How to Grill the Perfect Steak: Expert Tips and Secrets!

We told you in our last post about grilling no-fail, delicious chicken that we wouldn’t leave out the red-meat lovers, so this one’s for you!

Seven Loaves grilled steak

Just in time for your 4th of July celebrations, we’re going to share our tried-and-true tips for cooking a perfectly grilled steak.

Gas vs. Charcoal

Many people have moved to gas grilling because of the convenience, but there’s little argument that using charcoal produces a more flavorful meat. We all love convenience, but what if you could have hot coals in the same amount of time that it takes to heat up a gas grill? You can by using a charcoal chimney!  We use one and we love it. If you want to learn more about it, you can read about it here.

Seven Loaves grilling tips

The charcoal chimney gets started by using either lighter cubes or newspaper. Since newspaper can sometimes be hard to get your hands on right when you need it, you can buy unprinted newspaper in bulk at your local moving supply store (like U-Haul). Keep a box of it in your garage, and you’ll always have it on hand to get your fire started.

Gauging the Temperature of the Grill

Grilling at the right heat level is probably more important than any other aspect of grilling. You can’t expect great results if you just grill everything at the same temperature.

If your grill has a thermometer in the lid, then it’s easier to be sure you’re cooking at the correct heat level. If you’re using a charcoal grill, however, it may not have a thermometer. Then you can use the old-school hand test instead.

Seven Loaves grilling steak

To use the hand test, extend your palm over the charcoal at a safe distance. Imagine a soda can standing over the cooking grate. If your palm was resting on the top of the can, it would be about five inches from the cooking grate─just where you should measure the heat of the charcoal.

Always pull your hand away from the heat BEFORE it hurts.
And be sure that nothing flammable, such as a sleeve, is dangling from your arm!

  • If you need to pull your hand away after 2 to 4 seconds, the heat is high
  • If you need to pull your hand away after 5 to 7 seconds, the heat is medium
  • If you need to pull your hand away after 8 to 10 seconds, the heat is low

Grilling Classes

We’re going to share tips here, but we also want to let you know that we occasionally host grilling classes. We not only demonstrate our tips for grilling success, but everyone has a lot of fun, too.

We provide the instruction and drinks, and those attending get to sample a variety of food from the grill as we cook. To keep an eye out for future grilling classes, “like” our Facebook page or fill out your contact information. Just put grilling classes in the box for event description.

In the meantime, we’re going to share our tips on grilling the perfect steak. It all starts with a good cut of meat…

Perfectly grilled steak

Seven Loaves grilled steak

To grill the perfect steak, you only need three ingredients: a good cut of steak, a small amount of oil, and your seasoning.

Steak cuts we recommend for grilling:

Boneless rib-eye, 1.25 to 1.5 inches thick, about 12 ounces each
New York Strip steaks, 1.25 to 1.5 inches thick, about 12 ounces each
Filet mignons, trimmed, about 8 to 10 ounces each

For oil, you’ll need 2 tablespoons canola or extra-virgin olive oil (per every four steaks)

Lastly, you’ll need your favorite steak seasoning or seasoned salt.

What we recommend for steak seasoning

Over the years we’ve developed our own house blend seasoning, but you can make a delicious, simple blend on your own. We recommend one of the following:

  • Equal parts of Lawry’s Seasoned Salt + Mrs. Dash Seasoning
  • Equal parts Lawry’s Seasoned Salt + Montreal Steak Seasoning

Apply seasoning liberally before grilling the meat. We recommend using about twice as much seasoning blend as you would if you were using just salt alone.

Steps for grilling the perfect steak:

About 20 minutes before grilling, remove the steaks from the refrigerator and let sit, covered, at room temperature.

Heat the grill to high.

Brush the steaks on both sides with oil and season liberally with your steak seasoning.

Place the steaks on the grill and cook until golden brown and slightly charred, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Turn the steaks over once, and continue to grill until they reach the perfect amount of doneness. (What that means is up to you!)

  • Cook about another 3 to 5 minutes for medium rare (an internal temperature of 135 degrees)
  • Cook about another 5 to 7 minutes for medium (an internal temperature of 140 degrees)
  • Cook about another 8 to 10 minutes for medium well (an internal temperature of 150 degrees)

Transfer the steaks to a platter, tent loosely with foil, and let rest 5 minutes before serving or slicing.

