Chris Lilly's Grilling Tips
"Twist a chicken leg with your fingers. If it doesn't budge, it isn't done. If it spins like a roulette wheel in Las Vegas, it has cooked too long."
This week's grilling tips come from Chris Lilly: vice president, executive chef, and partner of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama. Big Bob Gibson is a legendary name in the world of Bar-B-Q and the cooking team holds ten World BBQ Championships, six world titles at "Memphis in May," as well as the American Royal International Cook-Off and BBQ Sauce Competition.
Fifteen years ago, Chris Lilly was hired by Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q to learn the art of barbecue from Bob Gibson himself. His meat mentor simply told him to sit on the wood stump by the smoker, pay close attention, and at the end of the day he would tell Bob what he had learned. That is exactly what he did, as the hours passed he took notes of sights, smells, and sounds. Chris said, "I became aware of a beautiful aroma that made my stomach shift and my mouth water. Every drop of moisture in the air was tinged with the hypnotic aroma of Grandma's kitchen and a campfire grill rolled into one." Eventually learning the art of perfectly cooked meat, Chris worked his way up to top. He is a master of the smoker as well as the grill and with the very recent release of his cookbook, Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book, we have gathered some of the essential grilling tips that will help you on your own journey with the grill.
How to Decide When Your Whole Chicken is Done
"Remember that the last part on the whole chicken to finish cooking is always the joint between the leg and the thigh. The easiest way to tell if your chicken is perfect is a simple twist test. Twist a chicken leg with your fingers. If it doesn't budge, it isn't done. If it spins like a roulette wheel in Las Vegas, it has cooked too long. Ideally you want to feel slight tension and then a release of the joint." Lilly also advises: "The natural shape of the chicken breast is thick on one end and very thin on the other. To even out the thickness, press firmly with the heel of your hand on the thickest part of each breast immediately prior to putting it on the grill. This will ensure more even cooking."
The Secret to Grilling a Great Flank Steak
"Flank steak is the only steak that comprises a single large muscle. It is located in the underbelly muscles of a cow, between the rib and the hip. This oval-shaped cut ranges from 1 to 1 1/2 pounds and is long, thin, and very fibrous. If prepared incorrectly, flank steak is one of the toughest cuts of beef, but when cooked properly it is one of the best-tasting grilled meats. The large, thin cut results in more surface area to form a flavorful bark. The secrets to cooking a great flank steak are grilling quickly over a hot fire and slicing the meat across the grain."
Dry Rubs Debunked
"First, break your dry seasonings down into four groups: salts and sugars, pepper, transition spices, and signature flavors. The first thing to consider is the ratio of sugar to salt. The type of food you are planning to cook and its cook time with play a big part in determining this ratio. For my taste, beef, fish, and wild game benefit from a rub with a high salt content and a smaller percentage of sugar. On the other hand, pork accepts a dry rub with more sugar than salt extremely well. In general, the longer the cooking time, the less sugar should be added in order to prevent premature sugar caramelization, which can yield a burnt or blackened appearance."