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Grilling Big

You don't need an oven to cook these large roasts—just head for the barbecue

Fine Cooking Issue 94

Photos: Scott Phillips

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A few years back, I wrote an article on sear-roasting, a classic restaurant technique for searing meat or fish on the stovetop and then roasting it in the oven until just done. It’s one of my favorite methods and is easily adapted to the home kitchen. And it’s only natural that after a couple of summers of outdoor cooking, I’ve adapted this formula to the grill.

Why grill-roast?

Your basic one-flip, high-heat grilling technique works best for small, quick-cooking cuts of meat—think burgers or chicken breasts. Larger cuts—like pork loins, beef roasts, and whole chickens—have traditionally been saved for the oven for fear of burning on the grill. But by searing them over high heat and then pushing them to a cool zone on the grill to roast, these cuts cook gently and evenly. That’s because the covered grill acts almost like an oven, with the hot air circulating around the meat. Plus, the meat picks up an extra layer of smoky flavor it wouldn’t get in the oven. This method also lets you cook a meal for a crowd out on the patio instead of inside a steamy kitchen.

Sear, then go low and slow

The initial sear on the gas grill or the hottest part of the charcoal fire gives the meat a nice browned crust. Then lower the heat and continue to cook the meat slowly. On a gas grill, this means turning off a burner; on a charcoal grill, move the meat to a cool area. Cover the grill so the heat inside runs about 350°F and then check the meat every so often and make sure the fire holds steady.

When I grill-roast, I add more flavor to the meat in two ways: with a wet spice rub and a flavorful finishing sauce. In the recipes that follow I’ve included a vibrant jalapeño-lime salsa for the pork, a tangy barbecue sauce for the chicken, and a garlicky, herby chimichurri for the beef. And because these roasts feed between four and eight people, they’re perfect for summer parties. So light up the grill, invite some friends, and get ready to impress with a new technique—and delicious results.

Watch Grill-Roasting in Action

To really help you get a handle on this new technique, we’ve asked Tony to demonstrate grill-roasting using his recipe for sweet and smoky Honey Barbecued Chicken. Watch our video and follow the simple instructions below for perfectly cooked meat.

Grill-Roasting in 4 Easy Steps

1. Season
Apply the spice rub as directed in the recipe.

2. Prepare the grill
Heat all burners of a gas grill to medium low or prepare a charcoal fire with a hot zone and a cooler zone by pushing all the coals to one side of the grill. An oven thermometer resting on the grill grate (over the hot zone of the charcoal fire) should register about 450°F with the lid down, or you should be able to hold your hand a couple of inches above the grill for 3 or 4 seconds. If it’s hotter than this, lower the burners slightly or let the coals cook down. Brush the grill grates with a stiff wire brush and then wipe with a lightly oiled wad of paper towels.

3. Sear
Set the meat on the grill (over the hot zone of the charcoal fire), cover, and cook until it’s nicely browned and easily releases from the grates, 5 to 10 minutes. Watch carefully during this stage and if a flare-up occurs, move the meat away from the flames until they die down. If necessary, squirt the flames with a little water to quench them.

4. Grill-roast
For a three-burner gas grill, turn the middle burner off and set the front and back burners to medium low. For a two-burner grill, turn the back burner off and set the front burner on high.

Move the meat to the cooler zone of the grill—an oven thermometer set on the cooler part of the grill (with the lid down) should register about 350°F—cover, and cook until done to your liking. If using a charcoal grill, check on the fire occasionally; it may be necessary to add fresh charcoal as the fire dies down. Allow the meat to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before carving and serving with the sauce or glaze.


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  • User avater
    JillianBDavis | 04/15/2019

    Sooo yumm...Thanks for sharing this recipe with us.

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