When we asked Joe LaCorte for recommendations about the best cuts of meat to serve to the men we love on Father’s Day, his suggestions came fast and furious: “Get a nice tomahawk steak, a porterhouse or a beautiful ribeye — but get them hand-cut and trimmed from a butcher,” he says.
The eponymous owner of Joe’s Meat Market in South Bound Brook — yes, the Joe who was featured last year on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive Ins and Dives” — has honed his skills in creating perfect cuts of meat since he started in the business at age 12. “The trick to selecting the best piece of meat is going to a quality butcher,” he says. “He will educate you on what you’re purchasing and how to cook that specific cut.”
LaCorte opened Joe’s Meat Market, which he operates with his wife, Dolly, and son, Giovanni, in 1991. Over the years, the market has developed a loyal customer base, populated by patrons-turned-friends who return for the fine ranges of quality, expertly cut meat, along with cheeses, breads, salads and sweets.
That’s decades of BBQs. Giovanni has become a master at guiding customers on how to grill. “When cooked properly, all good cuts of meat will be delicious,” he says. “However, a bone-in cut will have even more flavor due to the marrow in the bone, which seeps into the meat when cooking.”
Since every cut is unique in thickness, Giovanni instructs customers at the point of sale on how long to cook their purchase. “In general, though, you want to make sure your grill is very hot,” he says. “Put a nice amount olive oil on the steak, then season it with salt, pepper and a little garlic powder.”
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.
"Make sure your grill is very hot. Put a nice amount olive oil on the steak, then season it with salt, pepper and a little garlic powder.” —Giovanni LaCorte