Grilling tips from a local pro


With football season in full swing, the Ponte Vedra Recorder connected with Chef Tommy McDonough, the owner of international sandwich shop Flavor Palette in Ponte Vedra Beach, to ask him a few questions about what it takes to become a grill master.


What are some of the secrets behind grilling right?

·         Be patient!

·         Bring your meats up to room temperature (roughly 30 to 45 minutes) to ensure even cooking.

·         Rest your meats for five minutes after cooking before cutting to prevent juices from running onto the cutting board instead of the meat.

·         Since meat temperatures carry over to a higher temperature while resting, take your meats off somewhat earlier than you would think. For example, if you want your meat done medium, take it off the grill at medium rare.

·         Use a combination of direct and indirect heat by loading coals to one section of the grill. Directly above the coals is where you will sear items; the side without coals should be used to bring items to the desired temperature without burning.


For the novices out there, which gear/equipment would you recommend someone buy to ensure they’re ready to fire up the grill?

I have a strong preference towards charcoal models such as the Big Green Egg or Weber.  As far as tools and supplies go, I suggest having long grill tongs, a grill spatula, a meat thermometer, spray bottles, a basting brush, oven mitts, side towels and a fire extinguisher.


Other than hamburgers and hot dogs, what are some easy foods people can prepare with a grill?

Just about anything can be made on the grill. Give your veggies a little boost, especially summer veggies such as asparagus, zucchini, corn and peppers. Flatbread pizza, grilled potato salad and shellfish such as clams, lobster and shrimp are also good on the grill.


What can people do to add flavor to their foods on the grill?

Marinate items overnight, use dry rubs and baste your foods with flavor liquids such as apple juice on pork items. Another pro move is to use fruit woods soaked in apple juice.


When it comes to football season, which foods would you recommend for the grill?

·         Chimichurri marinated hanger steaks

·         Jerk chicken

·         Pastor marinated pork for tacos

·         Experiment with different types of sausages such as merguez and bratwurst. 


What safety measures should people take while grilling?

This can be a lengthy answer so I will address two main points.

Part one has to do with food safety and cross contamination with raw meats and cooked/ready-to-eat foods. Always wash your hands and use designated tongs when handling raw chicken. Always use a thermometer to make sure chicken reaches a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees.  

Part two has to do with fire safety. Make sure your grill is at least 10 feet away from your house and any combustible materials. Make certain the grill is stable without any wobbles or leans. If flare ups occur, instead of using water, close the grill lid and air ports. (Without oxygen fire can’t exist!)


What do you enjoy most about cooking on a grill?

I find it very therapeutic! Compared to the very fast-paced reactive cooking in professional kitchens, grilling is forced relaxation. I love being outdoors and getting in touch with my inner cave man.

Contact Tommy McDonough at Flavor Palette at (904)834-3339.