Grilling 101: How to Become a BBQ Pro This summer
Celebrity chefs share their top tips and favorite recipes for basic grilling.
Published Jul 8, 2017 5:00 AM
Grilling can be overwhelming—something about wild flames, super high temperatures, and easily ruined ingredients. However, if you follow these expert tips and choose from these recipes, your next barbecue is guaranteed to be a success.
Rule 1: Get the right equipment
“Don’t go to the store and buy one of those grill packages where everything is 10-feet long. All you need are regular-length tongs, a pastry brush, and a squirt bottle filled with water to put out flare-ups. And invest in a grill that you can use with live fire, whether it’s brick, charcoal, or hardwood—that’s where the flavor comes from.” –Chef Michael Symon of Angeline
Rule 2: Temperature control is everything.
“If your heat is too low, your food will steam and then overcook. If your temperature or flame is too high, your food will burn. Identify hot spots, and use them to develop some char, and then rotate items to a cooler spot to roast or rest.” – Chef Luke Venner of Elm
Rule 3: Hack a smoky flavor
“No charcoal grill? No problem! To get that same smoky flavor from a gas grill, buy wood chips from the store. Soak them in water for about 30 minutes, then throw them between the grate to impart that smoky quality.” – Chef Parke Ulrich of Epic Steak
Rule 4: Choose the right meat
“For grilling, the best cuts are those with more marbling. For example: New York strip, rib-eye, and skirt steaks. You also want more marbling in the meat you use for your burgers, so that they don’t dry up or fall apart. Steaks should also be evenly cut so they come out evenly cooked.” – Chef Arturo McLeod of Benjamin Steakhouse
Rule 5: Get those hatch marks
“To get professional quality grill marks, set the steak at a 45-degree angle on the grill lines. Halfway through cooking, give it a quarter turn.” – Chef McLeod
Rule 6: Let your meat rest
“Cook five degrees under desired temperature, take off heat, and walk away for five minutes. The juices are going to recirculate and once you cut into that steak, it won’t be all over the place.” – Chef Patrick Rodemeyer of Ocean Prime New York
Rule 7: Balance the menu
“When planning the ultimate summer BBQ menu, you should think about variety and balance. You want a feast that features food of every texture and color and flavor: hot and cold, heavy and light, tender and crisp, sweet, sour, and savory. If the star of the menu is a smoky, savory, fall-off-the-bone pork shoulder, you should think about balancing that out with juicy and slightly crisp grilled vegetables like sweet corn or asparagus. If BBQ racks of ribs are what you’re making, try to complement that sweet and savory meat with something fresh and tart like a big green salad with a simple dressing.” – Matthew Domingo, Culinary Director for Traeger Grills
Remember that simple dishes can become the star with the grill. Chef Venner recommends fresh citrus and olive oil on vegetables and seafood. “It will never disappoint you or your guests.” Plus, he suggests having a signature sauce. “Chimichurri is an easy to make sauce that should be in every grill cook’s repertoire—it works with everything from fish and poultry to steak and vegetables.”
Grilled Whole Snapper With Chimichurri
“This is one of my favorite recipes to make at home when I have friends over. It’s a simple dish that’s easy and incredibly light and fresh. It will be sure to impress your guests!” – Chef Laurent Cantineaux of Juvia
- 1 1/2 lbs to 2lbs of fresh whole snapper
- Salt and pepper to taste1 freshly squeezed lemon
- 4 large garlic cloves (minced)
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped parsley
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Directions: Go to your local market, and ask for a whole snapper with the scales off. Rinse fish and dry. Season the fish with salt, pepper and olive oil, then put fish in a grill basket on on a clean grill rack. Cover over medium heat for 15-20 minutes on each side (depending on heat) and turn until golden. To make the chimichurri, combine lemon, garlic, cilantro, and parsley in a food processor. Process until smooth and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and pour in olive oil. Let stand for 30 minutes or overnight. Serve snapper on a large plate with lemon wedges and chimichurri on the side or drizzled on top.
