'The Scoop': Chewing the fat and getting the skinny on no-fail backyard grilling

Experts say one of the keys to successful grilling is not overcooking the meats. Getty Images

WEST FARGO — Is there a better summertime smell than grills firing up on a warm Saturday night?

Whether it's your grill or your neighbor's, you can see and smell the smoke drifting through the neighborhood.

Backyard grilling has become more popular than ever with new state-of-the-art grills and more types of meats available for the masses to throw on the fire. So how do you know what to grill, and, more importantly, how to grill it?


This week on "The Scoop with Tracy Briggs," Tracy visits with Glenn Key, the meat and seafood specialist at Hornbacher's. They walked the massive meat counter at the grocery store's new Gateway West location in West Fargo to find hundreds of choices for those looking for flavor, convenience and a healthier diet.

Here are Key's tips on how to make the most out of whatever you make.

Chicken kebabs are a flavorful and healthy option for dinner off the grill. Brent Kiehl / The Forum


Consumption of chicken is at an all-time high, according to a 2016 survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA report says Americans will eat an average of nearly 92 pounds of chicken per person this year — a record amount — so it makes sense that it would be a popular choice on the grill.

"It's definitely a healthy alternative," says Key.

While chicken can be healthier, it can also be dry if you're not careful. Marinades help.

"Throw it on the grill and the marinade will really keep it moist," says Key. "The key with chicken is not to overcook it, so when it reaches 165 degrees, pull it off the heat."


Once the chicken is resting off the heat, it will continue cooking for a couple more degrees.

Look for steaks with marbling, which adds fat and flavor to the meat. Brent Kiehl / The Forum


All steaks are not created equally. All you have to do is look at the Cowboy Ribeye in the meat case at Hornbacher's to know that.

"It's probably 3 to 3 1/2 pounds and a real showstopper," Key says.

Probably not a steak for a quiet Tuesday night for one. More common steaks include ribeyes, T-bones and New York strips.

"In all steaks you're looking for marbling — the fat riddled through the meat," Key says. "That's what makes the meat hold its moisture and make it a tender steak."

Key says there isn't a big difference in flavor of different varieties of steaks. T-bones will draw out flavor from the bone and marrow of the cut, and ribeyes have more fat so they'll have a richer flavor than the leaner New York strip.


With all steaks, make sure to season them properly.

"One of the biggest mistakes people make is under-seasoning steak. Just do a salt and pepper rub about a half-hour or 45 minutes before you put it on the grill," he says.

If you like medium-rare steaks, pull it off the grill at 135 degrees; 140 degrees for medium; and 150 degrees for medium-well. For a well-done steak (which makes some chefs wince) , opt for 160 degrees.

Brats can be mixed with a variety of spices to add richness and flavor to a backyard barbecue. Getty Images / Special to The Forum


If you're looking to shake things up a bit, a bratwurst is the way to go. You can get it plain, but Key says they have a variety of flavors both in their on-site smokehouse or in the meat case.

"You could try whiskey/peppercorn, habanero/mango, jalapeno/cheddar," he says. "You don't need to boil them ahead of time, but make sure they reach about 155 degrees for food safety."


Shrimp are a popular summertime favorite and are fast and easy to cook. Brent Kiehl / The Forum


It used to be us landlocked Midwesterners didn't get a great selection of seafood in our grocery cases, but that's no longer true.

You can get shrimp, salmon, several varieties of fish, scallops, lobster and more. Shrimp is a healthy and popular choice, but can be easily overcooked. Key says to think about the alphabet to know when it's done.

"As the shrimp cooks, it curls and starts to make a C shape. The looser the C shape, the better it is. If it gets too tight, its means it's overdone and will be tough. Also, with shrimp as soon as it loses its brown and gray color and is fully pink, it's ready to be pulled off the grill."

Key says if you have any questions about what to grill, check with the people working behind the meat counter.

On next week's episode of "The Scoop," premiering on next Thursday morning, June 6, catch the second part of barbecuing tips: Learning how to make Happy Harry's RibFest-quality ribs right at home.

Tracy Briggs is an Emmy-nominated News, Lifestyle and History reporter with Forum Communications with more than 35 years of experience, in broadcast, print and digital journalism.
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