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Who said the barbecue was reserved for burgers and dogs? The grill can be a decidedly sophisticated experience, adding intensity of flavor and color to a variety of dishes. Here, we caught up with three top chefs who shared their sizzling secrets for mastering the grill.
Summertime is the season for grilling. But if you’re looking to elevate your skills on the grill, it all starts with the menu. From grilled veggies to proteins and even fruit, there are a number of star dishes that are great contenders to make you an impressive chef in your own backyard.
“Grilling allows you to completely alter the flavor profile of any ingredient in just minutes by playing with different temperatures and techniques like caramelizing, charring, or slow-roasting,” says chef and Sedona-based restaurateur, Lisa Dahl.
Lisa Dahl's grilled Frutti di Mare
She recommends thinking outside the box when it comes to grilling, and considering recipes typically done on the stovetop on the grill instead. One of her personal favorites is grilled Frutti di Mare. “My favorite thing about this dish is that the most difficult part is going to the grocery store,” she says.
Her grilled recipe features fish chunks, scallops, prawns, tomatoes, garlic butter, and herbs wrapped in two layers of heavy-duty foil. A splash of white wine is added and the bundle is grilled for 15 to 20 minutes. It’s both simple and sophisticated.
Niman Ranch Aged Tomahawk Rib-Eye at Hearth 61
If you’re looking for something simple to start with, grilled vegetables and proteins are always a safe bet. “Grilling is suitable for ingredients that are tender and cook relatively quickly, since the intense heat needed for grilling makes it impossible for any food to remain on the fire for very long without being charred beyond recognition,” says Charles Wiley, Executive Chef at Hearth 61 at Mountain Shadows. For proteins, he recommends steaks and fatty fish like salmon while staying away from lean fish like halibut, which can dry out quickly.
Bell peppers, asparagus, eggplant, and even grilled fruit is also inventive and unexpected. “Fruits and melons that you can grill are really nice; bananas for dessert or even melons to go into salads are really flavorful,” says Chef Marcos Seville, the Executive Chef at Prado at Omni Montelucia Resort & Spa. “Grilling is probably one of my favorite ways to cook food just because it’s so simple,” he says. “Even though it has that simplicity, it can still add so much complexity to a dish or an ingredient.”
CHECK YOUR CHARCOAL
Once you’ve got your menu picked out, it’s time to consider the flames. “My No.1 tip for better grilling is learning how to prepare the fire. If it’s too hot, then the product is black before the center is done. If it’s too cool, that beautiful, tasty, browned crust is not achieved,” says Wiley.
Grilling also requires quite a bit of patience: waiting until the fire is hot enough first and then leaving the food untouched once it’s on. It’s also important not to crowd the grill. “Grilling is the most primal form of cooking, but certain care must be exercised in preparing the fire, oiling the grill, and setting up the grill station,” Wiley says.
Of course, the actual fuel that’s used makes a major difference as well, and can make a huge impact on the flavors that are imparted.
Grilling also requires quite a bit of patience: waiting until the fire is hot enough first and then leaving the food untouched once it’s on.
“If your fuel is going to be charcoal, a cherry, applewood or white oak is going to impart a smoky flavor; it’s going to impart depth to your to your protein, vegetable or fruit,” says Chef Marcos.
So how do you choose what fuel is right for your meal? Chef Marcos says it really depends on what it is you’re grilling. A steak will typically call for charcoal or white oak, while something fruity may play best with applewood, where the smoke won’t overpower the flavors of the fruit.
A SEASONED SENSATION
Salt and pepper is the secret to a perfectly seasoned anything. But if you’re looking for something a little “extra”, our chefs have some tasty recommendations.
Executive Chef at Hearth 61
“Marinades are a grill master’s secret weapon. They can be simple or complex, but homemade is key. They add another layer of flavor to a dish,” says Wiley. One of his favorites is a Moroccan marinade featuring cumin, garlic, ginger, yogurt, paprika and Cayenne pepper.
Chef and Owner
Dahl Restaurant Group
“Seasoning—especially with citrus, rosemary, or sage—adds instant zest and depth to the dish,” says Dahl.
Executive Chef at Prado
Omni Montelucia Resort & Spa
“It’s all about letting the ingredients speak for themselves—light seasoning and quality ingredients,” says Marcos.
Luckily for us desert-dwellers, grilling season doesn’t have to end once fall begins. And whether you’re hosting a barbecue with friends or at home with the family, grilling is never a bad idea. After all, it’s no surprise that this primal form of cooking is still a culinary favorite.
“It’s about being one with the fire,” Marcos says. “You feel like this is something you’ve created when you start a fire for a grill; it’s a bit more of a personal feel. When people grill they’re very proud of what they do because they’ve actually built the fire they’re going to grill on, they’ve prepped the ingredients, and then they’ve cooked it. It’s almost like a full circle.”
Mongrammed Steak Brand
For a truly personalized experience, we love these monogrammed steak brands from Williams-Sonoma which include a wall-mounting storage rack. Choose from one, two or three initials and enjoy searing your steak with your personal brand.
Making sure your meat has the right amount of heat is key; make that effort hassle-free with the Weber iGrill3 Thermometer, which monitors the temperature of the meat and sends you alerts right to your phone.
For the perfect barbecued-meal, you’ll need a great grill and for that, we love Alfresco appliances. From outdoor pizza ovens to grills with woks, griddles, pot fillers and roasters, these BBQs are a grill master’s dream.