Coffee and Chili Rubbed Salmon
“This dish is great and easy to cook at home because it uses simple spices that can already be found in the kitchen pantry. It’s quick, delicious, and sure to impress your guests. This recipe also goes well with other fishes, as well with beef, chicken, and pork.” – Chef Christian Clark of New York Central
- 3 tablespoon chili powder
- 3 tablespoon ground espresso beans (or coffee beans)
- 3 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons paprika
Directions: Mix the ingredients together and gently rub the spices onto the flesh side of the salmon. Refrigerate for one hour, then grill to desired temperature.
Grilled Pork Chop with Cuban Mojo Criollo
“This is a great recipe for novice grillers because the preparation is simple. Also, the mojo sauce is a great way to impart bold, authentic Cuban flavors to smoky grilled pork chops, steaks, chicken or even grilled vegetables.” – Chef Tatiana Rosana of Outlook Kitchen & Bar
- 8 oz. pork chop4 cups orange juice
- 1/2 cup lime juice10 cloves garlic (finely minced)
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- Salt to taste
Directions: Mix all the ingredients together and chill for five hours or overnight for flavors to develop. On a preheated grill at heat, season pork chop with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Grill both sides hard for a few minutes over high heat to impart the most flavor, then lower the grill to a medium heat to finish.
Once the chop is fully cooked, pull it off the grill and immediately spoon mojo over both sides while the pork chop is still hot. Allow the pork chop to rest for five minutes. Before digging in, spoon a bit more mojo over the meat and enjoy!
Grilled Clams with Barbecue Butter and Baguette
“Clams are a good place to start when it comes to grilling because they open as soon as they are cooked to perfection.” – Pitmaster Myron Mixon of Everyday Barbecue: At Home with America’s Favorite Pitmaster
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter (softened)
- 1 tablespoon Only Other Rub (see recipe below)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 good baguette or other French bread (cut into about 8 thick slices)
- 2 pounds Manila clams (well scrubbed)
Only Other Barbecue Rub Ingredients:
- 2/3 cup chili powder
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 1/4 cup onion powder
- 1/4 cup garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Directions: In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the barbecue rub. Stir thoroughly to combine. You can store this rub in an airtight container for up to one year. For the grilled clams, heat a grill to high heat.
In a small bowl, combine the softened butter with the rub and lemon juice. Using a butter knife, thinly spread the butter on one side of each bread slice (plenty of butter will remain). Arrange the clams in a single layer in a cast iron pan or a disposable aluminum pan.
Place the pan on the grill, cover, and cook just until clams open, 8-10 minutes (discard any clams that do not open). Using a slotted spoon, transfer the grilled clams to shallow bowls. Grill the bread until slightly charred, 1-2 minutes per side.
Put the remaining butter in the aluminum pan and place it on the grill; stir until melted. Pour the juices from the pan over the clams. Serve with the grilled buttered bread.
Maiz Asado Con Aioli y Queso Cotija
“Grilling corn is easy because you don’t have to worry too much about the temperature of the grill—get it hot, and it will cook. It’s also easy to tell when it’s done—look for some char on all sides, and you’re good to go!” – Chef Kate Smith of Toro Boston
- 4 ears corn1 cup aioli (recipe below)
- 1 teaspoon piment d’espelette or other chili
- 1/8 cup grated cotija cheese (plus some to garnish)
- 1 lime (cut into wedges)
Directions: Shuck corn and break each cob in half. Grill all sides until corn is tender and nicely charred. In a large bowl, toss corn, aioli, piment d’espelette, and cotija cheese. Once corn is well coated serve immediately. Top with a little bit more cheese and lime wedges.
- 3 egg yolks
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/4 cup water
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 7 cups canola oil
Directions: In a food processor with a blade attachment combine yolks, garlic, lemon juice, water, salt and pepper. Once well combined, slowly stream in canola oil, allowing it to incorporate before adding more.