BBQ Master Class: 5 Must-Have Tips for the Perfect Outdoor Party

An outdoor barbecue party is your best chance to show everyone your cooking and grilling skills. Never been in charge of the grill before? Never fear! Even if this is your first-ever BBQ party then we got you covered with the 5 best tips on how to be the best barbecue party cook….in the world.

1. Make a Plan

BBQ-ing may look like a lazy affair, but trust us, you will be a more efficient cook if you plan your party entrees ahead of time.

    • If you plan to serve vegetables, peel them and cut them the night before. Soak these in water to preserve freshness.
    • Prepare sauces ahead of time as well. Place these in microwaveable containers so you can serve these fast and hot.
    • Order your meat, poultry or fish ahead of time. Cut and clean these before you store them inside the fridge


2. Perfect your Grilling Techniques

  • Grill large vegetables like corn and potatoes by coating these heavily in butter. Sprinkle with salt and wrap in aluminum foil before you place the on the grill.
  • When grilling chicken, if you want crispy, delicious skin, rub the with butter or oil and lightly season it. The skin will become nice and crispy.
  • Choose steaks with thin strands of fat in between the muscle tissue. These will melt when cooking to make the meat juicier.
  • Avoid browning or blackening of grilled meats by applying tomato-based sauces with sugars only during the final 10 minutes of grilling.
  • Cook your hamburger until it’s well done. There are more bacteria present in ground beef, so cook it completely to kill bacteria. If you are grilling a large burger patty, use a meat thermometer and make sure that the temperature is not less than 160 degrees in the center of the patty.
  • Salt draws away moisture so do not salt to meat before it is cooked to prevent the meat from becoming tough and dry.


3. Marinate Your Meat Well – Use the best vacuum sealer

Marinate meats overnight inside the best vacuum sealer container. A vacuum seal container will keep flavors and moisture in. Marinades do not just flavor meats but also tenderizes them. There are many commercially-made marinades out there but don’t rely on these solely. Use different types of marinades, rubs and seasonings to provide a unique and tempting taste to your grilled food. If you don’t have 24 hours to marinate your meat, soak for at least an hour before cooking.

When cooking frozen meat, do not leave it out of the refrigerator and in room temperature for more than an hour. If you leave uncooked meat on the counter for too long, bacteria can grow and can affect the freshness of meat as well. To thaw frozen meats completely, do it inside the refrigerator.


4. Take Smoking and Grilling to a Whole New Level

Nothing beats the taste and smell of meats cooked in a smoker. And definitely it is not too early to purchase the best pellet smoker 2018. These are available for purchase today.

  • Regardless of what type of grill you use, give your grill plenty of time to preheat. You can use a cooking thermometer to check the temperature of the grill or you can simply use your hand. If you cannot hold your hand over the grill grates for more than 2 seconds then the grill is already ready and hot.
  • If you are using a smoker, light your charcoal with a chimney starter. This is by far the quickest way to get your coals going, plus you won’t have yucky lighter fumes in your smoker and food as well.
  • If cooking with a smoker, reduce the times you open the smoker door. We know how excited you are to check if your meat is cooked but frequently opening the door will affect the temperature and humidity inside the smoker chamber.
  • Only have a regular grill? You can still add smokey flavor to your food by lining charcoal on the bottom of one side of the grilling chamber. Use hickory or mesquite wood chips and place these on the top of the hot coals. Your meat should be on the other side of the grill, or on the side away from the coals. Indirect heat will cook your meat well with a smoky flavor.
  • To ensure that smoky flavor sticks to your food, keep the lid of your grill closed at all times. Take note that this can increase cooking temperatures and can increase cooking time as well, so be on alert at all times.
  • No one wants that nasty fuel taste on food so if you are using lighter fluid, make sure that the fire is completely out before placing your meat on the grill. You can tell that the lighter fluid is completely burned out when the charcoal is mostly gray in color with just a few red embers glowing underneath them.
  • To check if meat is cooked, do not pierce meat with a fork because the delicious juices will escape. This can also make meats drier and blander. Use only a spatula or thongs to flip food; do not use prongs or forks.


5. Experiment with Different Barbecue Sauces

Nooooo! Not the same old barbecue sauce on your meat again! Why not test some new flavors, even sauces that you have never thought would be possible with barbecue? There’s teriyaki, chipotle, hot sauce and more. You can make your own sauces from ingredients like brown sugar, paprika, honey, chopped onions, red peppers, lemon juice and so on.

Another way to add rich flavor to your grilled meats is butter. There are a variety of butters that you can brush over your meats as these cook. Bobby Flay loves to us garlic butter, cilantro butter or balsamic-rosemary butter on grilled foods. We don’t always agree with Bobby Flay, but we do always agree with butter.

