Pete’s Grilling Guide
Ever wanted to learn to grill like Freedom Farms resident grill master Pete? Read his tips here.
You’ve become famous for your grilled meats. What is your best grilling tip?
Don’t be intimidated. People tend to get scared when they think about grilling. But really, the worst that can happen is - well, nothing bad is going to happen. It’s not something that should be too stressful. It’s about trying and practicing. If you try something and it doesn’t turn out the way you like it, just try it again. Don’t rush it. You have to wait for the meat to be ready. The slower you cook it, the better it’s going to taste. The whole point is creating an atmosphere and that’s part of the fun. Grilling is really what Freedom Farms is all about, coming together and celebrating food and fellowship. I’m certainly not a pitmaster yet but I have a feel for it and I enjoy doing it. You just learn as you go.
What’s your favorite thing to grill?
I think it’s definitely pork. I just really like barbecued pork. It’s delicious. The skewers that I make are making my mouth water just thinking about them. My skewers are uncured pork belly. Once I’m done with them, they really melt in your mouth.
What’s the hardest thing to grill?
It’s a learning experience. The fire is the really challenging part. It’s not about the meat or the cut of meat, but the controls and variables in using a real fire. I love the flavor of the cherry wood and smoke in general. But when it’s rainy or cold, it makes it hard to keep track of the temperature of the fire and the meat. Weather and wind are huge factors when you’re cooking over a fire. But I prefer it. It’s challenging, it’s primal, and quite enjoyable.
Can you explain a little more about grilling over a fire?
I use a dry cherry wood. You start with those dry chunks of wood and make sure the fire is nice and hot. The cherry wood works the best when grilling meat. It gives the meat a little extra flavor. Once you get a good fire going and start grilling, I like to flatten it out a bit, but still keep a good flame. Then, I start shoveling coal into the roaster. I use the same fire to grill the meat and to fuel the roaster. You can buy charcoal and get the same result, but it can get expensive and it’s not really necessary in my opinion if you have the time and wood at your disposal.
What’s your favorite thing to use for flavor?
Thyme is nice for chicken and rosemary for beef. I stick to the sweeter flavors for pork like sage, brown sugar and apple cider. If you ever have leftover apple cider, take it to the pork, that’s what I do. The combination of components makes the fire-grilled pork burst with flavor. Also, a diverse combination of herbs with the cherry wood creates depth in flavor with every piece of meat I grill.
Do you ever grill at the market?
Yes, we grill every Saturday at the market during the summer. I like to do chicken halves, ribs, and my pork skewers. It’s a really good time. You get some scented smoke rolling and people start to get excited about food and about summertime. Again, it’s all about creating an atmosphere. I get to talk to people and tell them all about how our product is the best around. They see it and smell it while I’m grilling. It’s an easy sell. It smells delicious!
Any final grilling thoughts?
My grilling guide is not specific. You just have to roll with it. Use what you’ve got and make do. That’s the farming mentality. Just work within your means and try not to let additional components upstage the meat. I like using all homemade, simple, ingredients. It works just fine. Great, actually. Our meat is dark, red, and marbleized. It’s beautiful. I’ve seen the difference in commercial pork. If it’s white, it means the pigs weren’t raised outside in a healthy environment and then it’s not as tasty or nutritional when it lands on your plate. Of course, I get to use the best raw ingredients straight from our farm, so it makes a huge difference in the final result.
Guide (disclaimer - all on open fire)
Favorite cut: Ribs
Average prep time: For ribs, I don’t marinade. I just put a room temperature piece of meat on the grill. So I guess prep time would be however long it takes for the meat to defrost. You don’t want to put a piece of meat on the grill right out of the fridge.
Average cook time and directions: I use a two step process. I let it touch the flame or sit in high heat for maybe 5 minutes at the most on each side, until it crisps up on the outside and is a nice brown. I’m talking 400-500ºF. I use apple cider vinegar to baste the ribs to keep the meat moist and to keep the flame down. The vinegar will end up crystallizing on the meat. I like to season it as it’s cooking, before the smoker. After that, I take it off the heat and put it in the smoker over coals at around 250-300ºF to slow cook it. We have a 250-gallon fuel tank that we converted into a roaster. I leave it in there for an hour, maybe two sometimes, until the meat is nice and juicy and falling off the bone.
Pete’s Seasoning: Brown sugar, black pepper, paprika, cinnamon, garlic, onion
Favorite cut: Halves
Average prep time: As long as it takes you to halve a chicken
Average cook time and directions: Chickens are easier. You just cook them on high heat. As long as you keep turning them every 5 to 10 minutes, you can get them done in about an hour. Chicken’s internal temperature should reach 165℉
Pete’s Seasoning: Vinegar, olive oil, garlic salt. I am a purist when it comes to grilling chickens; these minimal ingredients create a delicious crispy skin letting the tender meat speak for itself. Baste the chicken with vinegar and oil every time you turn them and dust with garlic salt when finished.
Favorite cut: Steak
Average prep time: As long as it takes your meat to defrost. All meat should be placed on the grill at room temperature. It lets the meat break down better and gives you time to get the fire going.
Average cook time and directions: An average 4-6 oz steak takes about 5-6 minutes on high heat. 3 minutes on one side, three minutes on the other side and you’re done. I season a steak when I pull it off the grill and then let it stand for five to ten minutes. I like mine crispy on the outside and rare on the inside. Extend your grilling time for a more well done steak:
The internal temperature for a rare steak is 140℉ but the steak needs to be removed from the grill 135℉ to achieve the standing or finished temperature. A medium-rare steak should be removed at 140℉, medium remove at 155℉, and well done remove at 165℉.
Pete’s Seasoning: Sage, rosemary, garlic, salt, black pepper.