Home Grilling Tips by Chef Turner

Home Grilling Tips by Chef Turner

If there’s anyone who knows grilling, it’s Chef Michael Turner, Executive Sous Chef at Fireside by The Patio. He’s the man behind our signature Santa Maria grills, using fire and smoke to concoct the best grilled and woodfired eats.

Independence Day is a big day for the home grill enthusiast, and Chef Turner has some pointers on how to elevate your game and be an expert behind the grill!

Understand Your Grill

One of the biggest ways you can elevate your grill game is to familiarize yourself with using the grill. Chef Turner’s most important tip is to know the difference between direct and indirect heat: direct heat (aka the “hot spot”) is the space directly above the fire, while indirect heat (aka the “warm or cold spot”) is the space not above any burning flames. Direct heat is used to sear meats and vegetables, while indirect heat is used to cook them through.

Kick Up Your Routine

Ditch the usual Fourth of July fare of hot dogs and hamburgers, and kick it up a notch with other choice grilling meats. Chef Turner’s cuts of choice on the holidays are tri-tip and ribs.

All of those cuts are easy to prep, and even easier to cook on the grill:

  • Tri-tip – Dry rub for up to a week prior, so you let all the spices penetrate. Sear both sides in direct heat until you get a nice char, about 5-7 minutes each side. Finally, cook in indirect heat until the middle is 120 degrees.
  • Ribs – Brine meat in a heavy salt solution for at least two days, dry rub, and then cook low and slow on indirect heat until the ribs reach at least 190 degrees.

It’s just as easy as grilling hot dogs and burgers, and is a surefire way to wow your guests!

Use a Dry Rub, Any Dry Rub

When grilling large cuts of meat, it’s important to apply a dry rub to them. A mix of various seasonings and spices, a dry rub not only infuses flavor into the meat, but also aids in the searing process to create that crispy, smoky seared exterior.

Fireside uses an espresso dry rub that includes espresso, salt, sugar, chipotle, and cayenne, but your dry rub doesn’t have to be as complicated. Chef Turner often uses a simple mix of salt, pepper, and garlic powder at home for his meats. According to Chef, the dry rub should elevate, not amplify, the flavors of the meat. Let the meat shine on its own merits!

Avoid Marinades

There’s a time and a place for marinades, and the grill isn’t the best place for them. Marinated meat can cause flare-ups in a grill, leading to poor temperature control. Additionally, they don’t give you that incredible seared crust that dry rubs do.

Marinades can even ruin your meat if left long enough: overly salty marinades can cure your meat, while overly acidic marinades can “cook” your meat, which can ruin its texture and juiciness in the end.

While some meats have enough fat content to handle marinades (carne asada is one of them), it’s best to avoid them when you’re grilling.

Grill Your Vegetables Too!

The grill isn’t just for meats – you can roast your veggies with a quick wood-firing too. Chef Turner recommends harder root vegetables like beets or carrots – the flames can not only impart a deep smoky flavor, but can also caramelize the naturals sugars to amplify their sweetness.

During large grill-outs, Chef Turner loves to make a roasted vegetable salad. Simply take three veggies of your choice (Chef loves asparagus, squash, and bell peppers), marinate them in a mix of olive oil, salt, pepper, and citrus for 30 minutes, and stick them on the flame.

After they’re nicely seared, chill them for a few minutes, and chop them onto a bed of fresh greens. For the dressing, whisk up the used marinade, and voila, you have a fresh roasted summer salad!