The Filet Mignon of Thanksgiving Leftovers


I know we all love scrounging through our post-turkey day fridges to figure out how we can quickly use up Thanksgiving leftovers (eggs over stuffing anyone?) But actually Thanksgiving, rather than exhausting me on cooking, often gets me inspired to do more in the kitchen. So I was stoked to come across this wonderful wintry recipe from Chef Kamran Naseem of Manhattan’s Reserve Cut. Chef Naseem’s filet mignon gets a little something extra, courtesy of ingredients a lot of us will have left over in the fridge this week — squash, brussels sprouts, pecans, and of course red wine. Oh, and there’s some pastrami up in here, because yes.

Filet Mignon with Brussel Sprout Medley



2cups Brussel sprout leaves
1T shallot
1T Garlic
1/4 cup squash (diced & sauteed)
2T pecans (toasted)
1T maple syrup
1T Red Wine vinaigrette
1/4 cup pastrami (chopped)
1t chile flake

Directions for the Brussel Sprout Medley:
In a hot pan, add canola oil then the Brussel sprouts. Add shallot and garlic, followed by squash and pecan. Add maple syrup and let reduce. Deglaze with red wine vinegar and then finish with pastrami, chile flake and salt.

Directions for the Filet Mignon:
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle both sides of steak with salt and generous amount of ground black pepper. Add to skillet and cook to desired doneness, about 4 minutes per side for medium. Transfer steaks to plate. Tent with foil. Boil 1 cup of garlic cloves until very soft, purée, add ¼ cup olive oil, water to thin.  Then Salt. Spoon over steak.

Endless Halloween: Slurp Some Seriously Spooky Spaghetti


Photo: Lori Hirsch Stokoe /

YESSSSS. It’s almost time to start seriously thinking about Halloween cooking. There’s nothing better than horrifying food that actually tastes wonderful, right? And Halloween is the perfect excuse to pull it off. This one’s for all you cavemen. I normally wouldn’t be one to sub out my glourious gluten-y pasta for protein-rish versions, but October is the perfect time to start experimenting with black bean pasta. The awesomely atrocious dish pictured above uses Explore Cuisine’s spaghetti, which is made from just black beans and only black beans.

Black Bean Spaghetti with AFRAID-O Sauce and White Carrot Phalanges


White Carrot Phalanges

Peel 8 white carrots then carve with small knife into finger-bone shape. Steam until al dente. Set aside.


Black Bean Spaghetti with AFRAID-O Sauce

  • 1 box Explore Cuisine Black Bean Spaghetti – cooked, drained
  • 1 jar of alfredo sauce (can choose gluten-free)
  • 1 jar of marinara sauce (choose one that is more blood red in color, rather than orange)
  • fresh basil
  1. Heat the sauces in separate saucepans over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  2. Place warm Explore Cuisine black bean spaghetti in the center of four serving plates.
  3. Ladle alfredo sauce over the center of the spaghetti.
  4. Arrange carrot phalanges over the sauce.
  5. Splatter marinara sauce over the entire dish, in a gruesome manner.
  6. Garnish with basil.


More ridiculous recipes in Endless Halloween.

A Better Breakfast: Icelandic Skyr B-Fast Bowl


Ya’ll know I like to eat epic baon and eggs dishes for breakfast, and even on weekdays I’d be much more likely to grab a breakfast pastry than whip up a healthier breakfast. Perhaps I should say “had been more likely” as I’ve been experimenting with (gasp) healthy breakfasts lately. I know, I know, but I’m 35, with a kid on the way, and can’t eat baconbaconbacon every day forever. Lately my daily start has consisted of Greek yogurt mixed up with whatever fresh fruits and nuts I happen to have on hand. I also love to mix it up with some Skyr — Iceland’s thick, creamy answer to yogurt — it has just the right consistency. So, if you’re hankering for a healthier start to your days, try this recipe from Icelandic Provisions Skyr. Also, if you’re feeling sad and betrayed by this whole healthy thing, let me just point out now that this recipe contains vodka. So there.

Skyr Breakfast Bowl


Raw Granola

1/2 c. dried cherries
1/2 c. pumpkin seeds
1/4 c. red quinoa
1/4 c. raw cashews
1/4 c. chia seeds
2 tbsp. dried coconut
2 tbsp. maple syrup
2 tbsp. coconut oil
1 pinch sea salt

Macerated Stonefruit

1 white peach, pitted
2 Italian sugar plums, pitted
3-5 mirabelle plums, pitted
1 tbsp. raw sugar
1 tsp. dried lavender
2 tbsp. vodka


How to Make It

Chop all pitted stone fruit into bite-sized pieces. Toss fruit in sugar, lavender, and vodka. Rest covered at room temperature for 20 minutes or refrigerate overnight.

