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portrait of Aaron McCargo Jr

Aaron McCargo, Jr. is host of Food Network’s Big Daddy’s House, where he whips his audiences into a world of bold flavor and family favorites. Whether it’s BBQ or comfort food, he’s all about home cooking and has a damn good time doing it.

You’re headed to the grill — what do you grab?
Grilling is not a rush job. You have to have everything you need by your side. Hand wipes, water spray bottle, paper towels, and rubber gloves.

You lost me at rubber gloves.
The disposable kind you can buy at any drugstore, and make sure they are powder free. They are great for when you handle raw meat or put on a rub, and you can just throw them away.

How about your grill tools?
Use a spatula or tongs, never a fork. Even for your ribs! Using tongs keeps the juices inside the meat.

You’re the go-to guy for bold flavor. Can you share some tips on marinating?
Don’t use too much citrus because you’ll start to cook your meat, and it actually makes it tough instead of delicious. Be careful with salt too. Focus on your spices, like cumin, oregano, and black pepper, and you can always add some kosher salt at the very end. But first don’t forget to season your grill too.

How do you season your grill?
Brush down your grill with a wire grill brush, and get some heavy duty tongs. Use an old kitchen rag saturated with oil, vegetable, or canola; no olive oil because that just burns. Use the tongs to hold the rag and oil the grates. And season your coals too.

So you’re a charcoal guy?
Yes. First, I presoak my charcoal with lighter fluid. When your grill is cold, spray down your charcoal with lighter fluid and let it soak in. Then go season your meat, and then come back and light your fire. When your coals are white or gray, then you know you have the perfect heat.

Can we talk rubs? 
Again, don’t go heavy here. Bold should be flavorful not overpowering. Don’t cake on a rub. Apply it thinly and evenly, and depending on how thick your meat is you may just want to sprinkle it on if it’s a thin piece of fish. Apply a rub about half hour before you cook your meat, and keep it out of the refrigerator. Don’t ever put cold meat on the grill or you’ll just steam it and by the time you get good grill marks your meat is overcooked. And a rub is just that, you should rub it into your meat a little.  Don’t go crazy with heat, especially if there are kids at the party too.

The Low Down on Smoking with Wood Chips:

  1. Use hickory and apple or hickory and mesquite — you can buy them at Home Depot. 
  2. Make sure you soak the chips for a day or two or they’ll burn. You can never over-soak them.
  3. Be sure to use low heat when you are smoking.
  4. Don’t use too many chips. 4 to 8 ounces in a liquid measuring cup is enough for a party. It’s gonna smoke a crap load of food.