill Master Kevin Kolman and our very own Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith teamed up to show some rather unsuspecting Saint Louisians some of the finer points of grilling.
I mean really, who shows up to go grocery shopping and instead runs into everyone’s favorite shortstop? Thanks to Weber Sauces and Seasonings, apparently St. Louis Cardinals fans do.
All-American Baseball and Grilling
Baseball and grilling have quite the strong connection to one another. As Kevin says, “You have two things that are actually ingrained in the American culture. It doesn’t get any better than beautiful weather like we have in the summer, people in the backyard — and baseball’s always been about family. It’s been about bringing people together.
“So it’s like grilling. Everybody in the backyard, barbecue’s going, cold beer, people are enjoying life. So I think it’s just a staple of Americana that we all seem to have ingrained in us since we were little.”
Ozzie agreed. “It’s a chance for families to get together, and generally when families get together, they have good food, they drink, and you know, we live in a baseball Mecca here in Saint Louis. So all of those things go together, and I think it makes for the excitement that is created on Opening Day and the fact that baseball season has started, the optimism that hey, you know, this could be another special year. That’s what it’s all about.”
I suppose it was fitting, then, that a baseball star helped teach us about grilling. Jokingly, Kevin told the crowd he was a pretty decent griller, except for one thing. He couldn’t flip. That’s where Ozzie came in. We all know how Ozzie can flip. Once the two were together, they made quite the team. A home run.
So let’s get to the…**removes sunglasses**…meat of the tutorials.
Grilling Up Greatness with Kevin
Round one was all about chicken. I know personally, cooking chicken on a grill is something I’ve avoided. The thought of accidentally giving someone salmonella makes me hesitant to jump right in. However, many of the tips we were given were incredibly helpful.
Since chicken breasts tend to be uneven in thickness, Kevin recommends pounding the chicken down to create an even thickness across the board. (Bonus: If a tenderizer is used, those little imperfections will grab onto whatever seasoning is used like little flavor magnets.)
If a marinade is being used, only do so for 12-18 hours. Any longer and the acids in the marinade can break down the chicken. If you don’t want to or don’t have the time to marinate the chicken, a light coating of olive oil and some seasoning (they used Weber’s Kickin’ Chicken) will suffice just fine.
One point that was brought up over and over (and over) again was about preheating the grill. According to Kevin, this is the biggest mistake that most people make when grilling.
“If the grill’s not preheated properly, the food’s going to stick, it’s going to be on too long, it’s going to overcook and not be good.”
All that’s needed is 10-15 minutes on high shooting for 425-450˚F, and BAM! — preheated grill. After that, chicken can be cooked for 4-5 minutes on each side, adding the sauce about a minute before taking the meat off the grill.
Interesting Point: All Weber sauces, I learned, are made from a molasses base to add natural sweetness and use sea salt rather than other more processed products. Plus? No high fructose corn syrup. That’s what both Kevin and Ozzie love about Weber. They’re designed for grilling and are all-natural!
Though sauce is an important part, putting the sauce on early can lead to burnt sauces and a less than stellar piece of meat. Here’s where the second biggest grilling mistake comes into play.
Not setting a timer.
“When you grill, you should follow the recipe,” said Kevin. “All the Weber grills have instruction guides with them that will tell you how long things are supposed to cook, so set your timer. Like with the chicken, four minutes each side, put the sauce on it, take it off.”
Of course, it’s always best to use a meat thermometer to make sure the internal temperature is at least 160˚F. The thing about chicken is that even though it needs to make it to 165˚F, it will continue to cook a little bit after being pulled off the heat.
And that brings us to the third biggest grilling mistake.
Cutting into the meat too soon.
“People cut into it right off the grill,” Kevin said, “and all the juice fills the plate. It’s actually water — meat is 70% water — so take it off and let it relax about 30 to 40% of the total time it was on the grill. The meat relaxes, the juices run back in — much more tender — so even if you overcook something by a little bit, you can still get that back by just letting it rest.”
The chicken, with its Kickin’ Chicken seasoning, was topped with a Buzz’n Honey BBQ sauce, giving it a sweet and spicy flavor (yep, I definitely tried it, and it was fantastic!). Pretty sure I know what my next barbecue attempt is going to be.
Brief review before we move on.
- Preheat your grill.
- Seriously. Preheat your grill
- Set your timer.
- Let your meat sit after it comes off the grill.
It was recommended that an 80-20 ground beef be used, as the fat gives the meat flavor. However, if you prefer a 90-10, one way to bring out more flavor is to add 1-2oz of barbecue sauce to every pound of meat.
As Ozzie put burgers together, Kevin gave us five tips for making the perfect burger.
- Start with good beef. It seems logical that good meat will mean good burgers, but it was reiterated. Important stuff here.
1.1 Oh yeah, preheat your grill to 450-500˚F.
- Season the meat. This round used, again, the Kickin’ Chicken, about 4-5ozs of seasoning for two pounds of meat.
- Shape the burger. Ideal size is ¾ of an inch thick.
- Put a thumb print in the middle of the burger so the meat doesn’t plump in the center as it cooks. We’re making burgers, not meatballs, they joked. Set a timer, and cook 4-5 minutes on each side.
- Only flip the burgers once.
As with the chicken, the best time for any additional sauce (and the cheese) is about a minute before pulling the burgers off the grill.
With both the chicken and the burgers, we were reminded that if the food is sticking, close the lid for another 30 seconds or so. Meat will naturally release from the grill when it’s done.
Wrapping It Up…
The whole event was incredibly informative, and gave many people a chance to ask Ozzie a few questions. At both sessions we learned that his favorite thing to grill is pork steaks. Interestingly enough, Schnuck’s invented the pork steak back in the 1950s.
One person in the crowd asked Ozzie a two part-er: what his most memorable barbecue experience was and what his most memorable Cardinal experience was. Ozzie chuckled before telling us that the first time he cooked a pork steak right stands out in his mind, right next to hitting a home run against the Dodgers in 1985.
Go crazy folks indeed.
Days like that day are what summer is all about. Barbecue, baseball, and warm weather. Laughs with a Hall of Famer and a Grill Master, learning a few tips, and watching the triple and quadruple takes of people walking by as they realized just who was standing under that tent.
Never underestimate the draw of a legendary Cardinal if you’re anywhere in Saint Louis.
We’re lucky here that we get these events, these interactions. When asked what’s brought him out in the limelight a little more recently, I was reminded, “I’ve been a part of this community since 1982, so I guess events like this get more attention, but I’m here all the time.”
Glad to have you here, Ozzie.
Ann Warner is a guest writer and occasional contributor to Stl Cards ‘N Stuff.
***Cards ‘N Stuff Note: Check back later for a chance to win a special Ozzie Smith autographed item!!!