Have fun grilling

The most important thing is to just enjoy working on your grill skills! Attack your outdoor grilling as a fun experiment, not a chore. Most things in life that require skill don’t come naturally, so cut yourself some slack and be ready for trial and error. Take notes on what you do so you can make adjustments or do the same things next time, depending on the outcome.

And if you’re worried about ruining dinner, then just keep a package of good ol’ tube steaks (hotdogs) on hand as a backup!

Have a safe and happy July 4th!

 

 

9 Tips for Grilling Perfect No-Fail Chicken (Plus a Favorite Recipe!)

Seven Loaves grilling tips

Many guys dream of mastering the perfect steak on the grill. But more and more, we see the ladies tackling the grill and sometimes they just want a well-cooked, flavorful piece of chicken. And guys, let’s face it. Sometimes you simply need to whip out a weeknight dinner, so learning how to master chicken that’s juicy and tasty, rather than dry and bland, is important.

Red meat lovers─you’re next!

Don’t worry─we’ll get to the red meat! Watch for our next blog post (soon) on grilling the perfect steak.

In the meantime, here are 9 tips for grilling delicious, no-fail chicken:

1) Start with the right cut of chicken

Seven Loaves grilling tips Some pieces of chicken take longer to grill than others, so if time is a factor, you’ll have to choose your chicken pieces accordingly. You’ll need more time for thicker pieces or bone-in breasts. If time is limited, choose boneless breasts or cut boneless chicken into small pieces and thread onto a skewer.

Skewer tips:

If you use wooden or bamboo skewers, soak them in water for 20-30 minutes before using. Skewer meat and veggies from end to end leaving no skewer exposed. (If necessary, buy shorter skewers or trim off excess skewer with kitchen shears.) Following these tips will keep the skewers from catching on fire.

2) Pound boneless chicken breasts before cooking

The uneven shape of boneless, skinless chicken breasts makes them difficult to grill. Take just a few minutes to pound the thicker part of the breast so that it’s thinner. This helps in two ways─you’ll shorten cooking time and the meat will cook more evenly.

3) Add flavor to the chicken before grilling

Seven Loaves grilling tips

Take a little bit more time to add some flavor to the meat before grilling. It can be a brine, a rub, or a marinade. Something simple will do the trick─don’t worry about needing anything complicated. Adding a little flavor to the meat before cooking has several benefits.

First, you won’t have as much basting work to do during grilling. Plus, the flavor of the grilled chicken will be better. Another plus: when you don’t have to do as much basting work, you have more time to enjoy one of the best parts of grilling─kicking back with a cold drink and relaxing while dinner cooks.

4) Prep the grill

For the grill to cook well, it needs to be maintained, cleaned, and prepped. Before starting to cook, make sure you have enough fuel and that you have clean grill grates. Right before putting the chicken on, rub a little oil on the preheated grates to keep it from sticking.

Use long tongs to add oil to your grill plates. Then use either several layers of heavy-duty paper towels or an old kitchen rag saturated with vegetable oil. We recommend that once the grill is heated, your turn the burners off while oiling to avoid a flare up. (If you use vegetable spray instead, you absolutely MUST turn the burners off!) Don’t forget to reignite the grill once the grates are oiled!

5) Stay away from high heat

Unlike steak or burgers, where you want a fairly high heat to get a good sear on the outside, chicken needs to stay away from high heat. You want to cook chicken thoroughly, but without the skin burning. This works best over medium, indirect heat.

If you’re using a charcoal grill, build a two-level fire or put coals on only half of the grill. If you’re using a gas grill, keep the heat on medium.

6) Close the lid!

Seven Loaves grilling tipsOne of the biggest mistakes that novice grillers make is to leave the grill open. This not only makes cooking time longer, but you’re unnecessarily losing a lot of heat and fuel. A covered grill creates a sealed, oven-like environment where the heat surrounds your food on all sides. This is especially helpful when you’re cooking chicken because, unlike steak or burgers, chicken must be cooked thoroughly.

