7 Grilling Tips from a Master Live Fire Chef

Summer is the perfect time to grill outside, whether you're in your backyard, in a park, or on the beach. But grilling is more than just slapping a piece of meat down on a metal grate. Fortunately, we've got some top grilling tips from an outstanding live fire chef from New Orleans to help make your summer grilling the best it can be.

Chef Marcus Jacobs of Marjie's Grill in New Orleans is no stranger to the open flame. At Marjie's Grill, he blends Southeast Asian cuisine and cooking techniques with locally sourced, seasonally-driven ingredients native to New Orleans and the Gulf. Bringing the heat makes for tasty food, but it's also an experience that you can share with friends and family, bringing everyone together for fun in the summer sun.

Chef Jacobs has some great grilling tips to make all summer meals from the grill perfect.

1. Do use hard wood coals if you have the space. If you don't have the space, always go with lump charcoal over charcoal briquettes.

We're not going to touch the gas grill versus charcoal grill debate here (we just want everyone to get along). If you're going to grill over coals, though, you have to decide if you're going to use wood coals or charcoal.

"Grilling over wood coals is great, you just need a space large enough to let the word burn down before using it under food," Chef Jacobs says. "If you decide to give wood coals a shot, you can honestly use any hardwood available. If using charcoal, try to get some nice lump charcoal."

2. Do clean your grill consistently.



Cleanliness is next to godliness, and nowhere is that more important than on your grill. Chef  Jacobs says, "We clean our grill everyday by scraping off built up carbon and meat drippings."

It's important to keep a clean grill so that food won't stick to it. The last thing you want is all the good stuff sticking to the grill grate instead of your plate. Use a grill brush or a wadded ball of aluminum foil to get your grill clean; if you brush the grill while it's hot (either after you preheat it or after you're finished cooking), anything stuck to the hot grill will come off more easily.

Chef Jacobs also noted that your grill should stay lubricated. He prefers lard, but whatever you use, keep it well oiled so that food doesn't stick and it stays cleaner.

3. Choose high-quality proteins and season accordingly.  

Chef Jacobs says, "The most important part of grilling is getting the highest quality meats and seafood you can." The protein is the star; you don't want to hide the great flavor, so you need the best quality you can get.

Seasoning is critical, too. Chef Jacobs has a few seasoning blends he uses at the restaurant that complement the meat instead of overwhelming it. For grilled chicken and pork, he uses "Chicken Spice," a blend of salt, white and black pepper, paprika, coriander, and several different types of ground chilis. For seafood, he recommends marinating the fish fillets in a paste of your favorite fresh herbs, garlic, chilis, and soybean oil.

4. Don't be shy about throwing produce on the grill!

Adding a smoky flavor works for almost any kind of food. Grilled vegetables are an excellent main or side dish and grilled fruit makes for an excellent dessert.

Chef Jacobs says, "We love to roast sweet potatoes and chilis over the coals, bake russet potatoes wrapped in foil buried under the coals, and grill any veggies we can instead of blanching or baking."

5. Plan for a hot and cool zone, if possible.

Grilling Chicken


When you start to grill, it's good to plan your food by heat zones so you get the right temperature on everything you're grilling. Some foods need indirect heat or low heat for all or part of their cooking time. Having a spot on the grill with no coals also helps you deal with flare-ups, since you can quickly shift the food to that side and let the high flames die down.

"My best advice for maintaining good hot and cool zones is getting a large enough grill that you can really spread out," Chef Jacobs says, then adds somewhat tongue in cheek, "If you don't have enough room for a bigger grill, I'd suggest changing your lifestyle to accommodate."

6. Bring the right tools.

The right tools are key to a successful cook out. Chef Jacobs recommend a fish spatula, a short-handled shovel, and 18-inch heavy duty tongs. "The spatula helps move around whatever you're grilling without damaging any bark or crust you've developed, and the shovel is indispensable for moving hot coals," Chef Jacobs says.

Clean towels and paper towels are generally useful, too, for grabbing hot items and cleaning up messes. Have platters handy for the cooked food to rest on is helpful as well.

7. Don't rush!

Chef Jacobs final piece of advice is to slow down and enjoy the process. "You should enjoy grilling and do it as often and for as long as possible. After all, 'Man does not make good 'cue, time makes good 'cue.'"

Charred Pork Shoulder Steak

Marjies pork Shoulder Steak


  • 4 bone-in pork shoulder steaks, cut into .75 in thickness
  • 1 C Marjie's yellow spice (recipe follows)
  • 2 C chili-lime sauce (recipe follows)
  • Fresh herbs & lettuces for serving (mix of bib, romaine, cilantro, mint, Thai
  • basil, dill, chives, etc.)
Marjie's Yellow Spice
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup black pepper
  • 2 ½ tablespoons turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons coriander
  • 3 tablespoons ground chili
Chili Garlic Sauce
  • 12ish jalapenos
  • 21ish cloves of garlic
  • 1 ½ cups lime juice
  • 2/3 cups fish sauce
  • 3/4 cups cane syrup
Directions for the sauce: Puree ingredients together and season to taste.
1. Pat your steaks dry and season liberally with the yellow spice (this can be done a day ahead for best flavor).
2. Start a bed of charcoal in one side of your grill allowing to have a hot and a cool zone.
3. Once the coals have fully caught and started to ash over put your steaks on the hot side of the grill.
4. Turn the steaks every 5-8 minutes until they're nicely seared then move them to the cooler side of the grill to slowly carry over until they're done. These can be served anywhere from medium to well done and still be delicious.
5. Allow the steaks to rest at least five minutes on a cutting board after they come off the grill.
6. Once rested slice or hack up the meat into bite sized pieces.
7. Serve next to an artfully arranged pile of herbs and a bowl of chili garlic sauce.
8. Encourage everyone to make wraps in whatever the combo they'd like from the herbs and lettuces, and then dunk in the chili garlic sauce.


Watch: Wood Smoke 101: Pairing Wood with the Ideal Food Groups.