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Ready to cook: Local experts share tips to improve holiday grilling

Joe Falcone flips a bratwurst over while grilling Saturday outside of Josef's Elegante Meats & Deli in Geneva. Falcone, the son of owners Pat and Nanette, grilled up a selection of meats, including brats, sausages, and burgers stuffed with bacon, onion and cheddar.
Joe Falcone flips a bratwurst over while grilling Saturday outside of Josef's Elegante Meats & Deli in Geneva. Falcone, the son of owners Pat and Nanette, grilled up a selection of meats, including brats, sausages, and burgers stuffed with bacon, onion and cheddar.

To prepare for one of the biggest grilling days of the year, Ream’s Elburn Market was prepared to go through about 1,000 pounds of beef patties and about 1,000 pounds of bratwurst.

With so many people planning to fire up the grill during the Fourth of July holiday, seasoned grillers offered some tips on the best way to cook hamburgers, brats, ribs and more on the grill, and offered advice on the best cuts of meats to use.


At Blue Goose Market in St. Charles, outdoor grillers serve hundreds of brats, hamburgers and rib-eye steaks during lunch time Fridays and Saturdays.

Kyle Krahenbuhl, a Blue Goose employee who regularly grills out in front of the store on weekends, said his best advice when it comes to grilling hamburgers is to make sure they cook as evenly as possible.

“I usually do four minutes a side for medium burgers,” he said.

Dale Instefjord, who also regularly grills out at Blue Goose, said he prefers chuck burgers that are 85 percent meat and 15 percent fat. He said those types of burgers produce a lot of flavor and are still juicy when they come off the grill.

Pat Falcone, who owns Josef’s Elegante Meats & Deli in Geneva with his wife, Nanette, said most people stop in during this time of year to buy their stuffed jumbo burgers, and selections include a bacon, onion and cheddar burger, a bleu cheese burger, a Tuscan burger and a jalapeño jack burger. Cook them until the cheese starts oozing out, he said.

Sliders also have become especially popular in recent years.

Randy Ream, who owns Ream’s Elburn Market in Elburn with his wife, Janelle, said when it comes to hamburgers, he likes to use an electric thermometer. He said he knows the burgers are done when they hit 165 degrees.

“Make sure your grill isn’t too hot. Go with a medium low heat,” he said.

Bratwurst and sausages

Randy Ream suggests soaking sausages in a little salt water for about 10 minutes before putting them on the grill. Janelle Ream said one tip she always tells customers is that they do not recommend boiling the brats first.

“You’re going to boil some of the flavor out of the brats,” she said. “If you need to, start them in the microwave and finish them on the grill. Then simmer them with onions and beer after the grill.”

Instefjord from Blue Goose, on the other hand, said boiling the brats first does help cut down on the cooking time and ensures that the brat is fully cooked.

Falcone said high-quality bratwurst or sausage will not shrink on the grill. It will be the same size before and after. His advice when it comes to grilling them is to keep turning them.

Steaks and ribs

When it comes to steak, Falcone said he prefers a bone-in cut of meat, such as a strip steak or a porterhouse. He said he often reminds people to not sear one side of the steak before flipping it over. Instead, cook it for a couple of minutes on each side and keep turning it. He suggests coating the steak with some extra virgin olive oil beforehand.

One cut of steak that’s gaining popularity is the hanger steak, which Falcone said has only been on the market for a few years. It’s an “extremely tender” cut of meat that’s good marinated or with a dry rub.

For baby back ribs, he suggests putting them in the oven with a little water at 325 degrees for two hours and finish them on the grill with barbecue sauce for about 10 minutes.

“Some people try to start and finish [ribs] on the grill, and it’s rubbery,” he said.

Randy Ream also suggests the “slow and low” method for grilling ribs. He suggested not applying the barbecue sauce until the last 10 minutes of cooking.

“When you cook your meats, try to get it as close to room temperature as possible [before cooking],” he said. “Pull them out of the fridge and let them warm up a little.”

Both Randy Ream and Instefjord said they’re partial to ribeye cuts of steak. Instefjord said if they’re sliced less than a half-inch thick, they’re good for sandwiches. He cooks them quickly on a hot grill because it’s a more tender cut of meat.

Instefjord said grilling novices shouldn’t be afraid to grill out because it becomes easier every time.

“It’s a great way to eat out, and boy is it fun,” he said.

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