Chef Todd Humphries reveals the simple tip that can make anyone a better griller

Kitchen Door Napa at Wai Kai Korean Style Short Ribs, photo provided by Kitchen Door Napa
Kitchen Door Napa at Wai Kai Korean Style Short Ribs, photo provided by Kitchen Door Napa /

Long, leisurely days have many people skipping recipes that required the oven and turn to the grill for that scrumptious dinner. While it might seem simple to place that protein or vegetables over the flame, the care and craft to execute those dishes well requires a deft hand. For Chef Todd Humphries, his straightforward advice is a gamechanger for anyone who wants to master the grill.

While people clamor for a seat at one of his Michelin Star restaurants, Chef Todd Humphries appreciates that all types of food deserve a place on the table. The visually stunning, multi-faceted plates that have garnered him praise are one aspect of his celebrated culinary career.

Most recently, Chef Todd opened Kitchen Door Napa at Wai Kai. The Hawaii based restaurant has a nod to California cuisine. While that label might be relatable, the chef described the concept more as global cuisine that focuses on fresh, seasonal flavors. The ingredients are the star, but it is the grill that brings out their beautiful flavors.

For some cooks, the grill can be intimidating. The open flame, controlling the heat, and the elements can make some people pass the tongs to someone else. But, with a few simple tips, the path to success is an easier one.

Recently, Chef Todd Humphries shared some simple grilling tips that can set home cooks for a more successful grilling experience. After starting with the best ingredients, the plan to extract the most flavor is key.

For Chef Todd, everything begins with the preparation. From properly cleaning the grill before any food touches it to making sure that the charcoal is properly heated, all those factors need to be addressed first. Just like a great pan can make it easier to execute a dish on the stove, a well-maintained grill is imperative.

After setting the tone, Chef Todd has a clear plan. Specifically, he said, “When I decide to grill, I like to plan ahead and either dry brine or wet brine my choice of protein meat, whether it’s poultry or fish. This helps with keeping your choice juicy and adding flavor. Also, make sure to collect all of your tools and equipment beforehand. You’ll need cooking tools such as tongs, spatula, a cutting board (if needed), platters, and a tray with a resting rack for the meat.”

In a way, it is another version of mise en place. When everything is in its place, arriving at the final result is more direct.

Of course, cooks should take care in the seasoning, watching the heat levels, and understanding how to rest the meat. Since grilling is the only cooking method that imparts flavor, being kissed by the flame is more than the sear. It is another layer of flavor that is unlike other techniques.

As cooks look to light the grill, take a few minutes to prepare for the total experience before haphazardly lighting the flame. Impeccable ingredients deserve the attention and care which is not limited to just the cooking time. The before and after are just as important as the time over the flame.

Chef Todd Humphries is a chef and restaurateur. His most recent restaurant opening is Kitchen Door Napa at Wai Kai.