Who speaks barbecue better than these Wolfgang Puck, Tom Colicchio, and Charlie Palmer?

By Betty Gold
May 28, 2020
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Having Memorial Day behind us means one thing: grill season. And just because we won’t be hosting the huge backyard barbecues that we have in the past doesn’t mean we can’t go to town perfecting our grill skills this summer. In fact, with restaurants closed, it’s likely you’re about to be searing more steaks, burgers, and chicken breasts at home than ever before. In the spirit of celebrating the kickoff of barbecue season, we tapped three superstar celebrity chefs for their top grilling tips. Once you’ve nailed your technique, check out our best barbecue side dishes and guide to grilling vegetables to round out your meal.

Always temper what you’re cooking. Bring whatever meat (or vegetables, fruit, and any of the other genius grilled food ideas you'll find here) that you’ll be grilling to room temperature first so they'll cook evenly.

Remember to rest your meat. Let your grilled meat rest for eight to 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," Puck explains.

Use wood and charcoal. "We use mesquite charcoal for high heat, and we use white oak for flavor," says Puck. Try different woods to find the flavor you like best, like apple wood, cherry wood, or sugar maple.

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," Colicchio says. This technique will also prevent flare ups.

Don’t rush barbecuing. You might love to cook off some hot dogs and hamburgers quickly, but if you have a smaller fire that you can maintain for several hours, you can barbecue some delicious pork shoulder or brisket. Low and slow is the way to go!

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Turn your outdoor grill, whether it's charcoal or gas, into a makeshift smoker. "To do so, suspend the grilling surface above the existing surface. Some grills have attachments, but you can also put bricks on each side (4 inches high), then put any type of oven grill or rack on top of those. You can add vine cuttings, wood chips, or branches from an oak tree, soak them, then turn your grill or build your fire and place them 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," explains Palmer. This process adds more flavor and aromatics, and the slower cooking process makes your meat more tender.

Brine everything. Whether it's a chicken breast, pork chop/loin or alternative cuts of beef (flank steak or flat iron steak), brining will add to the flavor, tenderize your meat, and preserve its juiciness.

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