Memorial Day is here. And though this year will hardly be a conventional one, certain traditions are steadfast. More than half of all Americans will take their talents to the barbecue this weekend, searing steak, hamburgers, hotdogs—even the occasional vegetable. Though you certainly shouldn’t be throwing any parties with social distancing guidelines in effect, that doesn’t mean you can’t impress loved ones and roommates with your skills behind the grill. To that end, we’ve tapped some of the biggest names in the culinary world to reveal a few tricks of the trade. Follow these tips and you’ll make your meat shine brighter than ever before.
Charlie Palmer — Aureole
Use your outdoor grill, whether it’s a charcoal grill or a gas grill, as more of an aromatic smoker oven. Here’s how:
- Suspend the grilling surface above the existing surface. Some grills have attachments, but you can put bricks on each side (4 inches high) then put any type of oven grill or rack on those.
- Add vine cuttings, wood chips or branches from an oak tree, soak them, then turn your grill or build your fire and place on the grilling surface of the grill. They’ll subsequently smoke and burn.
- Whatever protein you’re cooking (steak, pork chops, or a salmon filet) should be 4 inches above the makeshift grill surface. This process adds more flavor and aromatics and is slower cooking, more tender.
Brining anything, whether it’s a chicken breast, pork chop/loin or lesser cuts of beef (flank steak or flat iron steak), not only adds to the flavor but tenderizes and keeps the juiciness.
Wolfgang Puck — Spago at Bellagio Hotel & Casino
- Always temper what you’re cooking: bring whatever protein you are cooking to room temperature before cooking so it will cook evenly.
- Have two different temperature zones on the grill: really hot and medium to low, really hot to sear, medium low to cook.
- Resting: let whatever you are cooking rest for 8-10 minutes before cutting so the juices have time to redistribute. This is so when you cut the meat, the juices won’t run out.
- Wood & Charcoal: we use mesquite charcoal for high heat, and we use white oak for flavor (try different wood for different flavors – apple wood, cherry wood, Sugar maple).
Tom Colicchio — Craftsteak at MGM Grand
- Make sure to cook over indirect heat. If you’re using charcoal or wood chips, push most of them off to the side once you’ve heated them up to create an indirect heat zone. It might take a little longer to cook, but you’ll get that great bbq flavor. This technique will also prevent flare ups.
- Don’t BBQ fast! You might love to cook off some hot dogs and hamburgers quickly, but if you have a smaller fire that is maintained over several hours, you can cook some delicious pork shoulder or brisket. Low and slow!
Ayesha Curry — International Smoke
- When heating up the grill keep the cover closed. It will heat up a lot faster.
- I love a good char. I start out my grill on high, high heat to get phenomenal grill marks. Not only do you get that nostalgic barbecue flavor we all love, you also seal in the juices of the meat. After that I pop the heat down and control the flame at a moderate temperature.