Up Your Cookout Game with Tips from President Obama’s Former Chef
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Memorial Day is the unofficial start to summer and you probably have a few cookout invites on your calendar. But if you’re the one doing the grilling, it can feel super intimidating. You want to create a menu full of staples that everyone knows and loves, but you want your dishes to stand out from the plethora of cookout invites your guests have probably received. While it might be a bit late to take cooking lessons, Chef Andre Rush has tips that are sure to keep your guests satisfied. The White House chef and sommelier has cooked for several administrations, including the Obamas, who he says embraced simple and easy meals that were full of flavor. 

Below are a few tips from the chef and military veteran just in time for Memorial Day, including how he used natural seasonings to flavor meals for the Obamas and how you can do the same.

Buy a Meat Thermometer

When it comes to grilling tools, “a meat thermometer is absolutely essential,” says Chef Rush. It’s an easy solution to ensure you’re serving fully cooked protein and it’s also a better alternative to what people occasionally do: cutting into the meat to see if it’s done “That’s terrible,” he says about cutting into meat while you’re grilling. “It dries it out. As soon as those juices start coming out, that’s not good.” So spend a few bucks on a meat thermometer to keep your meat juicy and your guests satisfied. Try: Intelitopia Meat Thermometer.

Photo Credit: Amazon

Use the Right Seasonings

There’s never a shortage of seasonings at a black cookout, but according to Rush, you just might be over seasoning. “The thing about grilling is, you can be subtle with it and the flavor profile speaks for itself, but when you start adding a whole lot of sodium to dishes, it takes away from the whole experience.” While cooking for the Obamas, he says Michelle fully embraced using natural seasonings in meals. “She gave us carte blanche to do anything we want with all of the stuff that was inside the garden.” And that can easily translate to your own cookout by adding flavor with ingredients like rosemary and thyme or even crushing up some peppercorns. Try: My Fabulous Food seasonings.

Photo Credit: My Fabulous Foods

Add Your BBQ Sauce at Just the Right Time

Have you ever had a plate of barbeque ribs or chicken and you’re left with fingertips that are drenched in sauce? That’s probably an indication the sauce didn’t have proper time to actually bake into the meat. However, if you put the sauce on too early, you risk burning it. Chef Rush recommends adding sauce closer to the end, when there’s about 10 or so minutes left of cook time, which will make the meat more flavorful. Try: Jones Bar-B-Q Sweet & Tangy BBQ Sauce.

Photo Credit: Jones Bar-B-Q

The Grill Isn’t Just for Meat

While proteins like meat tend to get cooked on the grill, you can do so much more on the cooking apparatus, including using it to make sides and even dessert. Rush says he puts everything on the grill, from peach cobbler to veggies to mac and cheese, because the grilling just gives it a different flavor profile. This is a nice way to give your guests the dishes they know and love but with a summertime flair.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Don’t Forget About the Wine

An ice cold beer or refreshing batch cocktails go hand in hand with summer, but you may be doing your guests a disservice by skipping the red wine. “People think, “Oh it’s summer, I have to bring something white out.” That’s not true,” Rush says about embracing a red vino. He loves the versatility of red wine, as it pairs with a variety of proteins. Rush, who served in the Army for 23 years and is an advocate for suicide prevention, particularly loves Josh Cellars Military Salute Edition Lodi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. The limited edition bottle (available until September) is a collaboration with Operation Gratitude, which provides care packages to members of the military. Serve the wine chilled (pop it in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour) or even whip up a cabernet sauce***.

Photo Credit: Josh Cellars

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