How to Grill Like a Pro

Use these insider chef tips for grilling just like a pro—and your meat will taste just like those steakhouse favorites.

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1. Choose your wood carefully.

Ron Rupert, executive chef at Seasons 52 restaurant in Orlando, Florida, selects different woods for the subtle yet distinctive flavors they impart. For example, he uses mesquite for a slightly sweet, smoky flavor; when he wants a smokier taste, he burns oak. Also, he says, different woods burn at different temperatures. Mesquite produces a very hot fire, suitable for cooking fish, while oak burns at a temperature favorable for vegetables and meats.

2. Choose your heat carefully.

Tops chefs know there's more than one heat on the grill: they use both direct (right above the heat source) and indirect (you guessed it, away from the heat source) to achieve different results—and often use both types for a piece of meat. For example, here's how to guarantee a juicy steak: first sear the meat on a hotter part of the grill, then move it to a medium-hot area to allow the flavors to develop more slowly.

3. Butter up your steak.

When you order steak in a good restaurant, don’t be dazzled by exotic spices or cooking techniques listed on the menu. There’s an astoundingly simple chef’s secret that provides the knock-’em-dead flavor that you can’t seem to achieve when you grill steaks at home: butter.  As soon as you remove your steak from the grill, shave 1/2 tablespoon butter onto it and let the butter melt before serving.

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4. Do kebabs right.

Kebab baskets eliminate all sorts of problems with sticks, which can burn, slip, or become unwieldy. The baskets are a kind of long wire box with a lid and a long handle. You put the stuff into the box, close the lid, and place it on the grill or over the fire. The handle allows easy flipping—and you can make lots of grilled meats and vegetables quickly, just like professional chefs.

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