Labor Day BBQ Tips & Tricks

The Princes of the Pit Spill the Beans, and We Don’t Mean the Side Dish

If you’re firing up the grill this Labor Day weekend, maybe it might be a good time to go all out for your guests. Even if it’s just burgers and dogs, this could be the last cookout of the summer, and we want to help make it count.

So some of our friends (grill idols, whatever, same thing) are here with some tips and tricks of the trade. And if working the ‘cue ain’t for you, come visit them this fall at the Food Network & Cooking Channel New York City Wine & Food Festival’s Coca-Cola Backyard BBQ, and the only thing you’ll have to worry about is eating.

Ash Fulk, Culinary Director at Hill Country Hospitality

1. Use a Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal: Lump charcoal imparts a better flavor to food than briquettes. It also burns hotter and more evenly. Lump charcoal is the only path to truly becoming a grill master.

2. Grilling loves a good spritz! Keep a spray bottle of water near the grill. When you have a little flare-up, give it a little spritz of water. Speaking of spritz…if you like an Aperol Spritz, try subbing out the sparkling wine for sparkling rosé! This little cocktail goes great when cooking with fire. Keeps you fresh and cool.


Jean-Paul Bourgeois, Executive Chef of Blue Smoke

1. It’s all about the reverse sear! Let’s take a thick cut ribeye for example. Smoke your ribeye off the coals, or “indirect heat,” until it reaches 115 degrees. Once it hits that temperature, pull your steak, stoke your coals, and put the ribeye directly on top of the hottest section of the coals. This will cook your ribeye up from medium-rare to medium.

2. Wölffer Estate’s Cider has been my go-to drink when barbecuing these days. It’s super refreshing, big on flavor, and light on calories and sugar – a win-win in my book!

Glenn Rolnick, Executive Chef of Virgil’s

1. Low and slow with indirect heat is the way to go when preparing great-tasting BBQ. At Virgil’s, we do our barbecuing for hours in two 1,400-pound smokers. Barbeque enthusiasts can use this same technique with their home charcoal or gas grills by allowing their meats to cook slow and indirect. An easy way to capture that true BBQ flavor is to prepare a pan with apple juice- soaked hickory wood chips and cover with foil. Poke a few holes in the foil and place on the grill. BBQ your meats on low with the grill covered to capture the maximum BBQ essence.

2. When choosing a beer to drink with your BBQ wings, select a beer that is slightly bitter or tart; they complement the flavorful dry rub and smoky flavor. Styles such as amber, farmhouse ale or ESB (extra special bitter) work best with Virgil’s BBQ wings. At Virgil’s, we serve our own Virgil’s Ale, which is a perfect pairing with all of our smoked BBQ dishes.

Leland Avellino, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

1. Get as much as you can get done before guests arrive. Finishing off longer-cooked items on the grill is one thing, but having people wait around until your brisket is done can be long and annoying for all involved! I like to pre-bake (or smoke) my wings and/or chicken quarters ahead of time and then just
touch them to the grill…maybe even marinate some nice Vidalia onions and grill them nice and slow for a different topping for the classic burger. Make all sauces and sides well ahead of time so you can spend valuable time with your family and friends at the party!

2. Don’t forget to look at healthier things to grill: vegetables, chicken breasts, and even fruit for a salad…I’m looking at you, pineapple!

Darren Carbone, Executive Chef of El Vez New York

1. “Cook to render and make it tender, then high heat for crispy skin that can’t be beat.” For crispy skin on pork, I always render at a lower temperature while cooking the meat (maybe 275-350F) depending on how large the cut is. Once rendered I crank up to 400-425F for 15-20 minutes to crisp up the skin; this works wonders on porchetta, whole animal, or lechón asado. If you want crispy, blistery, crunchy skin, this is the road to get there.

2. Time is your friend! Brineall large cuts and/or give rubs and leave time for them to set in the meat. They will impart a depth of flavor in the meat that’s not attainable just by last-minute seasoning. Depending on the size or the protein, one to two days will work wonders.

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