Now that summer has arrived, few can resist firing up the coals for an outdoor meal on weekends. While too much mealtime prep can making al fresco dining less relaxing, there are quick and simple ways to upgrade your BBQ game in time for Father's Day.
We asked great chefs around the country for their best flavor-enhancing hacks and then compiled them in a handy list. The following tips are easy enough for anyone to tackle.
|Begin inside the Cupboard|
"To intensify the flavors of your grilled meat, mix oil with your dry rub to make a paste and then hit it with some white vinegar," suggested John Stage, founder and pitmaster for Dinosaur Bar-B-Que (multiple locations).
|Grab a Jar of the Grey Stuff|
“I love to finish meats with a bit of grey sea salt," said chef Victor Scargle of Lucy Restaurant & Bar in Yountville, Calif. "It has a chunky texture and retains several of the minerals from the ocean) to bring out the maximum flavor at the end of the cooking process.”
|Add Wood-Fired Flavor to Dishes Cooked on a Gas Grill|
“Combining oak to a gas grill is easy and will set you apart from other gas grills in the neighborhood," said Chef Steve Redzikowski of OAK at Fourteenth and Acorn in Colorado. "Purchase a disposable aluminum tray (with a lid) and place small pieces of oak wood and wood sawdust in tray and place the lid on top. Poke about a dozen holes in the lid and place the aluminum tray directly on the gas fired grill grates. As the tray heats up the wood will begin to smolder and smoke imparting the smokey flavor desired.”
|Use Your Home Cooler to Tenderize|
"Smoked ribs, brisket etc., can be prepared in advance so that you’re not stuck at the grill when your guests arrive," shared Karen and Quinn Hatfield, the owners of Odys & Penelope, Hatfield’s, and The Sycamore Kitchen in Los Angeles. "Once the meat is done, wrap it tightly in aluminum foil and place it in a cooler for 2-6 hours. The cooler acts as an insulator, keeping the meat steaming hot and tender for when it’s ready to be served."
|Look to the East for Inspiration|
“I always have a bottle of yuzu kosho in my pantry, a Japanese condiment widely used on raw fish that's made from yuzu skins and Sansho peppers," said Corporate Executive Chef Brian Howard, of Comme Ca in West Hollywood and Las Vegas. "It packs amazing flavor. I love to use it in marinades or just rubbed on grilled poultry and fish. It’s very versatile, I’ve even see it used in cocktails.”
|Keep a Bottle of Booze Nearby|
“This is my go-to recipe for the summer," said celebrity chef Curtis Stone, of Maude in Los Angeles, who adds a half cup of bourbon to his base sauce containing chopped garlic, onions, apple and brown sugar. "It’s the perfect balance of spicy, smoky, sweet, and sour flavors. If you have a great barbecue sauce to pull it all together, you can use it on anything – chicken, pork, beef. I make it in advance.”
|No Grill? Pick Up Some Smoke at the Store|
“Liquid smoke is a great tool when you’re without a grill," said Chef Laurent Tourondel, of Arlington Club in New York City. "Instead of using water to help cheese melt on a griddled burger, I pour a bit of liquid smoke around it before covering with a metal dome. Not only does the cheese melt perfectly, but I’m able to capture that smoky BBQ flavor.”
|Never Burn Your Hands Again|
"It is hard to imagine ever pulling pork again without the CLAWS," said chef Doug Psaltis, of Bub City and Windy City Smokeout. "They allow you to pick up the whole tender shoulder from the smoker and pull it while it's still ripping hot."