Memorial Day time to remember — and grill

Memorial Day originally began shortly after the Civil War as a ritual of remembrance to honor the fallen soldiers of the Union and Confederate armies.

Later on, it became a time when people visited graves of deceased relatives, whether they had served in the military or not, and placed flowers on the graves.

Growing up, I recall the holiday being referred to as Decoration Day. It was a time when our family and relatives gathered and made the rounds to various cemeteries and placed flowers on the graves of loved ones.

Unlike today, they were usually fresh flowers — most often peonies. Then we would have a family dinner at my grandparents' home, set up on long tables outside under big shade trees.

Nowadays, Memorial Day is associated with a long weekend with time for shopping, family get-togethers, trips to the lake. It also generally marks the end of the school year and the beginning of summer — and, of course, the holiday cookout!

Here are questions some readers have posed recently about grilling:

I like to grill steaks but it is very difficult to get them just right. Is there a way to tell when they are done without actually cutting into the meat?

Grills cook differently; some have hot spots and cooler edges. You may need to move the steaks around on the grill if some are cooking quicker than others. The best way to test for doneness is with an instant read thermometer. It will tell you the internal temperature of the meat and you will have a perfectly cooked steak every time. Once the steak is off the grill, it is important to let it rest 5 minutes before serving to allow the juices to stabilize. The juices will be retained in the steak, making it tender and juicy, instead of running out on the plate.

I keep reading that hamburgers should be cooked well-done, but steaks can be served medium rare. They are both beef, so what is the difference?

Even though hamburgers and steak are both beef, their consistency is different. Steak is a solid cut of meat with the primary source of bacteria on the surface. When it is cooked, the surface reaches a temperature that kills bacteria. When ground, the surface bacteria is mixed throughout the meat and is exposed to air, giving the bacteria an opportunity to flourish.