Aarón Sánchez, Chopped judge, celebrity chef, and Mexican-American restaurateur took the time to speak with The Daily Meal about his favorite things to grill, his top grilling tips, and what not to do when you’re grilling. Sánchez has partnered with Miller Lite to create 20 original grilling recipes which include dips, skewers, sandwiches, tacos,a delicious green chile cheeseburger and more, all of which either incorporate or pair well with Miller Lite.
The Daily Meal: What is the importance of the grill in Mexican and other Latin American cooking?
Aarón Sánchez: Well the grill in the Spanish world, I think for Latin and Hispanic families, being together and communing around the kitchen is a huge part of our upbringing. So the idea of doing that outside on the grill is just as important. I happen to be on vacation with my family, and the first thing I did when I came down here, was grill some steaks, grill some chicken, and all of us were hanging outside with an ice-cold Miller Lite, and that’s really kind of where it starts for us in the Latin community; it’s just coming together, and it’s just an extension on an inside kitchen.
What is one your favorite grilling tools? (Aside from a grill, obviously.)
Well I think it has to be the marinades. You infuse big flavor and really just complement the actual protein that you’re working with. Whether it’s chicken or beef or pork, you want a really big marinade. I have some really cool marinades that I created with the Miller Lite team, using Miller Lite, which I enjoy a lot. Using a lot of cumin, a lot of coriander, a lot of cilantro, and chilies, and then that’s really helping uplift something that potentially could have a very, sort of neutral flavor. That’s really why my favorite tools are the marinades that I use.
What are your favorite foods to grill?
I think, for me to grill, the whole idea of being with your friends, especially during the summer grilling season, if you don’t want to spend much time around the grill itself, you really want to spend time with your family and your friends. So I really like to do the work the day before, so the idea of marinating, the idea of putting rubs of smoking meat, all that can happen the day prior or even early that morning. That’s the way I like to do it. I love to cook a beer can chicken. I love to do marinated steak. Skirt steak’s one of my favorite, and then I also love pork tenderloin.
Is there a particular ingredient people should be but aren’t cooking on the grill?
That’s a good question. I think one of the great things that people should grill more often is eggplant. You can marinade eggplant, cut it into rings, you can grill it whole, scrape it out of the actual eggplant, make a little dipping sauce, make baba ghanoush or something like that. So I think eggplant is one of those underrated grilled items.
What’s the biggest mistake people make when grilling?
Well, there’s a couple of mistakes that people make with grilling, actually my older brother makes those mistakes all the time. You should never oil your grill prior to cooking. A lot of people will douse a cloth towel with oil and then they’ll spread it on the grill, and what ends up happening is that the oil burns on the grill and adds an acrid, kind of petrol flavor to your product. So what you should always do is put your oil on the actual product and let that, whether it’s your marinade or right before you add your seasoning, put a little bit of olive oil on top, and help it facilitate the seasoning and also the cooking.
Have you had any grilling disasters?
Yeah, absolutely, I’ve had a bunch. I had an opportunity where I was doing a whole pork shoulder, and for some reason something spilled inside the coals, and I had a bunch of people coming over, and the pork wasn’t cooked because the coals were extinguished. Not only was the pork not cooking, but it had that flavor of burned-out coals, so it kind of rendered it useless.
Give us your three top grilling tips.
My top three grilling tips would be to make sure you take you product out in sufficient time. Have a lot of different sauces and garnishes — whether it’s your salsas, your pickled vegetables. I think that’s a big one.
Make sure that when you’re cooking with coals that you work with indirect heat, so you stack all of your coals to one side and work that way, that makes you have an option to be able to keep meat at a high temperature and also keep it at indirect heat so you can use the grill as an oven.
And my third one would be to just get around people that you love and care about and have a cooler full of ice-cold Miller Lite. That’s how I like to do it.