Labor Day: Grillin’ on the lake

September 6, 2010

When did the tradition of grilling on holiday weekends become so, well, traditional?

I know it was a big deal when I was a kid; come Memorial Day, Fourth of July or Labor Day, we’d have burgers, or chicken, or, later, when Daddy got into mastering the art of the pork shoulder, pulled pork. There was almost as much excitement to pullling out the grill, stacking the charcoal just so, squirting on the lighter, and ceremoniously striking and dropping the match to the resulting “whoosh” of flames, and then to sneaking peeks beneath the grill’s cover at the sizzling, browning meat as there was actually eating the resultant dinner.

Barbecue a la easy: Pork loin

Now?

Not so much.

Now that I am the grillmeister (one of the few disadvantages of having no male around the house, well, except for NS, and I’m not about to turn him loose with a grill), and the grill is out the back door, across the deck and down a set of steps that involves climbing over the doggie gate that is secured by the pots which hold the herb garden,  the excitement of grilling is definitely less than the excitement of eating.

So I tend to do simple stuff that doesn’t require much tending to. Like this pork loin.

Kroger periodically puts pork loins on sale for about two bucks a pound. This one, something over four pounds, was eight dollars and change. The cheap factor is accentuated by the fact there is NO waste to these babies. When Kroger does this, I will generally buy a couple of them, and stick them in the freezer, against the day I want to feed a sizeable crowd (a four-pound loin will feed about 10 folks, if you have a fair number of sides), want the leftovers for something else, or just want something easy on the grill.

If you’re cooking on a gas grill (I am not, as I discovered a small barrel-grill under the back deck when I moved here and have used it ever since, figuring I’d wait on buying the gas one until the bottom rusted out of this one, which at the current rate may be around 2017), it should ideally be a three-burner one; that allows you to light the two on the outside and put the pork loin in the middle. If you’re cooking with charcoal, it’s just two equal piles of coals on either end, with a cool(er) space in the middle.

If you have a gas grill with only two burners, do not despair. You can light one and put the meat on the other side, but it’s just not symmetrical, and I do love me some symmetry.

I’ve cooked pork loin in a bajillion different seasonings, but more and more, I find myself going back to my favorite: Rendezvous dry seasoning. You can buy it at most groceries within 200 or so miles of Memphis, or you can order it online from the Rendezvous itself at www.hogsfly.com. I will not wax eloquent on the Rendezvous here; browse the website. I do love to go there, though; it’s quintessential Memphis.

Anyway. You can use any dry seasoning you want — occurs to me that Cajun seasoning might be good — but sprinkle that lovely pork loin down with a Whole Bunch of it (at least a quarter-cup, for a four-pound loin) and make sure it adheres to all sides and the ends and everything. Your loin will have a fat cap on one side; don’t leave that unseasoned. Then pop it into a plastic bag or swaddle it in some plastic wrap and chunk it in to the fridge for at least four hours, or overnight, whichever you want.  (I have left it in longer than that. Won’t hurt it.) Take it out, let it come to room temp if you’re squicky about that sort of thing, and plop it on your grill, fat side up, right between the two hot spots. You want a hot fire, and/or a medium-high gas grill temp.

Then go away for 45 minutes or so.

Then flip it over, keeping it in betwixt and between the two hot spots.

Then go away for another 30 minutes, and come back with a meat thermometer. Punch it in diagonally, about a third of the way up the roast, and get the busines end to the estimated center of that baby. See how close it is to 165, and go away again accordingly. It should be relatively close. It may want another 15 minutes or so, but probably no more than that, unless your hot spots weren’t all that hot.

Pull it off the grill into a baking dish when it hits 165. This is important. Do not wait, even though the pork police tell you pork isn’t done until it has an internal temp of 170. Why defy the pork police? Because: once you pull that baby off and cover him with a sheet of foil, as you are going to do, he will continue to cook from his residual heat and will actually probably surpass that 170 temp by 3-5 degrees. And if you wait, in obedience to the pork police, your lovely, moist tenderloin will become dry and tough and tasteless, because, after all, that’s what you get for listening to the PO-leece when you know better yourownself. Because I told you so and I cook better pork loin than the PO-leece do.

So that’s what I did yesterday, and it was exactly the way it always is — tender and moist, with a great Rendezvous-ish flavor on the outside and radiating inward where the rub had absorbed.  And we had grilled corn on the cob and slaw and baked beans and chocolate cake, and it was a good Labor Day Weekend dinner on the lake.

You and y’mama ‘n ’em enjoy the last day of your Labor Day holiday. Me, I’m off to the pool in a little bit.

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