Grilling with Dad

In honor of Father's Day, CityBeat staffers get lesssons about the art of grilling from their pops

Paul Sylvester: father of CityBeat Creative Director Rebecca Sylvester

Grilling nickname, if applicable:

I have a number of family nicknames, but I am often called Flaming P when I grill. 

Are you a charcoal or propane man? Why/explain?

Both. Early on I was a dedicated charcoal griller and still use charcoal for steaks and lamb chops. I believe the flavor is better when the flames char the outside of the meat. We eat more chicken, fish, turkey and veggie burgers now, and I have found that the gas grill cooks more evenly and reliably.

What are the necessary utensils/equipment that must be present when you grill?

An adult beverage, metal brush to clean the grill top, timer, tongs, spatula and Pam spray or olive oil to lubricate the grill top so the meat doesn’t stick. 

Describe proper grilling technique/the art of grilling. 

Sell the result. Involve your guests in the grilling steps (making sure they join you in enjoying an adult beverage). Invite guests to observe applying the seasonings or the flipping process. Allow for taste tests as meats rest. The smells will sell themselves.

What are the secrets to perfect grilling? What’s the Flaming P method?

Use fresh meats and vegetables. Keep seasoning simple and light. Never leave the grill unattended to avoid out-of-control flames.

Why do people grill?

At my house, I grill so I can get a warm meal.

Dan Cross: father of CityBeat Editor-in-Chief Danny Cross

Grilling nickname, if applicable: 

WTF, Pops (Where’s the Food, Pops?).

Are you a charcoal or propane man? Why/explain? 

I prefer propane for the convenience and for the ability to easily control the temperature. But you run the risk of running out of gas with half-baked pork chops. Some more expensive grills have a gas gauge but, like the electric starter, they usually don’t work after a couple of years.

What are the necessary utensils/equipment that must be present when you grill? 

The most important thing is an open bottle of beer. That’s how I keep hydrated while slaving over a hot fire, and in case the grill catches fire (which has been known to happen at my place), the beer doubles as a fire extinguisher and a steam seasoning. 

Describe proper grilling technique/the art of grilling. 

The basics: 1) Use tongs — poking your meat with a fork releases the juices and dries out the meat. 2) Let the meat tell you when it’s time to flip. If you turn it too soon, it will stick to the grill. 3) Use a meat thermometer to avoid overcooking. Remember to remove the meat from the grill about 5 degrees before the desired temperature. Let the meat rest for five minutes and it will continue to cook the rest of the way.  

What are the secrets to perfect grilling? What’s the “WTF, Pops” method?  

I add some smoke by wrapping hardwood chips in foil, poking holes in the foil and dropping it into the coals or burners. I also use a fair amount of Cajun spices. But the real secret is, don’t ask them what they want or how they want it. Just cook it and give it to them. But make them wait for it — plan to have it ready about 45 minutes to an hour later than expected and they will enjoy it much more.

What’s the most difficult thing you’ve ever had to grill?  

My friend Lou invited us over and asked me to grill a box of frozen Angus burgers. They burned like rocket fuel. He will buy anything that says “Angus” because he thinks it’s something special. He doesn’t know that it’s a Scottish breed of cattle commonly bred for beef production — Angus don’t even have horns.

Tim McCartney: father of CityBeat Associate Editor Hannah McCartney

Are you a charcoal or propane man? Why/explain?

Charcoal is better for cooking good products, propane for mass production, like if you have a party. Charcoal’s good for flavor. 

What are the necessary utensils/equipment that must be present when you grill?

You need a good, firm spatula. You do need a basting brush and tongs, of course. Absolutely you need an assistant to fetch plates. 

Describe proper grilling technique/the art of grilling. 

The single most important thing about grilling is never, ever, ever turn the meat more than once. You end the marriage, the relationship, you end a friendship sooner than you turn the meat twice. If they request you turn it, you simply end the relationship. That’s my best advice.

What’s the most difficult thing you’ve ever had to grill?

Not properly thawed meat of any kind is virtually impossible to grill, but I’ve been placed in situations where you have to do that, like if you have a big party or if something was forgotten. It gets tough, usually burned. It’s really frustrating. 

Why do people grill?

It’s a birthright. Cavemen used fire to cook meat. It’s innate to use fire to cook — actual flames to cook — especially meat. ©

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