Grilling Houston Chefs: What They Use for Backyard BBQ

By Marcy de Luna  |  June 27, 2014
Credit: Lia Preuss/Flickr

Graduate to grill master with these sizzling tips from Houston's hottest chefs.

Chef: Chris Shepherd
Restaurant: Underbelly
Equipment: Green Mountain grill/smoker
Creative Uses: "For a delicious meal with minimal effort, I come home from service on a Saturday night, throw a pork shoulder on the grill at a low temp, smoke it all night and it's ready for lunch the next day."
Hot Tips: "You can smoke some really good ribs in 4 hours."

Chef: Hugo Ortega
Restaurant: Hugo's, Caracol and Backstreet Cafe
Equipment: Inexpensive Weber grill
Creative Uses: "Oysters and swordfish for sandwiches and paella."
Hot Tips: "Use a charcoal chimney and a bit of paper, and you wont need lighter fluid. Also, keep your grill clean and it will last longer."

Chef: Monica Pope
Restaurant: Sparrow Bar + Cookshop
Equipment: Weber baby grill
Creative Uses: "Use the chimney stack for hardwood lighting, minimizing chemicals. For flavor, use different wood chips."
Hot Tips: "I smoke mushrooms and walnuts for a different kind of salsa, and vegetables like beets and eggplants for salads."

Chef: Robert Del Grande
Restaurant: RDG + Bar Annie
Equipment: Texas Pitt's & Spit's barbecue grill and Hasty-Bake grill
Creative Uses: "My favorite way to cook fish is to put it on a banana leaf and grill it over a cooler part of the fire. The fish picks up the smoke from the grill, but never sticks. My other favorite trick is to grill packets of food: Wrap shrimp or oysters in corn husks (fresh or dried), tie them with a piece of string and grill."
Hot Tips: "If I’m famous for one thing, it’s my grilled salsa-on-a-stick. Skewer all your favorite ingredients for salsa (tomato, tomatillo, onion, garlic, even avocado) and grill the skewers over a very hot fire. Put the charred ingredients in a blender and you have a great salsa."

Chef: Charles Clark
Restaurant: Ibiza Food & Wine Bar, Brasserie 19, Coppa Ristorante, Coppa Osteria, Punk’s Simple Southern Food
Equipment: I use a homemade custom BBQ pit welded from family members in Louisiana. That’s the advantage of having a lot of redneck cousins.
Creative Uses: "Loosely wrap corn on the cob (seasoned with butter and Tony Chacere Seasoning) or potatoes in tin foil and grill them for three hours to add a delicious smoky flavor. (I take the leftover smoked corn cobs and use it for crawfish boils.)"
Hot Tips: "Use all wood, preferably Oakwood. It takes longer to get the fire started, but it lasts for 8 hours."

Chef: Ben McPhearson
Restaurant: The Bull and The Pearl (supper club)
Equipment: Weber trash can grill
Creative Uses: "Cold smoke fish: Light a small fire (just enough to produce smoke) on one side of the grill with a tray of ice on the other side. Place salmon or trout on the grate above the fire and slow roast for 14 hours."
Hot Tips: "Use oak as base and pecan or hickory to add flavor."

Chef: David Cordua
Restaurant: Americas
Equipment: Forno Toscano Margherita Portable Wood Burning Oven
Creative Uses: "Vegetables are my favorite thing to grill because they pick up wood smoke so well and the high heat makes for beautiful browning. Crisp up chickpeas and finish them with chopped rosemary or charred roasted carrots in cumin and honey vinaigrette."
Hot Tips: "Start with hickory for a fast light and then switch to mesquite for bold rich smoke."

Chef: Kate McLean
Restaurant: Tony's
Equipment: My dad's custom-made charcoal grill from Pitt's & Spitt's
Creative Uses: "Bring a little acid to the party by adding vinegar (balsamic, champagne, red wine) and fruits (lemons, oranges, grapefruits)."
Hot Tips: "Before you throw anything on the grill make sure it's clean. (A wire grill brush is great for this.) After cleaning, get an old towel, dip it in vegetable/peanut oil and wipe your grill down to season it."

Chef: Carlos Rodriguez
Restaurant: Vic & Anthony's
Equipment: Weber Propane Grill — it fires up fast!
Creative Uses: "Asparagus, corn and potatoes. And once on a trip to Canada, moose."
Hot Tips: "Use cedar planks for a beautiful smoky wood flavor. Make sure the grill is sizzling hot before using it."

Chef: Austin Simmons
Restaurant: Hubbell & Hudson Bistro, Hubbell & Hudson Kitchen
Equipment: My dad’s 10-year old Hasty-Bake multipurpose charcoal grill
Creative Uses: "Grill soft, fresh cheeses over wood to infuse flavor, then whip to distribute flavor and alter texture."
Hot Tips: "Char vegetables such as heirloom baby carrots over pecan wood to caramelize the sugars with a hint of smoke."

Chef: Christine Ha
Restaurant: "Four Senses" (on AMI)
Equipment: GrillMaster propane with side burner
Creative Uses: "I use the side burner to fry eggrolls or make cracklin's so they don't smell up the house."
Hot Tips: "Maintain your grill by using a grill cover, but don't forget to tie the corners down (plenty of Texas thunderstorms have caused our grill cover to end up in our neighbor's yard)."