Anthony Vacchiano II knows a thing or two about Father’s Day. The owner of Vacchiano Farm in Readington runs the business with his son, Anthony III, 25, with the help of his father, Anthony, 85, who started the farm in the 1960s with his wife, Lucia.
In fact, it’s a whole family affair with the help of Anthony’s children Elizabeth, Josephine, Lucia and Aneillo. “My father is proud to help me, and I’m very proud of the contributions my family has made,” he says. The Vacchianos own a 100-acre farm in Port Colden and one in Readington that covers 375 acres. Its cattle graze primarily on pasture, along with a little bit of non-GMO grain for flavor.
For Father's Day, Vacchiano recommends grilling a bone-in steak. “Our specialty is the tomahawk steak, which is always a crowd pleaser. It makes a statement. It is a high-quality steak cut from the ribeye, which has a higher fat content than other parts of the beef with a long bone,” he says.
Since tomahawks are usually thick, Vacchiano advises cooking them with a reverse-sear. “Preheat the oven to 300° F and put the tomahawk in a roasting pan for about 45 minutes to help raise the internal temperature. This helps these thick steaks with bones get the temperature where they need to be,” he says.
Take the steak out and place it on the grill at its highest setting — like 600° F — and sear it on one side for four minutes and then flip and sear on the other side for four minutes. Then, Vacchiano says, check to make sure it’s medium — a 125° F internal temperature, which is what they recommend.
If a tomahawk steak is too much, Vacchiano says they also offer hand-pressed hamburger and chicken patties and marinated chicken breasts, which are also perfect for an early summer BBQ.
To cook a good burger, he recommends placing it on the grill and letting it cook until the top starts to sweat. When the juices rise to the top, flip the burger for a minute, then remove it from the grill.
This month, asparagus and zucchini are in season. Vacchiano recommends slicing the zucchini on an angle about half an inch thick, then marinate the slices in olive oil and balsamic vinegar and place them on the grill just long enough to heat them through. After grilling, return the slices to the marinade and let the pieces absorb the liquid.
In addition to the right cut of meat, the grill you use can make the difference between an average meal and one for the history books. “When selecting a grill, you want to look at cost, quality, cooking surface size and features,” says Jason Goldan, owner of Barry’s Appliance in Bridgewater. “There are a lot of ‘throwaway’ grills out there at big box stores, but quality mid-level grills from brands like Weber and Napoleon don’t cost much more and are built to last 15 to 20 years. And higher-end brands like Lynx, Viking and Wolf can last even longer.”
When considering the cooking surface size, Goldan recommends thinking about how much grilling you do. “If grilling is your hobby or if you have a larger family, you should get a larger-sized grill and perhaps more features than if you are a family of two that might grill once a month,” he says.
Since a perfect sear will bring out the flavor of the meat, pay attention to the burner performance. “Entry-level and mid-level grills have burners with lower BTUs, which means the grill will take a lot longer to reach the right temperature for searing,” he says. “Searing becomes easier if you upgrade to more powerful burners with 20,000 to 25,000 BTUs.” Goldan notes that some grills — even entry-level and mid-level models — now have dedicated sear burners.
Other grill features include rotisserie burners, lights and charcoal trays. “Grilling at night with a flashlight is not easy, so the lights make all the difference when it’s dark out,” he says. “If you like to change the flavor, look for a grill that offers charcoal tray accessories. This is great if you are into smoking or using charcoal or wood chips with a traditional propane gas or natural gas grill.”
Of course, once you buy your dream grill, you’ll want to keep it in mint condition. “Maintenance is easy — if you keep up with it. When you let it go it gets more difficult because of the grease buildup,” Goldan says.
He recommends using a good grill brush to keep the grates clean and wipe the outside of the grill after use, removing any sediment that could harm the exterior, like bird droppings or rain, which contains minerals that could corrode the finish over time. It is also important to clean out the grease traps and grease trays. Goldan recommends turning the grill on high to let it burn off residual grease a few times a year. Finally, after every use, slip a good quality cover on your grill.
Not surprisingly, one of Goldan’s favorite activities is manning the grill. “I have young kids, and we love being outside cooking up good meat and entertaining,” he says. “Now that it is warm, it’s nice to have an outdoor living space where we can spend time together as a family, enjoying the weather and eating good food.”
Grilled Zucchini with Za'atar
2 lbs zucchini, sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp za'atar spice
1 tsp salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
Parsley, lemon, yogurt, cherry tomatoes, for garnish
Preheat grill to high heat.
In a large mixing bowl, place sliced zucchini along with olive oil, za'atar, salt and garlic. Mix to combine well.
Place zucchini on grill and cook for 10 minutes,
Turn over and cook the other side for 10 minutes more.
Place zucchini in a serving plate, top with yogurt, cherry tomatoes and parsley.
“The tomahawk steak is always a crowd pleaser. It is a high-quality steak cut from the ribeye, which has a higher fat content than other parts of the beef.”