We tracked down a few Dallas chefs to get a little insight on how a Memorial Day cookout in their backyard might look, taste and smell. From grills and smokers to favorite cuts of meat, plus some tips for the novice, let their words serve as inspiration as grilling season officially begins this weekend.
Grills, Smokers and More From a simple, small charcoal grill to a DDP Fat 40 good for serving 200 people, minimalist to extravagance, it's all a matter of personal style. Although sometimes a stroke of luck plays a part...
Brian Luscher, The Grape: A custom trailer-mounted smoker: a Diamond Plate Pit, Fat 40 squared. It's the apple of my eye. I could easily cook for 100 people on this thing. I finally figured out the perfect damper settings; she'll hold 225 degrees for hours.
At home I have a smaller smoker - -an Oklahoma Joe's Horizontal model. They don't make 'em like that any more. Also have a Captain Cook four-burner gas grill. It's nice when you just want to throw something on the grill. I also have a little Lodge cast iron hunter's hibachi. I wish I cooked more on this one; it always looks like it's ready to go on an adventure.
Ryan Carbery, Bailey's Prime Plus: Weber kettle and a homemade steel drum smoker.
David Uygur, Lucia: Old-school Weber charcoal grill.
Janice Provost, Parigi: A few years ago I was driving by the Salvation Army on Inwood and I saw this beautiful, shiny Weber grill sitting out on display. I did a quick u-turn and picked it up for about $200. The guy who sold it to me said a wealthy lady who was getting a divorce had donated it. It had never been used
Mike Smith, The Common Table: Triple threat combo grill: propane side, charcoal side and hotbox for smoking.
Matt Balke, Bolsa: Since I live in an apartment, just a small Weber charcoal grill. I find it does what I need it to do.
Abraham Salum, Salum and Komali: Grill Master stainless steel gas grill.
Tre Wilcox, Marquee Grill: Green egg.
Next: Tips for the novice ...
Tips for the Novice Here we asked each chef to impart a bit of wisdom on the finer points for grilling, smoking or barbecuing.
Luscher: Medium hot coals, allow meat to come to room temperature before grilling, season well and oil it up, allow for carry over cooking and most importantly, let the meat rest after cooking!
Uygur: Natural mesquite charcoal, with no lighter fluid (that stuff is really not necessary and it smells horrible). I use a little newspaper, a little bit of cooking oil and one of those hand-held chimney-style charcoal starters. This really speeds up the process of getting your grill ready to go without any funky aroma from lighter fluid.
Provost: Make sure the grill is really hot (for great marks). Also, make sure the surface is clean. Turn on the grill for about 15 minutes, then use a grill brush followed by an oiled rag with some long tongs to wipe the surface of the grill.
Know where the hot spots are and where the cooler points are. Once you have marked your food (I start with all of my food pointing right, and then once it releases, turn them so that they point to the left to get the cross marks), you can move the item to a cooler area to cook the inside. You can also decrease the heat after you have turned your food over.
I prefer to grill with gas. I don't like the chemicals from charcoal, nor lighter fluid.
Smith: Timing is everything! Start the things that take longer first (steaks, chops etc.). Then, add things in the order of time necessary to cook (fish, shrimp, veggies). Try to finish everything at about the same time so it's served at the same time. I use simple techniques: salt, pepper, maybe garlic and oil mostly. The point of grilling, to me anyway, is to taste the meat and what the flame and smoke add to it. Also, with large items (chickens, bone in roasts, briskets) start them on high heat to bring the internal temp up and then go to low heat. They'll cook more evenly and stay juicy.
Balke: Let the charcoal or wood burn down until there's a good bed of coals. No fire. This helps cook evenly and minimizes the flare-ups. Always have a good grill brush, clean grates and a good pair of heavy-duty tongs.
Salum: Start with great product and don't overheat the grill, so things are marked nicely but there's no burnt flavor. Avoid marinades with too much sugar that will stick to the grill and burn.
Wilcox: Marinate the meat the day before grilling: rosemary, oregano, thyme, flat leaf parsley, garlic, shallots and olive oil. Vacuum seal packages so the marinade is in constant contact with meat. Then, grill over high heat, caramelizing the outsides of the meat and sealing in seasonings and marinade.
Next: Favorite Cuts Favorite Cuts Lastly, we asked the chefs what they'd be cooking this weekend at their back yard barbecue. (Which is a little cruel considering most of them will be working. Chefs always work while others play.)
Luscher: If I were cooking for friends this weekend, it would be mostly stuff you could eat with your hands and wash down with a cold beer or glass of rosé; bbq chicken, fresh sausages, ribs, and always some beef. Maybe smoked dry-rubbed flank or bavette. If I am cooking for just me and the Luscher family-unit then it's beef, steak, ribeye, prime or better. At least 1" thick. Dry-aged, salt, pepper and olive oil. MR.
Chefs eat kibble all day. Tastes of this or that. Bits and scraps stuffed into tacos, maybe sandwiches and eaten over trash cans. Always standing up and never more than a couple of minutes. [At a barbeque] I want a well-marbled, super-flavorful, satisfying whole cut of meat that I don't have to share with anyone, a big salad and bust out some great red.
Carbery: If I had the weekend off to grill it would be anything pig, there is nothing better than pork, open fire, and smoke! Also corn, peppers, onions, chilis and anything that is aromatic.
Uygur: Nice Berkshire pork chops, a thick rib eye, butterflied leg of lamb, corn on the cob, whole onions, and eggplant. If I'm feeling frisky, some pineapple or peaches.
Provost: My favorite thing to make is charred tomatoes, onions, and jalapenos, which I then put into a food processor to make awesome salsa. I also add some cilantro, cumin and salt. I learned this from my kitchen staff at Parigi. With all of the amazing tomatoes coming into the market, this is a perfect use for the really ripe ones.
As for grilling meat, my favorite marinade is soy sauce, garlic, olive oil, and red wine. Let chicken marinate for about 30 minutes in this concoction, and then watch out! Pork tenderloin also rocks from this.
Jason Maddy, Oak: I prefer a pork rib rack, Saint Lucie style, marinated, slow cooked with the smoker. My favorite grill method is sweet corn in the husk soaked in ice water then grilled over high heat. Finished with Spanish paprika and garlic aioli.
Smith: My favorite would be simply a big bone in rib eye served with a nice salad or fresh tomatoes. Happy! Happy! Time!
Balke: Skirt steak. It has the "meatiest" taste of any cut of beef and is one of my favorites. It's so versatile.
Salum: I like a nice fatty rib eye!
Wilcox: New York strip steaks and jumbo shrimp. The steak slices out easy for large groups. And the shrimp are just tasty and easy to eat with hands. I also like the rib eye. The lip of a rib eye is super juicy, soft and delish. The eye is a bit firmer, less fat in it.