Longhorn Steakhouse’s grill master shares her advice.
By Courtney Runn
Planning on grilling for Labor Day? Take your dishes up a notch with grilling tips from the managing partner and grilling expert of Longhorn Steakhouse, Janet Dickey. Dickey has served a variety of roles at the restaurant’s Austin locations for seven years, and for the past two years, has participated in Longhorn Steakhouse’s national grilling hotline. Austin Woman asked her to share some of her best tips.
Austin Woman: What should you look for when picking out meat?
Janet Dickey: It depends on what you’re looking for from that cut of meat. If you’re looking for something that’s really lean and tender, you want it to have as little marbling as possible. If you want something that’s going to have really great flavors, especially if you’re doing an outdoor grill, you’re going to look for something like that ribeye that has the extra marbling because the hotter and the longer it sits on the grill, the more that marbling is going to seep into the meat to give it a really great flavor.
AW: What seasoning do you recommend?
JD: If you are trying to grill at home, the easiest combination would be salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. The garlic powder and onion powder really give it that flavor, and of course salt and pepper draw out the natural flavors of the steak itself. [Make] sure you’re also doing what we call seasoning the grill…making sure there’s a good layer of oil on that grill as well so the seasoning sticks to the steak and not to your grill.
AW: What marinade do you recommend?
JD: It depends on what you’re looking for in the steak itself. We only marinate two of our steaks in the restaurant, our flat iron and then our sirloin that we use for our sirloin salad. We just use a basic au jus base. There are some really great pre-made steak marinades out there if you’re looking for something to make a cut of meat that’s tougher a little more tender before you put it on the grill. We would recommend a marinade as opposed to a tender riser.
AW: What mistakes do you see people make with the temperature?
JD: You’re looking for a grill temperature between 450 and 550 degrees. The biggest mistake we make is that we don’t give the grill enough time to get hot. You’ve got to be patient with the meat. There are different thermometers you can use to try to gage how hot the grill is. If you put your hand over it, you should be able to tell. Don’t touch the grill, obviously.
AW: Do you recommend using a charcoal-based grill or gas based?
JD: Completely depends on what you’re doing. Charcoal is going to give you that smoky flavor. If you’re just looking for a good seared steak, then using something like that open-flamed grill really helps as well.
AW: Do you recommend using chips on the grill?
JD: Sure, so a lot of times people will do that when they’re doing things like pork or chicken because those meats really help to absorb those flavors. But you can use different kinds of chips whenever you want to just depending on the flavor you’re looking for. Again, it’s just a matter of patience, heating those chips to a point where they’re actually impacting the flavor and taste of your meat.
AW: Should you sear meat before grilling?
JD: You can. A lot of times when people are doing steaks inside, if you pre-sear them in something like a cast-iron skillet or on a griddle and then finish them in the oven, it will really allow you to reach that good internal temperature that you’re looking for. But most people that grill outside wouldn’t pre-sear it unless they’re looking for some type of seasoning crust on the outside.
AW: What fruits and vegetables are good for grilling?
JD: There are some great fruits and some not great fruits to grill. Pineapple is a very sturdy fruit so it grills really, really well. Peaches grill really well, as well. You don’t want to put banana on the grill, it’s too mushy and won’t hold up against the heat. Vegetables also grill really well, as long as they’re large enough to fit on the grill. Eggplant is actually very good…and it has a meaty flavor to it so that’s actually a good meat replacement, too. Make sure there’s some kind of barrier on the grill, whether it’s butter if you’re using a flat-top grill or oil if you’re using that open flame.