Grilling Tips and Recipes: Not Your All-American Grill

July 2004

The “Baron of BBQ” Talks Shop: Grilling Tips and Advice from Paul Kirk

1. Basting
I use a plastic spray bottle or a giant bug sprayer to baste meat on the grill with apple juice. Depending on what type of meat it is, I’ll add other things to the apple juice such as Jack Daniels, bourbon, gin, rum, beef broth, or chicken broth. This adds moisture and flavor to the meat.

2. Building a fire
Primarily, I use wood logs as opposed to wood chips because they provide lasting smoke without burning too quickly. In my Weber grill, I use wood chunks (about the size of a fist) instead of logs because they fit the shape of the grill better.

The types of wood I use most are oak, hickory, and apple. However, certain woods taste better with other meats. Salmon, for example, works well with cherry, alder, or apple wood.

3. Dry Rubs vs. Marinades
For large pieces of meat like brisket and shoulder, I use a dry rub. I use marinades, or “wet rubs,” mainly on fish and poultry. Many people think that marinades are used to tenderize meat, but over-marinating can cause meat to get mushy. A marinade is really used to impart flavor and is essentially an inexpensive salad dressing. The ratio of oil (the most expensive ingredient in a dressing) to acid is lower in a marinade.

4. Store-bought spice mixes
The Montreal steak seasoning sold in the grocery store is pretty good, although I don’t like the granule-size. I pulverize it in a coffee grinder, which I use only for spices, and then I doctor it up a little bit and add my own touches.

5. Tools
My favorite tool for grilling is a pair of heavy-duty rubber gloves, preferably ones that are heat-resistant. These are great for picking something up off the grill that is too heavy for tongs or too big for a fork.

Grill baskets are great for cooking fish because the fish won’t stick to the grill, but that’s really the only thing I use them for.

6. Meat
Whole duck is my favorite thing to make on the grill. Most people don’t expect me to say that, but I love duck. (And my favorite food is Chinese!)

7. Sauce vs. No Sauce
I’m not really a sauce person. I make a lot of sauce, but it’s more of an accompaniment to the meat. Good tasting barbeque doesn’t need sauce; you should be able to eat the meat by itself.

When I do use sauce, it’s at the end of the cooking process. In the last 15 to 30 minutes on the grill, I will put the first layer of glaze on one side of the meat and let it set. Then I turn the meat and glaze the other side. I do this every few minutes until the meat is done.

8. Foil
I don’t use foil, also called the “Texas crutch.” Why would I want to steam my meat? Foil is a shortcut – it works, but I personally don’t use it. I’m not against foil, but it’s not for grilling. I teach my barbeque classes the technique of low and slow cooking. I tell them, “This is my way. I’m going to teach you my way now, but you can do whatever you want when you leave here.” If they want to ruin their barbeque with foil, then that’s their choice.

9. Produce
I love to grill eggplant because I just like eggplant, especially with a little garlic butter. Portobello mushrooms and peppers (red and yellow are my favorite) are very good grilled as well as sweet potatoes. I cook sweet potatoes in a smoker or oven, then slice them and put them on the grill. They’re delicious.

10. Indoor grilling
When I’m too lazy to go outside and fire up the grill, I’ll use a grill pan. I also have a George Foreman grill, which works great. It’s easy to use, easy to clean, and imparts some grill flavor on the food.