Whether you’re grilling in a park, backyard or on a fire escape there is likely one universal desire: you want folks to think your food is the bomb. It’s easy to be intimidated by the the thought of making good grub but chef’ing it up for your loved ones isn’t that hard.
According to Digby Stridiron, step one is easy. “Beer is the number one most important thing when I barbecue. I’m Caribbean and we drink Heineken,” he told CASSIUS. A world-renowned master of the food arts and and culinary ambassador of the US Virgin Islands, he serves as executive chef at Balter, a can’t-miss hotpsot that he opened in his native St. Croix last year.
Enjoying the process of preparing a meal for your crew also makes things a tad bit easier—and grabbing a beer definitely doesn’t hurt. “What’s good about grilling? The primitiveness of it; the charcoal, smoke and fire. Cooking over fire not only has a certain romance, it adds a flavor to the food that’s better than what you’d get from cooking in a pan.”
Looking to up your grilling game this season? Clean your grill, grab a drink and check out Chef Digby’s basics.
Picking up the right items from the grocery store prevents the last minute scramble, and unnecessary improvising. Your food run should include the basics, from the herbs and veggies you’ll prep with, to the meat, poultry and other items you’ll serve. “Some staples for seasoning include fresh garlic, onion, parsley and rosemary,” he shares. “The best cuts of meat for grilling are chicken thighs, flank steak or hanger steak. Most fish are great on the grill—except salmon.” The most strategic move is to look up a recipe for what you want to make—there are a million online—and hit the whole list.
Brine Like a Mo’Fo
Brining, which entails soaking raw chicken in salt, pepper and water, is a process that creates juiciness when the meat is cooked. “I suggest you brine for at least two hours,” says Chef Digby. “It gets the seasoning down to the bone.”
Marinate, Marinate, Marinate
Pre-gaming is the key to cooking, so it’s important to season all of your meat (including the chicken that you’ve been brining) at least 2-3 hours before you want to get things popping on the grill. “Marinate your meat in fresh herbs and spices like, onion trimmings, harissa, garlic, black peppercorns, coriander, parsley and cilantro,” he says. He advises that you skip the salt until the end. “Seasoning with salt too early toughens the meat. Salt 15 minutes before—and never use iodine salt. Use Kosher.”
Make Your Own Sauce
Okay, you don’t have to start from scratch (though that is a criteria for true home chef’ing) but if you’re not, you do have to doctor up your store-bought find. “Barbecue sauce varies by region. Some places are known for sweet sauce, others have a bit more of a kick. You can punch any sauce up with sautéed onion, garlic, brown sugar and mustard,” he says. “You can also thicken sauce up by adding corn starch and water.”
Food So Good You’ll…
The little things are often the game changers when it comes to cooking. Here are a few of Chef Digby’s grill master musts:
- Use a spatula, not tongs. “Tongs squeeze out the juice when you move the meat. Try the scoop and flip method—and don’t turn your food too much. Let it cook a few minutes on each side.”
- Use the fire wisely. “Learn how to control your heat. Know which part of the grill is hottest v. cooler.”
- Save the aluminum for the to-go plates. “Foil sticks to meat and robs the food of the grill flavor.”