7) Avoid cross-contamination

You have to be careful not to get cross-contamination when handling chicken. Anything that touches raw chicken (including your hands!) needs to be washed with hot, soapy water. Never use a platter to carry raw chicken out to the grill and then put the cooked chicken back on the same platter. At least not without a good hot, soapy wash in between!

8) Baste often, but not until the end

It’s delicious when sauce glazes grilled chicken and caramelizes onto it. But wait to brush on the sauce until the end of cooking or it will burn. Don’t start basting until about five to seven minutes before the chicken is done. Then baste all over, turning the chicken a few times. That way each layer has time to cook and stick to the chicken.

9) Use a meat thermometer

Chicken needs to be cooked thoroughly to be safe. Insert a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thickest piece of chicken and make sure that it reaches a temperature of 165 degrees. Also be certain that the thermometer is not resting on a chicken bone─this gives a false reading.

If you don’t have a thermometer (we strongly suggest that you get one!) cut into a thick part of the chicken and make sure the juices run clear.

A family favorite

We found this recipe from Betty Crocker years ago, and it’s been one of our family’s favorite summer chicken recipes ever since. This recipe calls for boneless breasts, but you can certainly use thighs or leg quarters. Give it a try─we think you’ll love it!

Grilled Chicken with Chipotle-Peach Glaze

Seven Loaves chicken recipe

Ingredients

1/2 cup peach preserves
1/4 cup lime juice
1 canned chipotle chile pepper in adobo sauce, seeded, chopped*
1 teaspoon adobo sauce (from can of chiles)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
8 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 2 1/2 lb) SAVE $
1 teaspoon garlic-pepper blend
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 peaches, cut in half and pitted, if desired
Cilantro sprigs

*Please note: this is ONE pepper, not one whole can. You can always raise the heat by adding more peppers or by not seeding, if you want it hotter.

Steps

Heat gas or charcoal grill to medium. In 1-quart saucepan, mix preserves, lime juice, chile pepper, and adobo sauce. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until preserves are melted. Stir in chopped cilantro; set aside.

Sprinkle chicken with garlic-pepper blend, cumin and salt.

Place chicken on grill. Cover grill; cook over medium heat 15 to 20 minutes. During the last few minutes, turn a few times while brushing with the preserves mixture. Cook until juice of chicken is clear and when center of thickest part reaches 165 degrees.

Add peach halves to grill for last 2 to 3 minutes of grilling, just until heated.

Heat any remaining preserves mixture to boiling; boil and stir for one minute.

Serve cooked sauce with chicken and peaches. Garnish with cilantro sprigs.

Happy grilling!

And don’t forget─we’re not leaving out the red-meat lovers! Watch for our next post soon on grilling the perfect steak.

Would your next event be better with this popular, new trend?

These days, whether you are hosting a corporate event, a personal celebration, or a wedding, more catering options are available than ever before.

Seven Loaves Catering stations

Stations

One of our favorite catering trends, growing in popularity, is the use of creative catering stations . Stations can best be described as mini-buffets placed throughout the venue. Each offers a different food theme and many times provides customizable toppings or ingredients to choose from.

 

Seven Loaves catering stations with waffles

You can see the appeal of stations at a morning corporate event. Instead of the regular buffet of scrambled eggs, bacon, and hash browns, you could offer your guests pancake, omelet, and waffle stations–complete with a wide variety of toppings. Seven Loaves has catered this corporate breakfast, and it’s always a great success.

You can also offer what is called an “action station.” Here, a chef mans the station and cooks something to the exact specifications and requests of your guests. (Think of the hotel omelet bar where you choose your ingredients and a chef cooks it for you.)

 

Seven Loaves Catering stations with quesadillas

We offered an action station at a corporate event we recently catered. It was a quesadilla station. Dishes of pork, chicken, beef, and lots of various toppings were provided. Then our chef cooked each individual quesadilla for the guests–they loved it!

