Ask the Chef: Barbecue Basics
As the sun begins to warm us up from winter’s chill, barbecues across the country are firing up and the palate-pleasing sizzling of meat cooking on the grills becomes an all too familiar smell wafting through the air in any neighborhood on a summer afternoon. From the beginner to the expert BBQ pitmaster, no matter what your level of expertise, we all know that everything tastes better barbecued and it isn’t necessary to be a pro at the BBQ to create something that will get mouth’s drooling. But, to make that perfect, consistent BBQ, does take a little practice. We at Wine Oh TV once again elicited the help of Executive Chef Tracy Flores to give us some succulent tips and savory trade secrets on creating the perfect lip-smacking, taste-tempting BBQ and like all good Wine Oh’s, we also asked her what wines pair best with each summertime BBQ. This is part of a three part series on summertime barbecues. Below Chef Tracy gets us started on some barbecue basics.
What are the barbecuing Do’s and Don’ts?
As with food and wine, there aren’t any don’ts, but plenty of do’s. I like to start with a very hot grill, a good marinade, and a good meat selection. Choose your favorite meat and learn to cook it the same way every time or until you get it the way you like it. As the saying goes, “Real chefs don’t use recipes.” Luckily, that saying extends to the weekend warrior who likes to BBQ. When it comes to barbecuing, I think that anything goes, especially with a good glass of wine in hand; everything will turn out just fine.
Is there anything that always tastes better barbecued and is there anything that should never be barbecued?
I think steaks are better on the grill as with hamburgers. You can BBQ anything from fruit to heating tortillas.
Do you prefer to use gas or charcoal?
My favorite is actually a mesquite charcoal BBQ, as the mesquite flavors the foods. But many people who barbeque frequently use gas grills and that works for them. Gas is much more convenient and time wise. You won’t have the mesquite flavor from a gas grill but that can be compensated with a favorite BBQ sauce. To create an easy mesquite BBQ, just add a small amount of pre-soaked mesquite flavored chips wrapped in aluminum foil (punch holes in foil) to any hot coals. Let the meat cook slowly with the lid closed.
What is a marinade and how long should meat be marinated?
Marinade is a liquid that protein (or other products) “bathes” in and while it is cooking, cures the meat. Marinades vary from ethnicity to personal preference. A simple marinade can be made from everyday ingredients like olive oil, freshly chopped herbs, and salt and pepper. If you aren’t up for creating a marinade, you can use a simple rub on meats with a little olive oil like cardamon, cumin, or Cajun spices that creates excellent tasting BBQ. For my favorite marinade, I do the following:
Chef Tracy’s Magnificent Malbec Marinade
2 1/2 cups orange juice
2 1/2 cups Malbec red wine
2 1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup garlic, minced
2/3 cup brown sugar
You can also add a squeeze of lemon (acid) or a splash of soy sauce (salt), but these additions should be marinated with meat no more than a few hours. Salt can tend to cure the meat instead of adding flavor if marinated for too long. Without these additions, I typically marinade my meat up to 24 hours.
Let’s play a little mind association game. I am going to throw out something that is typically thrown on the grill and you tell me the first type of wine that comes to your mind and I will match it with a favorite wine:
Chicken: Sauvignon Blanc
Lindsey’s Wine Pick: 2011, Ruby Hill, Livermore
Lindsey’s Wine Pick: 2008 Decoy Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Lindsey’s Wine Pick: 2008 St. Francis Old Vines Zinfandel, Sonoma Countyy
Lindsey’s Wine Pick: Bonny Doon Vineyard 2010 Rose ‘Vin Gris de Cigare”
Lindsey’s Wine Pick: 2010 La Rochelle, Anderson Valley
Lindsey’s Wine Pick: 2010 Chateau Molyneaux, Livermore
Next up, Chef Tracy introduces us to barbecue with vegetables and seafood! If you have a question you want to Ask the Chef write it in our comment section below or post your food and wine questions on Wine Oh TV’s Twitter or Facebook pages!
About Chef Tracy: Executive Chef Tracy Flores has over thirty years experience in the kitchen. She currently is the executive chef at Castlewood Country Club. You can read more about Chef Tracy here.