Nearly three out of four beef lovers (74 percent) say their family plans to grill out more this summer than in previous years, according to a recent survey conducted by IPSOS Public Affairs for the Beef Checkoff Program.

“The backyard has become the new American family room because outdoor grilling is a favorite summer pastime that brings together family and friends for fun, relaxation and delicious food,” said Chef Dave Zino, executive director of the Culinary Center for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. “From flavorful beef kabobs, steaks and burgers to farm-fresh fruits and vegetables – everything tastes better on the grill.”

Despite the current economy, consumers also are not willing to sacrifice their love for beef. Nearly half (47 percent) of survey respondents said there were certain foods they simply would not give up at their backyard barbecue regardless of cost. Steak was number one in this category with half of the group saying they would not give it up. Ground beef was the second most popular food (15 percent) consumers would not give up when grilling.

“The versatility of beef makes it the perfect choice for any occasion,” added Chef Zino. Beef offers a variety of cuts for every budget. Retail prices for great steaks, such as T-bone, porterhouse, top sirloin and ribeye, are lower than normal for this time of year due to an increase in supply at grocery stores. Zino adds that wholesale prices for beef cuts from the rib and loin have declined nearly to 2005-2006 levels.

Chef Zino counsels that a little preparation goes a long way in creating a delicious steak or burger in the backyard. “Nothing makes your mouth water more than beef sizzling on the grill. There are a few basic tips that can help you create delicious beef meals while saving money,” he said. He offers the following:

Plan Ahead and Save by Grilling Once and Dining Twice: Grill enough steaks for a couple of meals, and slice leftovers for salads or sandwiches. In addition, buying beef in bulk saves money and helps you reclaim those meals you love.

Simple Seasoning: Use rubs made with fresh herbs and garlic to enhance the flavor of naturally tender steaks such as T-bone, top loin (strip) and tenderloin. For less tender steaks such as top round, flank or skirt, a basic marinade incorporating acidic ingredients – wine, vinegar or citrus juices – tenderizes and adds flavor. Marinate the steaks at least six hours – up to 24 hours – to achieve perfect results. When adding seasoning to ground beef, don't overmix and use a light touch when forming patties.

Watch the Heat: Whether you prefer charcoal or gas, grilling over medium heat ensures even cooking and flavorful, juicy results. If beef is grilled over too high heat, the exterior can become overcooked or charred before the interior reaches the desired doneness. Charring meat, poultry or fish is not recommended.

Turning Techniques: Use long-handled tongs, rather than a fork, for turning steaks because a fork will pierce the beef and release flavorful juices. A spatula is best for flipping ground beef patties, but don't press down or you'll lose the juices that keep burgers moist.

Determining Doneness: Use an instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into the side of steaks and burgers to check doneness. The thermometer should penetrate the thickest part or center of the meat. Allow 10 to 15 seconds for the thermometer to register the internal temperature. Cook steaks to 145°F (medium rare) or 160°F (medium). Cook burgers to at least 160°F. The color of cooked ground beef is not a reliable indicator of doneness.

“There are so many healthful options for the grill with 29 cuts of beef that meet government guidelines for lean, so it's easy for people to go lean with their favorite protein this summer,” Chef Zino noted. “Consumers' favorite steaks to grill include lean cuts, such as top sirloin, top loin (strip) and T-bone.”

A serving qualifies as "lean" if it has less than 10 grams of total fat, no more than 4.5 grams of saturated fat and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol per 3.5-oz. serving. As an excellent or good source of 10 essential nutrients, one three-ounce serving of beef contains 51 percent of the Daily Value for protein, which helps provide energy and manage weight.

For more information, look to for great beef grilling tips and recipes.


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