May is Grilling Month at Food Republic, where we are offering pro tips from chefs and other well-known grilling gods.
When you talk about the Philadelphia restaurant scene, you talk about Marc Vetri and then you talk about the other guys. And this is not to say the other guys are shabby — people like Stephen Starr and Jose Garces run very good restaurants that kick the pants off most of the restaurants operating in that so important city 100 miles to the Northeast.
At last weekend’s GoogaMooga Festival in Brooklyn, we caught up with Vetri after he had finished grilling over 300 mortadella hot dogs in the event’s VIP section. After cooking all those tubesteaks, you would expect the guy to be a little, well, schvitzy. Not true for the cool and collected Vetri. He’s a grilling god if we’ve ever met one.
What’s your grilling set-up like at home in your backyard?
I actually have a Mario Batali wood oven. Thank you, Mario. I use the wood oven for everything. I made seafood risotto in it for Mother’s Day and it was unbelievable.
What do you tend to grill?
I like to grill everything. Sometimes I’ll get wood from the restaurant and use the oven. Sometimes I’ll get one of those sliced oil drums and I’ll stick one of those outside. I like to wood fire anything. Meat and fish. Wood makes everything taste better.
Grilling over a wood fire just seems difficult to me.
I think it’s easier. You must have a little bit of knowledge because there is no lowering that fire. You have to know to move the wood to one side, and you don’t want to stick food right on flaming wood. You must let the wood burn down and move over the coals.
Regardless or gas, charcoal or wood, what’s the best grilling tip you can offer our readers?
I don’t oil the fish or meat, directly. I oil the grill and then gently stick the meat or fish on there.
Instead of throwing it down, you’re stressing gentle.
Everyone sticks the fish in the oil and then on the grill. I like to take a rag and dip it in oil and rub it on and let it get hot and stick the fish on there. Then it won’t stick.
How do you know your grill is ready to go?
When you can’t stick your hand over it.
What is your stance on veggie burgers? Can you deal with those?
I wouldn’t even know how to make one if you asked me to.
What about vegetables?
I love vegetables. I do veggies on the grill all the time.
What was the last crazy grilling party you threw in your backyard?
For Halloween I did a whole pig. We stuck a big grill outside and we did like the whole suckling pig and made pork sandwiches with it. It was lots of fun.
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