What better way to kick off the Memorial Day weekend than to get some pro tips on how to BBQ like a master ensuring your party is a success. And of course, success is measured by how much food you can eat! At least it is in this family. There’s only one place in town where we knew we’d get the BEST tips, they are the masters at cooking meat. We turned to Smoqued California BBQ and their chef Marc Mendoza for his top 5 pro tips when it comes to mastering the grill. Chef Marc has led the kitchen and been the restaurant’s smoking master since they opened nearly 8 years ago. He lives in East Los Angeles but makes the trip to our sweet historical center because he loves it here, loves his work and truly looks forward to serving this community on the daily. He says (and we know it’s true!) that you don’t see communities like Orange anymore. We are a tight-knit bunch who love our local businesses, aren’t we?!?
Ok, Let’s jump in!
1. Start with a solid product.
No matter what is your favorite protein, whether it is steak, chicken, whatever, make sure that the product you choose is good quality. Always opt for fresh instead of frozen. If you know a local rancher or a butcher shop (ahem, Orange Home Grown!), that’s the best way to go. However, there is nothing wrong (and we all know Stater Bros. is where it’s at when it comes to supermarket meat, right?!?) with getting your meat at the supermarket, just make sure that it looks fresh and doesn’t have a foul smell. If you are choosing steak, make sure you know what you want. Chef Marc notes that not all steak is the same! Steak is categorized by flavor or tenderness. Make sure you get the right cut.
2. Avoid fire flare-ups.
To put it simply, fire flare-ups are what burns your meat and let’s face it, burnt meat doesn’t taste great (the exception being those Burnt Ends on the Smoqued menu, I dream about those things!). The best way to avoid those flare-ups is to control the temperature in your grill. Even temperature leads to a nice even cook which leads to a great taste. If you use a marinade you might want to pat it dry lightly to remove any excess moisture. Don’t be afraid to use seasoning to provide a moisture barrier for your meat. And remember this…fat is flavor so even if you have flare-ups from fat dripping just move your meat around and you’re good to go. (Oh, the puns I could have used in this post!)
3. Clean your grates.
So, when was the last time you cleaned your grill grates? Did you happen to know that really you should be cleaning your grill grates EVERY TIME you’re done with grilling? I mean, I thought that you just turned the heat up and closed the lid for a little and everything just burned right off!! Nope. That’s not how it’s done, now I know. What you should be doing is this:
- Finish grilling or smoking.
- Remove meat to rest.
- Clean grill with a stiff bristle brush or back side of a spatula while the grates are hot.
- Get them as clean as you can.
- Now, go eat!
This way when you grill next, your meat won’t stick. Instead, it’ll taste good without that oily flavoring from last time. Bonus: your grill will last longer and give you better long-lasting results.
4. Let your meat rest.
When the cooking is done we all get excited and we want to eat right away. DONT! Chef Marc says to let your meat relax. There are opposing opinions out there on this one, guys. But Chef Marc’s camp is with juiciness and flavor that comes from resting the meat. He suggests for about 5-10 minutes. If you’ve ever had a hot steak, then you know it’s not that tasty. For maximum flavor, your steak should be closer to room temp.
5. Have FUN!
Smoking, grilling or any kind of cooking should be fun, especially around the holidays. The more fun you have the more it will reflect in the flavors of your food. Chef Marc says to start the grill when your family and friends get there. Mingle and have some fun with the guests. If you are using charcoal or wood this is the perfect time to have the grill heat up. Don’t rush! Cooking on the grill is about heat, not fire. Take your time and enjoy the process.
Whether you’re new to smoking/grilling or already consider yourself a grill master who wants to have fun and learn more, Smoqued offers classes once a month where Chef Marc teaches everything you need to know to perfect the craft of smoking. Each month they pick a different protein, from pork belly to steak to chicken and many others. They’re sold out for this Saturday’s class but due to popular demand are adding an 8 am class on Monday (May 27). You’ll get two full racks of St. Louis ribs and learn everything you need to know about how to perfectly prepare them while they are smoked in house. And did I mention that beer and lunch is included? They fill up quickly so make sure to contact Smoqued for details.