"I'll soak chips for 15 minutes or so, chunks for an hour or so, and logs, if they’re really dry, for up to six hours. But my preference is chunks."
This week's grilling tips come from Adam Perry Lang, a remarkable chef who is as well-versed in pot au feu as he is pit smoking (and everything in between). This wide span of knowledge comes from a decade spent with some of the greatest chefs and restaurants in the world, from Restaurant Guy Savoy in Paris to the renowned Daniel and Le Cirque in Manhattan. Eventually Adam landed a job as a private chef, which had him jet-setting all over the world and allowed him to spend a life-altering summer on a New Mexico ranch, where he fell in love with all things barbecue.
Lang traded in his chef's coat, stepping out of the confines of the four-star establishments, which ultimately led him to the grill. Donning sunglasses and blue jeans, he kicked up the heat and set out to conquer a whole new world that would change barbecue and grilling forever. Shocking those who thought outstanding barbecue couldn't exist in Manhattan—let alone be made by a classically trained chef—he opened his no-frills barbecue joint Daisy May's BBQ USA in 2003.
Taking his grilling fetish one step further, he jumped on the barbecue competition circuit and oftentimes won, adding even more fuel to the fire. With the highly anticipated release of his new book, Serious Barbecue, we were able to pick the brain (or bones) of the barbecue savant himself and get some advice on the man who wrote the book on barbecue, literally.
On Marinating and Brining
"Whether I brine or marinate depends on what’s in front of me. I’ll often brine larger things like pork shoulders and big turkeys, sometimes using a syringe to make sure the brine reaches the inside of the meat before the outside gets overbrined. I’ll often marinate small cuts like flank steak and chicken drumsticks. Sometimes, I’ll even do both—penetrate hard-core with the brine and then give the meat even more flavor with the marinade. But that’s when I’m really being crazy and am up for a lot of work."
On Direct and Indirect Cooking
"My take is that there’s a place for both, and how I end up cooking on a Saturday depends on what my mood’s like, how much time I have, and what I’m cooking. I'd obviously never try to cook a tough cut like brisket over direct heat.
I typically cook tougher, more collagen-rich cuts with relatively lower indirect heat. Collagen is the tough stuff that converts to gelatin when it’s cooked right and gives barbecue that stick-to-your-ribs luscious texture. But if I'm planning to do, say, a pork shoulder, I might change course at the market if I see some really amazing rib eyes, and of course, I’d cook them over direct heat.
Direct heat is great for meat with a lot of intramuscular fat (the marbling). And direct heat doesn't always mean high heat. Lean cuts like chicken breasts are actually better with moderate heat, otherwise they'd dry out.
Finally, there's a cut like short ribs. In the book, I give two killer recipes—one for smoky, long-cooked short ribs with fleur de sel and another for boneless short ribs with Asian flavors, which are thinly sliced and then grilled right over the heat."
On Wood Chips
"Soaking wood is definitely important if the wood you’re using is too dry. A lot of places stockpile wood and by the time you and I buy it, it has lost a lot of its moisture. Dry wood will ignite right away and won’t give you much smoke. Soaking wood gives you this beautiful time-released smolder, which is exactly what you want. The water slows down the burn, because the water has to cook off before the wood ignites. And while this is happening, you get just the right amount of beautiful smoke.
I'll soak chips for 15 minutes or so, chunks for an hour or so, and logs, if they’re really dry, for up to six hours. But my preference is chunks."
"I’m all about flavor and adding it whenever and wherever I can. So instead of taking meat from the cooker and putting it on a dry cutting board, I paint a layer of glaze or sauce on the board in the case of long-cooked glazed meats or for grilled stuff, I drizzle on oil and add salt, pepper, herbs, and things like green apple, garlic, jalapeno, lemon zest grated on the Microplane. That way, when you slice steak, the inside of the meat gets seasoned as you cut it, plus the oil and herbs, or the sugars in the glaze and sauce, grab onto those beautiful juices that come out of your meat when you cut into it. And instead of those juices pooling on your plate, they become this beautiful sauce."