Tim Love's Tips for the Perfect Cookout

By Alex Vallis Posted June 07, 2012
Chef Tim Love

© Lonesome Dove

Texas chef Tim Love recently opened The Woodshed Smokehouse, a massive riverside restaurant in Fort Worth that focuses on foods cooked over different kinds of wood from mesquite to pecan. In an exclusive chat with Food & Wine Facebook fans this week, he revealed why wood matters and shared some of his best tips for a great cookout, including how to make smoked ice.

How many types of wood do you use at Woodshed?
We use six different kinds of wood: oak, mesquite, pecan, hickory, apple, and cherry. Each wood has a different flavor and smoke-point temperature. This is why BBQ generally has tasted different in different regions, because different trees thrive in different places. Naturally you would think that your homegrown wood is the best, but venture out and try different woods. It will change the way you think of "BBQ". [For example], pork is great with pecan.

Are there guidelines for those who want to try cooking with wood?
I always suggest grilling with mesquite. It will get hotter than any other wood and provides distinct wood flavor. When grilling you want your grilling surface to be very hot.

What essential gear would a home cook need?
The most essential is a good grill, like Hasty-Bake or the much more fancy Lynx. Next get a good set of tools. I happen to make some that I obviously love. They are made by Lamson & Goodnow in USA. They are sturdy and have cutting edges on the spatulas. You can get them at Sur la Table. Just make sure you get a good spatula and a great pair of tongs.

What’s your advice for grilled vegetables?
When cooking vegetables like asparagus, summer squash, okra etc. you want to use mesquite because with the high heat you can get great flavor and vegetables stay crisp. When grilling things like acorn squash, cauliflower or sweet potatoes, apple wood is great due to the low temperature and the aromatics it provides over the slow cooking time. For grilling vegetables, first soak them in ice water; pat dry; and then oil and season. This will keep them crisp while grilling.

What are some tips for throwing the perfect cookout?
My style is all about having fun. So I like to have all the cool stuff like snow cones, and frozen cocktails and keep the food very delicious but as simple as possible. Remember you want to have fun too. Always have two kinds of meat. A beef and poultry or poultry and fish, and then make sure you have a couple of salads and some fun inventive grilled vegetables. If you want to get real crazy like me, smoke some vegetables. It takes a little more time but damn they are cool and GOOD.

Favorite grilled desserts?
Grilled shortcakes with smoked strawberry filling. I am also a very big fan of smoked blackberry cobbler and smoked apple-jalapeno pie. I am experimenting with a grilled chocolate cake with mesquite smoked salt and chile ice cream.

What special cocktails are you serving at Woodshed?
I suggest the Woodshed Sour. It is super-premium sake with fresh lemonade over “smoke ice.” Outstanding!

Can smoke ice be made at home?
Yes, you can make smoked ice at home. Load up a pan full of ice and set on the cold side of a grill or in a smoker and lay a wet log on the fire and let it smoke for 5 minutes. Freeze right away

What are you talking about at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen next weekend? Can you preview a few tips?
I am doing a demo on the perfect backyard BBQ: How to make a perfect burger from scratch, how to smoke a pork butt, and of course how to keep your white wine cold while you cook! Ha. A quick tip for smoking pork butts: Always buy bone-in. This will keep more moisture in the meat. Also never rub the meat, just season heavily. When you rub meat it closes the pores and doesn’t allow seasoning to get into the meat.

So what's your trick for keeping wine cold?
Drink very fast!

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