More grilling tips and tricks from Arizona chefs!

More Barbecue!

Written by Leah LeMoine Category: Web Extras Issue: July 2016
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Joe Johnston's Guide to Perfect Chicken

“We are dual-cooking method fiends at home. Use the best of two methods to perfect an item. Par-boil then sauté, bake then broil, etc. For the chicken: We love sous vide combined with the grill. So we will sous vide organic chicken breasts by putting a breast in a food sealing bag with (typically) olive oil and Middle Eastern herbs (typically za'atar or salt and pepper plus oregano from the herb garden). I also like to add sweet paprika and turmeric for color. We pull a vacuum on the bag and seal it. Then we use our Anova sous vide device (not expensive and very flexible: we use it lots for vegetables, seafood, etc.) in a water bath in a big pot. The we do 145 degrees F for 90 min ( 

The nice thing is that the cook time is flexible, so if you leave it going for another 15 minutes, it is not a problem. This means you can be cooking vegetables, etc., on the grill while you are doing this and can time things well. When you are ready for the chicken, cut the bag open and take out the warm breast. Grill it briefly on each side to add grill marks and color. Result: perfectly cooked chicken that is superbly tender and flavorful. It may be cheating, but it is a simple and flexible process. You can also take the breast while in the bag, chill it, and then take it out later, slice it and put in on a salad.”

5 More Tips from Chef Justin Beckett


  1. Get creative with marinating methods. “Use a food saver or Cryovac. Marinate for less time and have it penetrate further into the meat by putting your marinade for your steak in there and pressing all around it.”
  2. Season liberally. “I scare people with how much I season things. You kind of want to go a little more seasoning than you think you need.”
  3. Make an easy steak sauce. “Another good tip with steaks, when you'er letting them rest. I put butter on it and let it melt over it and it creates a little bit of sauce on the bottom.
  4. Get your smoke right. “The most important thing about smoking and barbecuing: Lots of billowing white smoke does not equal great smoked meat. A lot of time, the best smoked products come from a steady heat and almost a see-through bluish smoke that is moving slowly.”
  5. Practice your barbecuing skills with starter meats. “Use pork shoulder and shank. They're easier not to mess up. It allows more flaws to happen. Pork is a good gateway/entry-level [meat]. Don't start with brisket. Don't start with a high-end espensive cut oe meat. You're going to screw it up.”

The Great Liquid Smoke Debate 

Our panel of experts sounds off on that most polarizing of grilling additives: liquid smoke.

“I'll say that I don't have liquid smoke at my house.”

– Joe Johnston

“Smoke is something you can't buy. You can't just buy a bottle of smoke. Well, you can, but you shouldn't. I'm not into it. I'm not going to talk down on people who are into it. My compassion for the product or for the style of that cooking comes from [the thought that] you can't always be in every spot all the time and there are people that need programs and... there's cheating and then there's cheating. Some cheating is ok. It all depends on what ends up on the plate. If the guests are happy with what's on the plate, then so be it.”

– Chef Justin Beckett

“I don't use it. We have a smoker. We like to traditionally smoke things. I'm from Texas, too. It's hard to want to play with liquid smoke [laughs].

– Chef Eric Ramirez

“I love liquid smoke. I absolutely love it. I like to procure different types of liquid smoke. Whenever I go on vacation, I'm always seeking it out. I was just in Seattle and I got this liquid smoke that a gentleman does from when he smokes chiles, so it's got a chile residue to it. As somebody who loves big flavors, anything we can do to light up those flavors [I love]. Fats, smokes, seasonings.”

– Chef Damon Brasch