How stations can improve your next event

Stations provide a lot of benefits, both for the host and the guests:

  • People enjoy stations and have fun building their own food items.
  • Stations allow people to mingle more easily. Instead of sitting at the same table throughout the event, people are able to move around and talk to others at different stations placed around the room. This set-up easily leads to more networking and interaction. And isn’t that one of the main purposes of a corporate event?
  • Stations reduce the long lines that you can find at buffets. When the crowd is heading to three, four, or more stations spread around the room, there won’t be one long buffet line. When you offer stations, the food is ready when your guests arrive and the lines are much shorter–if you even have any!
  • Leaving food stations open throughout your event allows your attendees to munch when they feel like it.
  • You don’t have to provide seating for everyone when offering stations serving. People can stand and nibble on their smaller stations plate, and then go get a different serving of something else. You can even provide tall tables for plates and drinks that people can stand around while eating, drinking, and visiting.
  • Although servings are smaller than a standard plated or buffet meal, stations allow you to offer a wider variety of food items.
  • With people’s dietary restrictions (vegetarian, gluten-free, etc.) becoming more and more prevalent, stations allow you to offer menu items to these guests.

Seven Loaves Extensive Stations Menu

Seven Loaves Catering stations

At Seven Loaves, we offer a broad variety of 31 different food stations for our catering customers. You can definitely find something for everyone! Take a look at the stations menus we offer here:

Our most popular catering stations lately have been our mashed potato mini bar, macaroni and cheese bar, pasta station, and southern biscuits and chicken station.

We’re getting hungry just thinking about them!

 

 

Not sure how much food you need for party guests? We can help! (Plus: Our favorite chili recipe)

Seven Loaves partiesHaving some friends and neighbors over to watch the game, to celebrate a birthday, or just to get together is always fun– and it doesn’t have to be hard!

But a lot of people stress about how much food to get for these occasions. You don’t want too many leftovers, but even worse, you don’t want to run out of food mid-party! We can help you with this.

Seven Loaves Party Platters

Of course, if you want to keep it really simple, Seven Loaves can provide delicious, made-to-order platters that are ready to serve. You tell us how many guests you expect and we can take it from there.

seven loaves antipasto platter

 

We have antipasto platters with genoa salami, prosciutto, ham, pepperoni, olives and cheeses, served w/ flatbread and crackers. These platters start at $65 each serving up to 20 people.

 

 

Seven Loaves vegetable platter
We also offer vegetable platters with freshly cut carrots, celery, broccoli, sugar snap peas, grape tomatoes, cucumber, and jicama. These are served with Asiago Peppercorn Ranch and garnished with carved radish flowers. Starting at $35, this sized platter serves up to 15.

 

seven loaves cheese board

 

If you want a cheese platter, we have one offering domestic and imported cheeses served with assorted crackers and fresh fruit garnish. These start at $100, serving up to 25 at this size.

 

We have many other appetizers, platters and dips available for your gatherings. Check them out here and see if you’d like for us to provide the platters for your next party!

seven loaves platters
Tenderloin display
seven loaves fruit tray
Fruit display
Seven Loaves salmon display
Salmon display

Do-It-Yourself party? Seven Loaves Tips…

When you want to take care of it yourself though, we can help you there too.

One of the hardest things about hosting a get-together is figuring out how much food to get. We’ve had years of experience with this, and want to share what we’ve learned.

With a reminder that 16 ounces equal 1 pound, here are our recommendations on how much food you’ll need for your next get-together:

Meat:
We recommend about 4 ounces (or 1/4 pound) per guest when serving deli meat. When serving a sandwich, 4 oz. is generally about 6-7 slices.

Cheese:
When serving cheese, we recommend that you make the ratio of meat to cheese about four parts meat to one part cheese. (Each pound of meat = 1/4 pound cheese)

Crackers:
We suggest 1 ounce  of crackers per guest

Chips and dips:
Chips: 1 ounce per person
Dips: 2 ounces per person (volume)

Vegetable platters:
4 oz. of vegetables per person
Favorite options: celery, broccoli, sugar snap peas, grape tomatoes, jicama, carrots, and cucumbers
Dressing: 1 to 1 1/2 ounces per person (volume)

That should cover you on meat and cheese platters, chips and dips, and vegetable platters.

