Widely acknowledged as one of the country’s leading contemporary Latin chefs, Aarón Sánchez has become a household name since starring as a judge on Food Network’s hit show Chopped. While the celebrity chef has amassed quite the fan following thanks to a blossoming television culinary career, it’s his food that does the real talking. Stints at New York City hotspots Paladar and Centrico earned Sánchez rave national reviews, and 2014's fixing to be the chef's busiest year yet. Set to open three restaurants in three cities (Paloma in Stamford, CT; Alegre in New York and Johnny Sánchez in Baltimore, MD), Sánchez took some time out to give us a few summer grilling tips.
Do you prefer working with gas or charcoal?
I use a combination of charcoal and wood. They impart flavor and give the food a nice smoky taste that gas does not. It also retains heat better.
What is the biggest mistake home grillers can make?
Oiling their grills. You should oil your product(s), not your grill. Oiling your grill creates that acrid smoke and burnt flavor. Also, by oiling your product, you keep all those wonderful seasonings.
What is your favorite cut of meat to grill?
Skirt steak, because of the fat content. It also cooks quickly and marinates well.
What’s the most epic barbecue you have ever thrown, or attended?
It had to be the carne asada that I attended in Monterrey, Mexico last summer. It was hosted by my partner, Bud Light, and actually set a new record in the Guinness Book of World Records [for most barbecue attendees].
What are the best vegetables for the grill?
I love eloté (roasted corn on the cob). You start with fresh ears of corn, add some crema Mexicana and queso fresco and you’re in business.
What do you like to drink with your grilled meat?
I always like an Argentinian Malbec or a Southern Italian red wine.
What bands are on your grilling soundtrack?
The Alabama Shakes, Amos Less, Lenny Kravitz and Los Tigres del Norte.
What is the worst food item you have seen thrown on the grill?
Most useful piece of grilling gear you have purchased or used?
I don’t know if this counts, but I just purchased three Caja Chinas so we can roast whole 100-pound pigs at my new restaurant, Paloma, in Stamford, CT. It’s going to be fun to use them this summer!
How have you been able to incorporate Mexican flavors on the grill?
Through Mexican herbs and chile marinades. The garlic chipotle recipe from my book, Simple Food, Big Flavor is great for grilling.
In terms of barbecue, do you have a favorite region in the United States?
Texas beef barbecue.
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