Toolbox: Grilling Essentials
May is Grilling Month at Tasting Table.
Even chefs who spend their days over a grill top can't resist the lure of a good cookout. After all, it's just not summer until you've seared meat—or fruit or vegetables—over an open flame in the great out-of-doors. Here are the tools chefs make sure to have with them when it's time to burn.
Momofuku Milk Bar pastry chef, Christina Tosi, loves her charcoal grill, and she uses a chimney starter to get those coals glowing. "It's a cheap piece of equipment, and it's easy to use," she writes in her newly released cookbook, Milk Bar Life. "Stuff some newspaper in the bottom, put the coals on top, set it on the grates of your grill and light the paper." The coals are ready when they've ashed over.
Big Green Egg
Marcus Samuelsson of Streetbird Rotisserie and Red Rooster Harlem thinks his Big Green Egg, a heavy-duty, kamado-style ceramic cooker, is "amazing. It cooks evenly and imparts the perfect smoky flavor and char we all love in the summertime. Also," he says, "it looks pretty cool."
Alon Shaya of Domenica in New Orleans, agrees: "I use [a Big Green Egg] for smoking and grilling all summer long. It's perfect for when I entertain friends outside on Sunday afternoons. Every once in a while, I bring a pig head home from work to make smoked pork cheek breakfast tacos the next morning."
Greg Denton, chef and co-owner of Portland's Ox Restaurant along with wife Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton, has become a big fan of fine-mesh grill baskets for their versatility. "You can set them on top of the grill or directly on the coals. The finer the mesh, the easier it is to use, and you can cook a wider variety of delicate ingredients over the fire," he says."
According to Edward Lee of Louisville's 610 Magnolia, "A clean grill is a happy grill." That's why he considers a high-powered metal grill brush to be a griller's best friend. "If your grate's not clean, you can't grill correctly, and your food will taste carbonized."
Charles Phan, chef and owner of San Francisco's The Slanted Door, says grilling over charcoal is one of his favorite ways to cook, and he loves the flavor mesquite charcoal imparts. "You really have to learn how to master and control your fire," he says. "A common mistake is to pile the coals right in the center. It gets too hot. You have to put the charcoal to the side, so you have a hill, and you get a gradation of hot and cold. Then you can sear your meat and move it to a lower temp when necessary."