Nolan’s Cooking Tips

Maintaining your grill

Keep your grill and equipment in tip-top shape. Clean the grate every time you grill by brushing it after it has cooled. If it’s particularly grimy, you can use warm, soapy water, but rinse it well. Then when you’re ready to grill again, brush it again and coat it with a thin film of cooking oil. Spent coals in your charcoal grill will block air circulation and can attract moisture, causing your grill to rust so remove them regularly.

Don’t worry about baked-on grime on the inside of your grill, but don’t allow a puddle of grease to collect in the bottom or drip pan. Avoid using harsh chemical cleaners on any part of your grill; warm, soapy water is all you need.

How much fuel?

Charcoal grills have been making a comeback. For that traditional charcoal flavor, be sure to use enough briquettes that a single-layer of coals extends an inch beyond your food. For those of you who use gas grills, don’t forget to check the fuel gauge before starting. Nothing ruins a meal like running out of fuel before the steak is done.

Experiment with adding wood chips to add wood-smoked flavor. Popular varieties include mesquite, hickory, apple and cherry. Charcoal-flavored briquettes are also available for gas grills.

While cooking, keep the lid closed, but vents open, with either a gas or charcoal grill.


Doneness is easiest to gauge with a meat thermometer near the end of expected cooking time. Instant-read thermometers are a great grilling tool. Insert the thermometer from the side into the thickest part of the meat, making sure it isn’t touching fat or bone or poking all the way through. Constantly poking the steak or cutting with a knife to check color can cause a result in lost juices and a dry steak. Practiced grill masters can tell how done meat is by pressing with their finger. The more firm it is, the more done it is.

Tongs are best

Use tongs rather than a fork to turn meat to keep the juices sealed in. Poking the steak with a fork or turning it too many times will cause the juices to run from the meat. Play it safe with a good set of tongs and only turn the meat once halfway through the cooking process.

Give it a rest

After removing your steak from the grill, let it rest for 5-10 minutes. On the grill the juices are forced to the center of the steak, so if you dig in right away, the juices will puddle on your plate. Resting gives the juices a chance to re-distribute through the meat for a juicier steak.

Rubs and Marinades

Rubs are the quintessential complement to beef because they add an explosion of flavor that you control for intensity, calories, sodium consumption or any other flavor or dietary goal. Dry rubs combine fresh or dry herbs such as oregano, thyme, basil, etc. Other additions include granulated garlic, pepper and salt. But any ingredient is fair game depending on your tastes and needs. Best of all, rubs add virtually no calories.
If you have a favorite prepared item, such as soy sauce, horseradish or Worcestershire sauce, make it part of the planning by creating a paste with the dry rub.

Marinades are liquid mixtures that add phenomenal taste complements to beef. Marinades come in two forms:

  • Mixtures that include a food acid (lemon, lime, vinegar, Italian dressing) or a food enzyme (fig, papaya, kiwi, figs or fresh ginger). These ingredients add flavor but also have the additional benefit of tenderizing chuck or round cuts.
  • Mixtures blended just to add flavor to already highly tender cuts such as ribeyes or tenderloin.

You can marinate tender cuts for just 15 minutes but do not go over 2 hours. For ideal results on less tender cuts, marinate at least 6 hours but limit to less than 24 hours
Toppers offer a time-tested way of complementing beef’s great flavor. If you’re a fan of umami, the gratifying fifth taste, you can intensify it in beef by adding savory flavors like blue cheese crumbles or grilled mushrooms to the top of your steak. Mix in garlic and chopped onion too. For a tropical theme, try a fruit salsa based on mango, papaya or pineapple. Or satisfy that south-of-the-border craving, by topping with a spicy salsa.

You know your result will be exactly what you intended when you choose a rub, paste, marinade or topper. That result is why Nolan Ryan’s Guaranteed Tender Beef with any complementary flavors remains the most satisfying choice for appetizers or entrees in any kitchen.