Just in time for a long weekend, we have a special treat for you: a chef’s summer BBQ tips! Chef Tom Filippou, Executive Chef President’s Choice Cooking Schools has given us an exclusive interview about the current trends and tips in BBQ. Here he talks overcooking, smoking, menus and marinades. Enjoy, and feel free to extend a dinner invitation to our team… Have a great long weekend!
1. What are this summer’s current trends in BBQ?
I would say that one of the hottest trends right now is incorporating traditional North African spices and flavours into your foods. We’ve just introduced our PC black label harissa spice blend that is a Moroccan seasoning blend of crushed hot red chilies, cumin, ground caraway, coriander, garlic, sea salt and spearmint leaves adds a bold and slightly smoky kick to stews, grains and vegetable dishes. Not only can you use it to season your meats, but it also becomes a condiment when blended with olive oil to make a thick paste which is a really unique way to spice up your burgers or chicken.
Also, a fairly new trend that we’ve really been a bit of a trendsetter in is grilling cheese on the barbecue. For example, we have a great mild-tasting Mediterranean-inspired PC Halloom Cheese that is great for the grill because it resists melting, holds its shape and great to add to kebabs, summer salads and sandwiches. Also, one of my favourite new foods this summer is our PC Cedar Plank Brie. The wood protects the double-cream Brie from the flames while the smoke imbues it with flavor. It even comes with our PC Memories of Tuscany Sauce that adds sweet and tangy notes to the creamy cheese. Both of these are really unique foods to offer your guests and I think we’ll start to see more and more cheese on the grill.
Lastly, slow cooking on the barbecue using smoking and indirect heat are always very popular every summer.
2. How do you ensure that you’re not overcooking your meat and vegetables on the grill?
The number one thing to do to ensure that you don’t overcook anything on the grill is to be attentive. Be focused on what you’re doing, don’t get distracted by trying to make other foods at the same time in the kitchen.
Also, get to know your barbecue and find out the “hot spots” and “cool spots” on your barbecue, this will help prevent charring and burning.
Lastly, I always teach people to use the “touch method.” This is what most chefs are taught to use, especially with meat and chicken. When you touch the meat, the firmer it is, the more cooked or well-done it is. If the meat is softer or pliable, the more undercooked it is.
3. People keep talking about smoking on the BBQ. How do you do it and what flavours are your favourites?
This is my super simple way to do smoking….
1. Soak your wood or wood chips in water for at least an hour before your barbecue
2. Strain your wood or wood chips
3. Wrap aluminum foil around the wood and pop some holes in it to allow the smoke out
4. Put the wood on the barbecue and put the heat on very low
5. Place your meat on the wood
6. When the chips start smoking, close the cover of your barbecue and keep the cover down so the flavor from the smoke imbues the food
Tom’s tip: for even extra flavor, soak your wood or woodchips in bourbon or apple juice the night before.
4. If you’re doing an easy BBQ with friends, what is your typical menu?
I always tell people to use the barbecue as much as possible to keep you outside with your guests instead of inside the kitchen.
I like to start off by having some bite sized chicken or beef kabobs or a great skewer (like the one that uses our PC Halloom cheese with sundried tomatoes) to serve to guests to snack on when they arrive.
Or serving our PC Cedar Plank Brie with some pita crackers is also a great unique offering for your guests that they will love.
Another neat idea that I’ve served my guests before is barbecuing a pizza and slicing it up into bite sized pieces to serve as a mini appetizers to guests when they arrive.
In terms of a main course, it’s always great to serve a grand finale like ribs served with a great barbecue sauce like our PC Molasses, Brown Sugar and Bourbon Barbecue sauce. If you’re going to do ribs, use indirect heat and let them cook for an hour or so.
Also, something really interesting that I’ve been doing lately that kids and parents love is setting up a D.I.Y. burger bar. Serve a really popular burger such as our PC Free From Angus Burger (serve the PC Free From Mini Sliders for the kids) and then set up unique condiments in serving bowls instead of the usual ketchup and mustard. Our new PC Condiments such as our PC Kimchi Korean-style condiment, our PC Soffrito Relish or our PC Maple Mustard are great crowd pleasers and conversation starters.
5. Meats: marinate or flavour injection? Or neither?
This all depends on the cut of meat you’re using. The tougher the cut of meat (such as a flank steak or a sirloin) the more you should marinate. True marinading is used to breakdown the connective tissue found in tougher cuts of meat. For meat that has a lot of marbling, you don’t need any marinade (such as a rib eye or fillets). Chicken can be marinaded or grilled without, depending on your individual preference.
When choosing a marinade, make sure it has a citrus or vinegar base (these are best to breakdown the connective tissue) or try any of our premade PC Marinades.
These recipes and more are available at www.PC.ca. The President’s Choice items Chef Tom mentions are available at Real Canadian Superstore, nofrills, and Extra Foods locations. Happy Grilling!!