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Books Chat

'It's perfect grilling season'

Chat transcript: Chef Bobby Flay discusses great grilling


May 26, 1999
Web posted at: 2:37 p.m. EDT (1837 GMT)

(CNN) -- The following is an edited transcript of a chat with grilling expert Bobby Flay held on Tuesday, May 25, 1999. Flay, chef/owner of two Manhattan restaurants and author of the new book "Boy Meets Grill," joined us on the phone from Los Angeles.

Chat Moderator: Welcome, Bobby.

Chat Moderator: Bobby, Why do you think grilling is so popular in America? People seem to be captured by it.

Bobby Flay: Everybody loves to grill, especially guys. It reminds people of their childhood, and it makes for a great party.

Chat Moderator: Please tell us about your new book.

Bobby Flay: My new book, "Boy Meets Grill," is a celebration of great flavors and techniques for the grill.

Chat Moderator: Bobby, how did you get into grilling? This seems to be your specialty.

Bobby Flay: I employ lots of bold flavors to enhance everyday items for use in grilling. Also, they're really easy recipes. I started grilling when I was 4 years old, lobsters and corn, and of course hamburgers on the grill. But grilling is only my leisurely hobby. Professionally Mesa Grill and BOLO, my two restaurants in New York, are Southwestern and Spanish. Grilling is only a small part of it, but I love it!

Chat Chat Participant: What is your favorite type of meat to grill? As I recall, you are more partial to gas grills than charcoal. Is that true, and if so, why?

Bobby Flay: I'm not partial. Actually I like both, but for different reasons.

Chat Moderator: Does it make a difference in flavor?

Bobby Flay: I understand the culture of charcoal and the flavor that it offers. But since we have the technology of gas grills, I think we should use it. Turn a few nobs, press a few buttons, and you have high, even heat. It's great.

Chat Participant: What do you do about a grill that gets too hot?

Bobby Flay: You have to know the hot and cold spots of your grill. For a gas grill, simply turn down the heat. For a charcoal grill, move the food from a hot spot to a colder spot.

Chat Participant: What is your favorite type of meat to grill?

Bobby Flay: I love lots of different meats. For steaks, I like rib eyes. For lamb, I like lamb chops. And pork tenderloin is great on the grill.

Chat Participant: Bobby, I'd like to know what you consider best to marinated chicken in before grilling.

Bobby Flay: To marinate chicken, I like to use chili peppers and citrus juices, or fresh garlic, basil and lemon juice.

Chat Participant: What do you look for in a store-bought barbecue sauce? Is there any that you prefer?

Bobby Flay: My favorite barbecue sauce is spicy, smoky and has a hint of sweet. I actually have a bottled barbecue sauce called Mesa barbecue sauce, which we sell through the restaurant.

Chat Moderator: I've seen a lot of grilling accessories in the stores recently. What do you think is most necessary? What is a waste of money?

Bobby Flay: As far as accessories are concerned, you need a small pair of restaurant tongs, a good metal spatula and a quality grill brush to clean the grill.

Chat Participant: Had the chance to travel to Spain a couple years ago and fell in love with tapas. Do you have a favorite kind?

Bobby Flay: Yes! I love oven-roasted mushrooms, with goat cheese and chili oil. Also shrimp with garlic and fresh thyme.

Chat Participant: How do you keep pork from becoming too dry?

Bobby Flay: Marinades are really good for pork chops. Also people are inclined to overcook pork.

Chat Participant: How long should chicken be marinated before grilling?

Bobby Flay: For at least six hours, or overnight.

So how long should you cook pork -- say, pork chops -- on the grill so that they dont dry out?

Bobby Flay: I hate that question! You see, it all depends on how thick the pork is, and how hot the grill is!

Chat Participant: Bobby you have two formats for your TV show. One has a guest, and the other is dueling grills. Do you like one format better than the other?

Bobby Flay: I like my new show, Hot Off the Grill, best.

Chat Participant: Is it safe to eat pork that is cooked so it is just barely pink?

Bobby Flay: Pork should be cooked medium. Then you won't have the safety problem

Chat Participant: Bobby, a local grill uses a seasoned milk mixture for marinade, and just before finishing on the grill they lather the steak with butter and finish off grilling it. Have you ever heard of this?

Bobby Flay: I've often heard of milk marinades for pork. It helps make it more tender. Anything with butter on top is going to taste good!

Chat Participant: Why so much interest in the grill compared to traditional cooking methods?

Bobby Flay: I love all kinds of cooking methods. But the weather's getting warmer, and we want to be outside. It's perfect grilling season.

Chat Participant: How often is it you who is actually doing the cooking at your restaurants? It seems like you must be awfully busy with your other commitments.

Bobby Flay: I'm almost always at my restaurants. I shoot between four and five shows a day, so we do them in blocks. Once they're done, I'm off to the restaurants.

Chat Participant: Bobby, how many years did it take to become a chef?

Bobby Flay: I've been cooking for 17 years, and I think it takes a lifetime to become a chef!

Chat Participant: What is the best way to stuff a chicken breast? We recently made your goat cheese stuffed chicken and had trouble losing the stuffing on the grill.

Bobby Flay: Try tying it with butcher's twine.

Chat Participant: Is there any extra unpredictability having a show that centers around grilling? Have you had shows where the charcoal just wouldn't light?