But you also can’t go wrong with a big pot of chili for your group! If you decide to go that route, here’s our favorite chili recipe:

Seven Loaves chili

Seven Loaves Chili

Serves 10

Ingredients:
2 1/3 pounds of ground beef
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 red onions, sliced
5 fresh jalepeno peppers, sliced and seeded
8 garlic cloves, whole, peeled
1/4 cup chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 pound dry pinto beans
14 oz. beef broth

Optional toppings:
Green onions, sliced
Sour cream
Shredded cheddar cheese
Fritos corn chips

Directions:
1) Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute until browned, about 6 minutes.
2) Add jalepenos and garlic, saute 1 minute
3) Add ground beef, and cook until brown, about 5 minutes
4) Add chili powder, cumin, and paprika. Then add tomatoes (with juice), beans and broth. Bring to a boil.
5) Reduce heat and simmer until chili thickens and flavors blend, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes.
6) Skim any fat from surface of chili

Ladle chili into bowls and add optional toppings, if desired.

 

Don’t Make these Embarrassing Blunders at your Office Christmas Party!

Your office Christmas party is an excellent way to get to know your co-workers and bosses on a more personal level, take a break from work, and celebrate the season.

But as a caterer, we’ve seen office party blunders that can have even long-term consequences. Enjoy your party, but try not to commit these all-too-common party mistakes:

Seven Loaves Catering Christmas party blunders

Drinking too much

We’re going to start with the most important one first—the big one. In fact, if you don’t make this mistake, you can probably avoid the rest of them. Alcohol is behind almost all office party blunders.

It seems so simple: DON’T DRINK TOO MUCH AT YOUR COMPANY CHRISTMAS PARTY!

Nobody plans on doing that, though. But when the music is on, your co-workers are partying, and the alcohol is flowing, it’s easy to lose track of your drinks. Pay attention. And then after about two, switch to soft drinks or water. Nobody ever regrets slowing down their drinking at the office party!

How about that election?

This is a good rule to follow every year, but in 2016 it may be even more important—don’t talk politics! That supervisor whom you’re sure feels the same way you do about all things political? Don’t be so sure. Especially this year—leave it alone!

Being the Grinch

Seven Loaves Catering Christmas party blundersTry to remember that an office Christmas party is meant to be a time for everyone to enjoy themselves and have a break. If you find yourself in a conversation with a manager, or even a co-worker who you don’t get to talk to often, don’t see it as a chance to complain about work problems.  And don’t complain about the party venue, bar, music, etc. Keep your complaints at the office, and stick to positive conversations at the party.

Cutting Your Time Short

You may have other places to go and other people to see, but don’t try to blow in and out of your office Christmas party. Especially if you have people who work for you, don’t be the person that arrives late, breezes around the room for half an hour, and leaves. It gives the impression that your employees or co-workers aren’t important enough to spend the evening with. And maybe they’re not—ha! But you still don’t want to leave that impression.

Deciding that your boss is your BFF

Remember that your boss is still the boss. Don’t thrown down a few drinks, lose your inhibitions, and take this as an opportunity to tell the boss what a crappy decision it was to eliminate breakroom coffee or to spill the beans on one of your co-workers.  A Christmas party is never a good time to deliver feedback to a manager.

 *#*&(!!

Seven Loaves Catering Christmas party blunders

Watch your language. When you’re in a much less formal setting than the office, you may feel free to let your potty mouth run a little more. But since you probably don’t know if your co-workers (or worse yet—your bosses) are going to be offended by dropping f-bombs or other four letter words, it’s a bad idea to let them flow at the party.

Bringing Sexy Back

Yes, you’ve been dying for the chance to wear that low-cut, slinky black dress you bought last summer. But the office Christmas party is probably not the right time. Sure, it’s a party, but it’s also still a business event. Show good judgment and follow the dress code.

Seven Loaves Catering Christmas party blundersBeing too “friendly”

This involves dangling mistletoe over your head, asking a co-worker if they want to leave with you at the end of the party, or grinding on the dance floor to those awesome 70’s tunes. Just don’t.  And if it’s the dancing, don’t forget there will be video captured that everyone will be enjoying in the office on Monday. Who needs that?
So there you have it—our friendly warnings to avoid making some all-too-common mistakes at your office Christmas party.