For granola, pulse dried cherries in food processor until finely chopped, almost paste-like. Add nuts, chia, and quinoa, and briefly pulse until combined. Add coconut oil, maple syrup, and sea salt. Pulse entire mixture until fully incorporated.

Add ½ cup skyr to bowl. Top with ¼ cup macerated stone fruit and sprinkle with raw granola.

Labor Day Cocktail O’Clock: Shandy Slushy


Just because summer is unofficially coming to a close doesn’t mean it’s time to stop drinking frozen cocktails! (We’d generally argue it’s never time to stop drinking frozen cocktails, but that’s a whole other story.) Take a long, hot gander at The Shush, an off-menu drink offered at El Original TX-MX In Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen, where tipplers in the know can slurp on either a grapefruit or lemon slushy shandy, saying goodbye to the last hot-ish days of summer in style. Read on for both recipes.


Lemon Shush

4 Servings


– Curious Traveler Lemon Shandy (1 bottle)

– 3 oz. of fresh lemon juice

– 3 oz house made honey syrup (see below)

– A dash of bitters


Honey syrup ingredients:

– 3-5 cubes of fresh pineapple

– Lemon zest to taste

– 3 oz. of honey

– 54 oz. of crushed ice

Muddle fresh pineapple then add lemon zest and honey. Bring to a boil on a stove and let it cool to room temperature.


Slush Directions:

Break down crushed ice as much as possible so the carbonation of the shandy won’t dilute the slushy.  Blend till smooth. Combine all ingredients, except shandy. Add the homemade honey syrup, water and lemon juice. While those are blending, add shandy base.

Garnish with a dash of bitters and lemon wedge.


Grapefruit Shush

Serving size 4


– Traveler Grapefruit Shandy (1 bottle)

– 3 oz. of grapefruit juice

– 1 oz. of lime juice

– 2 oz. mint simple syrup (see below)

– 54 oz of crushed ice


Mint simple syrup ingredients:

– 3-5 pulled mint leaves

–  2 parts water

– 1 part sugar

Combine mint leaves with 2 parts water and 1 part sugar. Bring to a boil and then let it cool to room temperature.


Slushy directions:

Use crushed ice to be broken down as much as possible so the carbonation of the shandy won’t cause it to separate or dilute. Blend till smooth. Combine all ingredients (except shandy). Add the mint simple syrup, water and lemon juice. While those are blending, add Shandy. Garnish with a ruby red grapefruit wedge.

Garnish with grapefruit wedge and mint sprig

Not Your Grandma’s Roast Chicken



For most serious foodies, chicken has long been that “other” item on the menu — the one that you might order if it’s fried, but otherwise would never prioritize over pork or beef. But lately I’ve seen more than a few restaurants that put fowl front and center, making the humble bird their centerpiece dish. None more so than Le Coq Rico, which I first read about in The New York Times earlier this summer, and simply had to have their gloriously golden roast chicken, 100-degree weather be damned.

The restaurant was kind enough to share Chef Antoine Westermann’s recipe for the perfect roast bird, a deceptively simple dish where butter and olive oil rubbed all over — and inside — the chicken make a world of difference.

Roast Chicken, Westermann Style

Read More

Happy National Watermelon Day!


Tomorrow, August 3rd is apparently National Watermelon Day…a holiday I’ve been personally pre-celebrating pretty much every day for the past three weeks or so. Fresh watermelon is pretty much my favorite thing about summer, but this year I’ve also noticed a plethora of watermelon drinks on the market. One of the tastier ones I’ve sampled is Sparkling Ice’s Strawberry Watermelon fizzy drink, and for the holiday occasion they’ve offered up this fabulous recipe for filling your watermelon with…what else? Watermelon!

Pomegranate Watermelon Summer Slush

1/2 Personal-size seedless watermelon, chilled, cut & cubed (about 5 cups)
1/3 Cup Sparkling Ice Strawberry Watermelon
2 Tablespoons lime juice
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 to 2 Cups ice
Small watermelon wedge, spear of blueberries a few pomegranate seeds (optional for garnishes)

In a blender, combine all ingredients and blend until smooth. Garnish as desired and serve in a hollowed-out watermelon shell for a fun “fish bowl” inspired drink.

Oh, and if you’re not liking this whole “mock” thing….sub in some hard stuff!
Sparkling Watermelon Vodka Lemonade

3 Cups seedless watermelon pieces
3 Lemons, juiced
1/2 Cup Vodka
1/4 Cup Fresh Mint
2 Cups Lemon Lime Sparkling Ice

In a blender, puree the watermelon and lemon juice, strain through a sieve into a drink pitcher. Add mint, vodka and Lemon Lime Sparkling Ice, then stir. Serve over ice and garnish with fresh mint.

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