Bobby Flay: I use gas grills on my show!

Chat Participant: Bobby, are you married ? Any kids ?

Bobby Flay: I have a 3-year-old daughter ... and I'm not married.

Chat Moderator: Does she help you cook?

Bobby Flay: Yes! She loves lobsters and grilled corn.

Chat Moderator: Fish seems to be becoming popular for grilling. However, it seems that it is easy to overcook it or just plain lose it through the grates of the grill. What are your tips for good grilled fish?

Bobby Flay: Start with tuna, swordfish or shark, because they're very dense and meaty and won't stick as much.

Chat Moderator: What's the one thing that makes you cringe that people do when grilling? What's the top mistake?

Bobby Flay: When you put something on the grill, LEAVE IT ALONE! The most common mistake is when people continue to touch the food with their tongs or spatula to see if it's sticking. And that's when it sticks!

Chat Participant: When you grill corn, do you wrap it in foil? If so, do you ever add any seasoning inside for the corn?

Bobby Flay: You can wrap it in foil, but you don't have to. I always make a flavored butter to put on top of the corn after it's cooked.

Chat Moderator: There has been some recent health concerns about grilling, that charring meat may create compounds that could be harmful. What do you think?

Bobby Flay: I'm not an authority on health.

Chat Participant: Bobby, how would you recommend cooking a whole trout?

Bobby Flay: Olive oil, black pepper, fresh herbs -- maybe tarragon. Grill the trout on the hot part of the grill for five to seven minutes.

Chat Participant: How many recipes are in your book?

Bobby Flay: More than 125.

Chat Moderator: How long did it take you to put it all together?

Bobby Flay: Thirty years! Remember, I've been grilling since I was four.

Chat Participant: Did you have any trouble selling your book to publishers?

Bobby Flay: This is my third book, so I have a track record. Actually, the publisher came to me on this one.

Chat Participant: I noticed you have many Asian influences in your grilling. What do you see as the next trend in fusion cuisine?

Bobby Flay: Actually, I don't like to "fuse" cuisines. I like many different influences, but one at a time. Look for lots of Indian spices in the next couple of years.

Chat Participant: What type of flavored butter do you use for the corn?

Bobby Flay: Chili butter, basil butter, lemon butter ... the sky's the limit.

Chat Participant: What are the best veggies for grilling, and do you like to skewer them?

Bobby Flay: Peppers, squash, asparagus all work very well on the grill. Cook them whole first, and THEN cut them.

Chat Moderator: Why do you prefer gas grills? Does it make a difference in taste?

Bobby Flay: I don't like one better than the other. I think there are pros and cons to both. Charcoal has more flavor but is harder to work with. Gas grills are easier but impart less flavor. So it depends on your priority.

Chat Moderator: You briefly mentioned in your book cooking in a fireplace. That caught my attention! Is this common?

Bobby Flay: It's only common in urban cities!

Chat Participant: Any recommendations to someone who is interested in getting into the restaurant business?

Bobby Flay: Before you go into the restaurant business, you should work in a restaurant for a month to see if it's all it's cracked up to be. The hours are grueling, and the details are endless. On the upside, it can be very rewarding creatively, financially and socially!

Chat Participant: It has been said that ribs are more suitable for barbecuing, but how would you cook ribs on a grill? Precooking?

Bobby Flay: You can precook ribs and then finish them on the grill. Or you can cook them over very low heat from start to finish.

Chat Moderator: For someone just getting into grilling, what are a few main spices, condiments, sauces you recommend purchasing?

Bobby Flay: You should always have on hand white pepper, black pepper, chili powder, an assortment of oils and vinegars and an ABUNDANCE of fresh herbs.

Chat Participant: It has been said that your culinary skills had been recognized since you started at 17. What do you think your greatest skills as a chef are?

Bobby Flay: Being a chef has many different facets. You need to be a great cook, a good manager and administrator, and a people person both for customers and employees. Hopefully I'm good at a little bit of all of it.

Chat Moderator: Your recipe for risotto has the pot cooking right on top of the grill. This is a tempting idea to do all the cooking in one spot. How easy is it to use your grill as a stove top?

Bobby Flay: It's very easy to put a pot on top of a grill. Simply think of it as a burner on top of your stove.

Chat Participant: Is there any taste difference between white and black pepper?

Bobby Flay: White pepper is not as strong as black pepper. Use black pepper for denser meats.

Chat Participant: What is the best way to cook London broil on the grill, and what is the best marinade?

Bobby Flay: An Asian-style marinade is great for London broil: ginger, garlic, soy sauce, fresh lime juice and honey.

Chat Moderator: Do you have any special appearances coming up where we can see you?

Bobby Flay: CNN Showbiz Today!

Chat Moderator: And how is the newly released book selling?

Bobby Flay: Brilliantly. It's in it's third printing after only one week in the stores!

Chat Moderator: Bobby, won't you be at Food & Wine in Aspen in June?

Bobby Flay: Yes! And I'll be talking a lot about grilling.

Chat Moderator: Where can folks buy this book? On a book tour?

Bobby Flay: I'm almost done with my book tour, but the book is available everywhere in bookstores.

Chat Moderator: Thank you, Bobby, for joining us today from Los Angeles.

Bobby Flay: Thank you! It was fun!
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Weekend Grilling: Fire up a Memorial Day menu
May 1999

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