Meet Chef Anthony Serrano, grill connoisseur, and SideChef Culinary Partner. Chef Serrano shares with us how his early years fueled his passion for cooking and what every novice cook needs to know to make every grilling season an awesome one.
My dad opened our first restaurant when I was a year old and we were always at the restaurant. Our lives revolve around our restaurants and our craft but in a good way. Growing up I learned there is a way things are done but also how to adapt and overcome in life and cooking. I learned food has a story that goes along with eating it. Everything we eat and create has a story and meaning.
Winning 1st place in the Recipe category at the World Food Championships is what really catapulted me onto a larger stage and gave me confidence. I had been honing my craft for years but competing on an even playing field against 50 other talented Chefs at the WFC and winning is what legitimized all my hard work and that of my dad.
Although winning at the World Food Championship was my biggest win in Food Sport, my other favorite win was winning first place at the My Nana’s Salsa Challenge. This was my first culinary competition and I competed with my dad. We won 2 first-place awards (Best Spicy & Best Mild Salsa) and were named the Grand Champions.
We’ve been having a lot of pizza at my house. My kids love being able to build the pizza and pick their favorite toppings. We’ve also been experimenting with different crusts. One of my favorites has been a pork rind, bacon, & cream cheese-based crust. I love smoking meats but with just four of us including 2 toddlers we don’t eat a lot. So when I smoke meat I usually vacuum seal and freeze the leftovers. Pulled pork, brisket, and pork belly make amazing quick meals straight out of the freezer and are an easy way to make a quick meal for the kids.
After years of competing in Food Sport this year, I’ll be transitioning to a position as a World Food Championships Ambassador. I’ll be mentoring new competitors, assisting with rulings, and emceeing the World Food Championships in Dallas along with my fellow ambassadors. I’ll also be releasing more installments of my Grilling Master Glass and other cooking videos.
You want to know your grill, its hot spots, and how well it holds temperatures.
It all depends on the meat you're grilling. Tougher cuts can benefit from marinating but more expensive cuts shouldn't be manipulated much. All the meats should be brought to room temperature though before grilling.
A smoker tube or smoker box can turn your gas grill into an awesome smoker extremely cheaply and quickly. I also highly recommend buying a really great wireless thermometer since grilling is mostly about grilling temperature, not time. Find one that you can monitor from your smartphone and lets you track the temp of the grill and meat. I’ve been using the Tappecue AirProbe 2 thermometer and it works great for monitoring my grilling.
Start by finding a grill that best meets your cooking style & budget. Most grills can cook just about anything you need them to if you get creative. I use my gas grill to smoke meats all the time by adding smoke tubes and a smoker box. Just last week I smoked short ribs for 8 hours on my gas grill using a smoker tube and nobody could tell I used a gas grill because of its smoky flavor. Find a grill that has even cooking and maintains temperatures so that your food cooks evenly. Also, remember to buy a grill that is large enough for your needs, they always look big but once you put food on them often times they are smaller than you think. I use a Bull Gas Grill and have never been disappointed.
Honestly, my favorite cut of meat is a great American Wagyu ribeye and I just grill it on high heat with a little salt. The most versatile cut of meat for me though is Pork Butt or Beef Chuck. They both smoke and shred very easily and can be added to a lot of different dishes. You can make tacos, sandwiches, mac & cheese, and pasta using both those types of meat and make quick leftovers by vacuum sealing & freezing. They do have a long cooking time though so what I do sometimes is smoke them for 3-6 hours in my smoker and then finish them off in my pressure cooker. It saves a lot of time and you still get that smoky flavor.
Go easy on the heat and DON’T use frozen veggies. For most fresh vegetables I spray or toss in avocado oil and use a grilling grid to keep them from falling into the grill. I really liked grilled broccoli finished with orange zest, sea salt, and sliced almonds.