Memorial day hacks from famous chefs – chowhound electricity jeopardy


Memorial Day is almost upon us, which means it’s time to start thinking about firing up the grill for the first official cookout of summer. These tips and tricks from some of the nation’s top chefs will save you time and effort, so you can actually enjoy your backyard bash!

Preheating the grill is critical to achieving that smoky, savory sear on big chunks of meat. “Always make sure the fire is hot. For gas grills, turn it on about 15 minutes before you’re ready to cook. If you’re using charcoal, light it about 45 minutes ahead of time to let the coals burn down,” says Vanderlei Melchior, head gaucho chef for the upscale Brazilian steakhouse chain Fogo de Chão.

If you’re going to serve hamburgers (because let’s face it, they’re pretty much the quintessential Memorial Day grub!), make sure you do it right. “It’s important to know how to choose the right burger for grilling. It should be at least 80/20 lean to fat ratio ground chuck. Too much fat can cause it to shrink,” says Jon Lemon, Bareburger culinary director. “Form into 6-oz. patties and press a ½ inch dimple into the middle of the patty so it keeps its form.”

Using a meat thermometer to ensure your cuts are perfectly cooked doesn’t make you less of a grill master. “ Purchase a digital thermometer. You’ll be more confident when grilling and won’t waste any money on over- or under-cooked protein,” says Geoffrey Zakarian, chef and partner of Point Royal at the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Fla.

There’s nothing wrong with a plain ol’ hot dog with mustard—but putting a new twist on Memorial Day favorites is sure to wow your guests. “Adding unexpected flavors and ingredients always impresses and kicks a dish up a notch,” says Ayesha Curry, chef and cookbook author.

“To spend as much time with your guests as you can, get some veggies on the grill before they arrive. I love making grilled veggie salads, which you can build with seasonal ingredients such as corn or zucchini and prepare ahead of time,” says Ryan Farr of San Francisco’s 4505 Burgers and BBQ, named “Hottest Barbecue Joint in America” by Zagat.

Grilling up miniature sliders instead of regular-sized burgers will allow you and your guests to sample all your summery mains and sides. “Sliders are so great because there are simple and easy options you can throw together. For a break from beef, buy a pre-roasted rotisserie chicken, pull apart the meat, toss it with barbecue sauce, and top it with coleslaw or jalapeños,” says Beau Houck, executive chef of Noi Due Carne on New York City’s Upper West Side.

Look at your recipes beforehand and shop according to the exact amounts you’ll need—this will prevent you from wasting money and food by overbuying. “Buying pre-packaged perishable items often leads to extra ingredients that wind up going to waste because they don’t keep,” says Stephanie Izard, a Food Network Iron Chef, founder of several Chicago area restaurants, and spokesperson for Morton Salt’s Erase Food Waste campaign.

Mixing a cocktail or sangria in bulk is a little more fun than a cooler full of beer or wine. “ Batching cocktails allows you to spend more time entertaining your guests, but it’s very important to know your proportions before mixing everything together,” says Mo Ghanem, brand manager for the tequila brand Riazul. Multiply the amounts for one drink by the number of guests you expect.

Stacking protein and veggies on skewers makes for a fun presentation and easy way to serve a variety of flavors—plus, you don’t have to worry about smaller cuts of meat or vegetables falling through the grill grate. “My Jerk Rubbed Chicken Skewers with Mango Salsa is great as a side dish or main, and it comes together so quickly,” says Curry.

Don’t forget about your herbivore guests! Be sure to have side dishes or mains that are meat-free. For something besides veggie or pasta salads, Houck suggests grilling up a hearty olive oil-brushed bread and serving with a nice cheese (such as burrata or fresh mozzarella), tomatoes, and fresh basil.