How to Grill Like a Chef

Pro summer grilling tips from one of Toronto’s top BBQ chefs.

By: JEREMY FREEDDate: 2020-07-16

Whether your preference is for steaks, burgers or veggie kebabs, it’s not officially summer until you fire up the barbecue. We asked Kris Hansen, Executive Chef at The Carbon Bar in Toronto, for his best advice on how to get grilling right every time.

What's your favourite cut for the grill this summer?

Flat steaks all the way! In the heat of the summer, bigger steaks are not always better. They can be heavy and hard to digest, especially without salads. I love marinating flank and skirt steaks—skirt steaks only need to marinate for a couple of hours whereas flanks are great overnight. Remember though, using vinegar or citrus in your marinade can toughen the meat if left too long. The hanger steak can be seasoned and grilled like a regular steak, it just tends to have three sides rather than two.

What is a common mistake home chefs make when grilling, and how do you correct it?

I would say the most common mistake is that home chefs will sauce their meat too early, causing the sugars to burn black. If you want more flavour, add spices or rubs before the meat goes on the grill and only sauce at the very end. It is also very important to not flip the meat too often. Once or twice is enough, I say to my chefs "If it sticks, not ready for flips.”

What's one thing professional chefs know about grilling that most home cooks don't?

Temperature and doneness. The correlation between numerical temperatures and how people order steaks (rare to well-done) is an exact science. Using a digital thermometer, you can guarantee the proper cook every time. Also, remember to rest the meat after you take it off the grill, otherwise, all your juices will bleed out when you cut into it.

Dry rub, marinade, or sauce?

Actually, all of the above! It all depends on what cut of meat you are using and what you are most comfortable grilling. The Carbon Bar is all about dry rubs first followed by sauce, again, it ensures maximum flavour with minimal burning.

Gas, charcoal briquettes or hardwood?

Gas is what chefs use in most restaurants because it allows the natural flavour of the meat to come through. We use hardwood at The Carbon Bar, which is perfect for smoking tougher meats over long periods of time. Charcoal briquettes are probably the most difficult to use as they can create inconsistent heat, but they do give an incredibly unique flavour to meats. The smell of the smoke always reminds me of barbecuing at the cottage.

While dining in is on hold for the moment––our friends at The Carbon Bar are currently offering pick-up for those in the Toronto area.

Jeremy Freed is a Toronto-based freelance journalist. His writing about menswear, travel, design and sustainability appears in Sharp, GQ, the Globe and Mail and many more.