raw steak resting on table for prep with silverware and spices

Make It Sizzle with Summer Grilling

Get great summer grilling tips from two top Blue Ridge beef producers. Time to fire up the grill!

Summer Grilling Starts with Beef

Both Turner Kobayashi of Audley Farm and Jared Burner of Burner’s Beef know their protein.

Audley Farm, located in Berryville VA, offers lean and nutritious all-natural Black Angus beef from its 1200 acres. At the other end of the Shenandoah, you’ll find Burner’s Beef in Luray. This protein producer also raises their beef without antibiotics, hormones, or steroids.

“Beef is a natural complement for the grill,” says Burner. “It’s our primary product, from one pound of ground beef to the whole steer.” Burner lists Delmonico (ribeye), NY strip, filet mignon, and, of course, ground beef as best cuts for grilling.

Farmer Jared Burner

Audley also offers typical prime cuts like ribeye, NY strip, filet mignon, and porterhouse. “A couple of other nice cuts to grill are our top sirloin and tri-tip steak,” says Kobayashi. “The tip side of the sirloin is sometimes referred to as the California Cut as it’s very popular there.” Marinated kabobs on skewers also rank at the top, says Turner, due to their easy grilling and delicious taste.

Selecting the Best Beef

No matter your summer grilling selection, marbling is key. “Consumers need to look for marbling, or intramuscular fat when selecting their beef,” says Jared. “This helps to ensure a juicy cut of beef when grilled.” Adds Turner, “The marbled threads and specs of the cut will add flavor through the dispersed fat in the meat.”

Burner advises matching cooking style with the type of cut. “While you can sear a filet mignon to perfection, you’ll be disappointed when you try to cook a chuck roast the same way,” says Jared. “That being said, a chuck roast can be grilled indirectly and then foil wrapped and it will come out magnificently.”

Summer Grilling Tips – Great Basics

Steak on a grill at Audley FarmPrep Your Protein: Take the beef out of the fridge and allow it to get just to room temperature. Kobayashi also suggests drying it with a paper towel before placing it on a hot, preheated grill. “This will ensure very flavorful char marks that look great, but taste even better,” says Turner.

“I take my beef out of the fridge just long enough to season it,” says Burner. “The reason being that the marbling or intramuscular fat starts to melt at room temperature. Basically, you’re letting your beef flavor melt away. I like to season about 30 minutes ahead of time and that gives it time to adhere.”

Make Beautiful Grill Marks: Kobayashi from Audley has some simple advice for getting awesome grill marks. “Grill marks look great and are easy to make. Place the grilled item at 2 o’clock on the hot grill for the first minute, then move it to the 10 o’clock angle. It will leave a professional-looking grill mark on your steak to serve to family and friends.”


Get the Perfect Burger: Follow these pointers and you’ll have juicy, evenly sized burgers. “I think the best way to get an evenly sized hamburger is to have a point of reference in mind,” says Burner. “For example, I like to form a ball of meat slightly smaller than a tennis ball for a 6 oz patty.  To form the patty, I use plates covered with Saran Wrap as a press. When I press the plates down, I place my finger between them, acting like a thickness guide.”

Kobayashi approaches things differently. “For evenness, some people use a burger press or mold,” says Turner. “We typically measure out the meat into uniform sizes, gently shape with cold hands to the size we desire. Less manipulation helps the meat not to become tough and lose moisture.”

Avoid Dry Chicken: Although both protein producers raise beef, they also have advice for grilling another popular favorite, chicken. Kobayashi offers these tips. “For poultry products, using a brine solution (dissolved salt with other spices in water) before cooking really helps the meat retain moisture. Some people start or finish in the oven at a slow and low temperature to make sure the chicken is cooked all the way through.”

“Even though I am a beef guy, I do occasionally cook chicken breast,” says Burner. Here’s Jared’s recipe for great summer grilling.

  •  Start by putting the chicken breasts in a quick marinade (about 30 minutes). Coat chicken with extra virgin olive oil and season with SPG (salt, pepper, garlic) to taste.
  • Set grill up for 2-zone or indirect cooking (charcoal placed to one side). Once the charcoal is ready, place the chicken breast on the indirect side of the grill and let it cook until 150 degrees, flipping probably once or twice.
  • Place chicken breast directly over the charcoal, flipping once or twice, until the chicken reaches 165 degrees. This final step helps to give the chicken its grilled taste.

More Top Summer Grilling Tips

Among grilling enthusiasts, there’s an age-old debate – charcoal vs gas. The gang at Audley prefers charcoal for taste but uses gas sometimes for convenience. “The smoke from the charcoal is hard to beat for flavor,” says Turner. “Using a charcoal chimney is a great way to grill. It will help with getting the coals to the right temperature and texture for good grilling. You won’t have to use lighter fluid which can sometimes take away from the grilling experience by leaving traces behind.”

“I’m a charcoal and wood guy all the way,” says Jared. “I think it adds a flavor that propane cannot. In my spare time, I like to do Competition BBQ and I’ve learned a lot of tips and techniques over the years.” Jared chuckles, “However, those tips and techniques are going to remain a secret, for now.”

Marinades and rubs are part of the grilling scene. And grilled vegetables make wonderful side dishes. A favorite marinade at Audley is soy sauce, honey, ginger, and garlic with orange or lemon for acidity. Add salt and pepper to taste for a sweet and savory marinade. “We love grilling all kinds of fresh vegetables directly on the grill or in seasoned marinated foil packs,” says Turner. “Asparagus, zucchini, and eggplant are great. We grill tomatoes, green onions, and corn too.”

When it comes to rubs, Jared says, “ I don’t really have a favorite, but I do have a pretty big collection of them. I get a lot of them from either Kosmos Q Products or Meat Church. The one I use the most is the SPG Rub from Kosmos. I use it on both meat and vegetables.”

Right now, Jared’s favorite vegetable to grill is asparagus. “We lightly toss it in olive oil and SPG and grill until tender. I also do broccoli and cauliflower the same way with a vegetable basket on the grill. I have grilled corn, but I prefer that on my griddle. The vegetable I prefer changes depending on what’s in season.”

Burner's Beef Hamburger on the grill

Cheeseburgers resting on a plate

Traeger Grill

Where to Find Your Best Summer Cookout Meats

Audley Farm: Clarke County Farmers’ Market Saturdays, 8 am-noon. “Come by and get your fresh, local protein and produce,” says Turner. “It’s a lot of fun and you are supporting your local vendor. Know your source. Know where your protein comes from, how it’s raised and processed.”

Burners Beef:  Facebook or email. Depending on your location, Burner’s will make the appropriate arrangements to get your beef to you.

Check out other farmers and food suppliers that are part of the locally sourced food movement on Taste of Blue Ridge.