“I keep my recipes simple but well-executed," says Saffron Hodgson. A seasoned outdoor competition cook and native Australian (she placed in the top ten in the 2012 Jack Daniels BBQ Competition), Hodgson discovered her love of live fire and camp cooking while a member of the Girl Scouts as child. Now she's a mom to two boys, Ash (age 12) and Dan (age 9), and has a live fire right in her backyard in Kirkland, just outside Seattle. Summer means more time to cook and eat outdoors together, and to teach them the art of the grill.
She’s enlisted the help of her assistant pitmasters to make grilled beef kebabs using all natural, antibiotic-free Laura’s 92% Lean Ground Beef, with no added hormones. We chat with Saffron about cooking with kids, expanding flavor palettes, and pro tips for grilling lean meat.
On her inspiration behind the meal.
I like to keep ground beef at home in the fridge or the freezer because it’s such a versatile meat to work with. It’s easy to get tired of just doing burgers, so the beef kebabs mix things up a bit, adding new flavors to the kids’ diet so they’re expanding their palettes while they’re young and still willing to experiment (plus, it’s a meal you eat with your hands, which is always more fun).
On the appeal for both parents and kids.
This meal has become a family favorite, where we get to try some new flavors and mix and match the toppings we add to the wrap. Sort of halfway between a burger and a taco, these kebabs require minimal prep time (without too many dishes) and allow the kids to get involved without any heavy technique element. Taste-wise, there are plenty of unique flavors for adults, but enough familiarity for the kids to be interested. The slaw, coriander, and tzatziki are all on the side, so the kids have more control over their meal—if they don’t like an element, they can skip it. My littlest (typically the fussier of the two) liked it so much he invited a friend to come over to try the leftovers!
On grilling with Laura’s Lean Ground Beef.
I actually prefer cooking with a lean meat like Laura’s—if the ground beef you’re working with is too fatty, it seems to make it fall apart more, and it’s also a more health-conscious option. When cooking outdoors, it’s tempting to want to work with more fatty meats, but it’s a good idea to add leaner meats to regular menu planning.
When cooking with lean meat, there isn’t the fat to provide a buffer, so be sure your heating surface isn’t too hot to avoid barbecue that’s burnt on the outside and raw on the inside. Consider the finish temperature and doneness to get the best results. On a grill, it’s good to have a hot side and a cool side so you can control the temperature of the food (managing the heat also manages the flavor).
On kids lending a hand in the kitchen.
My boys always help out—I’m a strong believer that it’s good to let kids into the kitchen and help as soon as possible, before they build up a fear of making a mess. Getting to cook outside in the summer is especially nice, as there’s less concern about dropping things on the ground. I find that getting the kids to follow a recipe also helps with math, putting skills from school into practice without it feeling like they’re doing a lesson.
A few tips:
- Talk through the steps of the meal while you prep, during the cooking, and after you’ve finished, so they learn for next time.
- First, have them help with prep to learn safe knife skills, cutting easier things like cucumbers and bananas to start and working their way up to harder items.
- If they are able and comfortable helping with the grilling itself, make sure they’re aware of what’s hot, and appropriate safety precautions (this includes accommodating their height at the grill).
Ready in: 50 minutes
1 pound (450g) Laura’s 92% Lean Ground Beef
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground garlic
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups plain Greek yogurt
1 clove fresh garlic, finely diced
1/2 cucumber finely diced
2 cups thinly sliced cabbage
1 small carrot grated
1 lemon juiced
4 flat breads, such as pita
1 tomato, thinly sliced
Bunch fresh cilantro (coriander)
1. Combine the lean ground beef and all the seasonings then mix thoroughly until well combined.
2. Rest the beef kebab mixture in a cooler while you prepare the rest of the ingredients and light the grill.
3. Combine the yogurt, diced garlic and cucumber in a bowl. Place in a cooler for the flavors to meld until ready to serve.
4. Combine the cabbage, carrot and lemon juice to create a simple salad.
5. Light the grill and preheat to a medium temperature.
6. Divide the meat into 4 even portions, then gently wrap the beef mixture around each skewer.
7. Gently place the kebab skewers on the grill and let slowly cook. As we want the beef cooked all the way through it needs to be a gentle heat so the outside doesn’t overcook, while the inside remains raw. This also helps keep the ground beef from falling apart.
8. When the first side is browned and cooked part way through, turn and cook the other side. The kebab needs to be cooked through or to a
temperature of 160 degrees F (71 degrees C).
9. Lay out the flat bread. Top with the simple slaw, tomato, cilantro and the cooked kebab, removed from the skewer. Drizzle with the yogurt sauce.