If you are planning a party and need help with the menu, give us a call at Seven Loaves. We offer everything from hors d’oeuvres to full holiday meals. Click here to see the many delicious, affordable holiday options available.

As always, we wish you a blunder-free Christmas season!

7 Easy Ways to Cut Holiday Stress (And We Can Help with Number One!)

Holidays can be a wonderful time of reconnecting with family and friends, but also a super busy time with high expectations. Unfortunately, this “most wonderful time of the year” can be extremely stressful for those in charge of planning and providing the holiday fun.

Seven Loaves holiday catering

There are so many things to do: meal planning, house cleaning, putting up a tree, parties, kid’s events, shopping, wrapping, decorating, Christmas cards…whew! The list goes on and on. It’s stressful just thinking about it!

Everyone will have better holiday memories though, if you can limit the stress and try to relax and enjoy the holidays instead.

 

Here are seven easy ways you can reduce holiday stress. We can even help you with the first one! The others are something you can do without us.

Let go of the need to do everything yourself
Imagine how much more relaxing it would be to serve your family a delicious, chef-prepared, holiday meal cooked by someone else! Seven Loaves can take care of this for you.

For Thanksgiving, we can provide a roasted turkey and honey baked ham meal complete with cornbread stuffing, a choice of two other side dishes, cranberry relish, giblet gravy, and Parker House rolls. You also have the options of adding a fried whole turkey, pumpkin or pecan pies, and sweet tea. Click here to find all of our Thanksgiving meal details.

If you’d like for us to prepare your Thanksgiving meal, the deadline for Thanksgiving is Monday, November 21, so call us soon! (972 293 5111)

Seven Loaves holiday catering menu

For the Christmas season, we have several additional holiday menu options available. Along with the roasted turkey and honey baked ham meal, you can also choose from citrus herb chicken, cherry bourbon smoked pork tenderloin, herb crusted beef tenderloin, or slow roasted prime rib for your entree. We offer a wide variety of delicious appetizers, salads, sides, and pies to put together your special meal.

If you’re having a party, choose from our many hors’ d-oeuvres options. We have platters available with antipasto, beef tenderloin, cheeses, vegetable crudité, smoked brisket and more.

Give yourself the gift of letting Seven Loaves provide your holiday meal. Check out all of our Christmas season choices and prices here.

Keep Only the Most Important Traditions
Take some time before things get super busy and ask the people in your family what their favorite holiday traditions are. That gingerbread house kit you buy each year for everyone to decorate, but nobody mentioned when asked about their favorite traditions? Let it go! The advent calendar you put time and thought into every Christmas that nobody seems to remember? Let that go, too. Concentrate on doing only the things that are meaningful to your family, and let the rest belong to Christmases of the past.

Take a Walk
Even if you don’t feel like you have time, walk anyway! It seems counter-productive to add a walk to your already-too-busy day. But studies show that getting outside and taking in the sights and sounds of the outdoors for just a few minutes a day can do wonders to boost your mood and energy. If you can’t do half an hour (what most experts recommend), do ten. You’ll feel less stressed and be more equipped to tackle the tasks ahead when you return.

Turn on your favorite music
Take a break from the news and television for a while—the world will still be spinning when you come back after the holidays. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, your mood will improve when you put some music in the background. If Christmas tunes make you feel festive, put those on. But if country music or 1970’s southern rock is your thing, listen to that!

Get plenty of sleep
You already know this—if you get enough sleep at night, you’re going to be better prepared to face a busy day ahead. Even though you have a lot to do, go to bed! You’ll get more done the next day when you’re rested and will end up being more productive than if you stay up late to do things.

Cut out unnecessary activities
November and December are crazy busy months. If some things can wait, let them wait. January will be just as good of a time to do those car inspections, routine vet appointments, and so on.

Forget perfection
Possibly most important of all, let go of expecting perfection. You can’t expect perfection from yourself, much less everyone and everything else. Instead of focusing on some impossible-to-attain Martha Stewart holiday scene, enjoy your family—warts and all—and have fun this holiday season!

If we can help prepare food for your holidays, contact us at 972 293 5111.

Happy Holidays!

Seven Loaves christmas catering