Grilling Tips From Food Network Star Jeff Mauro

Photo: Andrew Toth, Getty Images.

Whether you’re gearing up for grilling season or planning the ultimate Father’s Day menu, it doesn’t hurt to have a little help. Jeff Mauro, the Chicago-based executive chef of fast-casual eatery Pork & Mindy’s and host of Food Network shows Sandwich King and The Kitchen, gave Crave some grilling tips that include the lowdown on what to eat and imbibe this summer. Gentlemen, start your grills. (And locate that corkscrew.)

Grilling Tips From Food Network Star Jeff Mauro:

Crave: What is your first grilling memory?

Jeff Mauro: My first grilling memory, I think, was classic for any kid: my dad handing over the tongs, rolling and turning the hot dogs on a grill at a summer barbecue. I remember reaching in there and feeling that heat and being scared but also excited by it.

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever grilled?

The most unusual thing I’ve ever grilled was when I was on a shoot in Malaysia. I actually grilled a stingray. It’s a big thing: barbecued stingray that’s smothered in chili sauce and sambal. I couldn’t believe I was eating the fish that killed Steve Irwin. It was really delicious. It was a neat experience that I don’t think you can find in the States.

What are the most common mistakes men make when grilling? 

Either prodding or flipping or futzing with their food too much while it’s on the grill. A lot of guys don’t heat up their grill soon enough. They wait until everybody gets there, until it’s go time, and everybody’s starving. Then you’ve got to wait twenty minutes for the grill to properly heat up. I heat that grill an hour before anybody comes. I have food on the grill while people are coming so I can properly let it rest. And you cook it at different temperatures. If you’re smart and you’re making a nice spectrum of choices for your guests, you’ve got to cook in batches. If you start your grill ahead of time, you’ll be prepared to cook, not waiting on the grill to heat.

What are the essential accessories for grilling?

You need a good, sturdy wire cleaning brush–not one of those plastic handle things that fall apart after ten uses, but something sturdy and big. You also need a bowl of vegetable oil with a dry rag to coat the grates. And you need plenty of Mark West pinot noir to drink while you’re waiting. 

grilling tips

Photo: Andrew Toth, Getty Images.

What is your go-to marinade?

I love marinating with red wine, shallots, garlic, fresh herbs. I put that on a big tenderloin and let it soak in for a couple of hours. A nice, light, crisp wine works best, like a pinot noir. It helps tenderize it. 

How is cooking on television different from cooking in real life?

On television, other people always do your dishes. It tends to lead to a messy cook. I prefer cooking on television. It’s a lot of people around but you try to make it as natural as possible. I think after five years of doing this, I have succeed in that. Sometimes, it means that that homeyness and that heart [are missing], and that’s why I still love to cook at home several times a week. My family are much harsher judges than the producers of the show.

What would an impressive Father’s Day Menu include?

An impressive Father’s Day menu would include a big steak, a potato of some sort, something mushroomy and crunchy and cheesy. Bold flavors. Tons of wine. That’s my dream meal. And I want to be able to eat my dream meal on Father’s Day.

Any rules of thumb about pairing wine with different meats or fish? 

I think the rule of thumb, for any backyard amateur griller, is to pair your lighter food with lighter wines, heavier foods with heavier wines. That’s as simple as you can get for not being a master sommelier. That’s not to say you can’t pair salmon with pinot noir. I think that’s a wonderful pairing. That’s not to say you can’t have a big rib-eye or tenderloin and pair it with a pinot. That’s perfect as well. I think at the end of the day, if you love a wine, you can make it pair with anything. 

What are the most important elements of hosting a great summer get-together?

Youv’e got to have something for the kids–something for the medium kids and something for the larger kids, which are the adults. You need to get the kids out of your hair. Everybody gets their kids together and does something in the backyard or finds something to play with in a room that keeps their activity up. Then, something for the older kids, whether it’s helping cook or prepping stuff. And then, something for the adults, which is, honestly, good wine. That’s the easy part.