by Colette Dean
Special to Food
There’s not much chef Tony Matassa won’t try on a grill. Meats, fruits, veggies, pizzas, breads and even cheesecake.
For more than five years, Matassa has been in charge of concocting recipes, cooking, video taping and editing more than 600 recipe demos and how-to videos on grilling, helping him to achieve master status of the grill.
His grill master status developed shortly after he teamed up with ShoppersChoice.com/BBQGuys.com in February 2008 to create recipe demonstration videos to market the company’s grill products
“A lot of times it looks really easy on TV, but there is a lot of preparation that goes on before the grilling starts. No one wants to attempt anything that is hard, so we try and make it look easy,” he said.
Every other Saturday, he demonstrates grill techniques at the ShoppersChoice.com storefront on Coursey Boulevard, where he answers questions from at-home grillers from novice to veteran. He creates new recipe videos about every two weeks that are posted online at ShoppersChoice.com or its YouTube channel.
“Grilling is about controlling heat. Whether you are using charcoal or gas, you have to be able to control the heat,” he said.
Matassa said he personally prefers charcoal grilling, but he creates recipes that can be used on all grills.
Frequently asked questions during his public demonstrations deal with meat preparation.
One of the biggest myths, he said, is that the longer meat is marinated, the more tender it will be. Matassa said marinating anything over an hour or two will usually result in the meat being tough.
“The salt in the marinade is pulling all the moisture out of the meat. Flavor will be added to the meat with the marinade, but soaking it for too long will result in it being tough,” he explained.
Wild game can be soaked overnight in a half buttermilk, half water mixture to help break down the enzymes and connective tissues to make it more tender. It also helps get rid of the gamey taste, he said.
His version of the best-tasting hamburger is simple: “The less you handle the hamburger meat, the better it will be.”
“I take ground meat and lightly break off chunks and put them into a bowl of dry seasoning blends. I lightly toss the meat around without smashing or packing the meat with my hands and then carefully pat together balls and press them out,” he explained.
Grillers who slice through the meat with a knife to see if it is done are doing their meat a disservice, he said.
“Use a meat thermometer to test if the meat is ready. Once you slice that piece of meat, you’ve just released all the juices in it,” he explained.
Letting meat sit for a few minutes after grilling before eating it is also important to retain the juice in the meat.
“I pull the meat off the grill and tent it with foil for about 5 to 10 minutes,” he said.
Preserving the juice in the meat, which ultimately leads to tender and flavorful bites, is also why Matassa urges grillers to use scalloped-edge tongs.
“You don’t want to be poking holes in the meat with a fork and lose the juice,” he said.
How to clean the grill is another popular topic of discussion. Grill tops should never be put in the dishwasher, he said.
“Grills should be seasoned just like cast-iron pots,” he said.
After use, Matassa keeps the fire hot to burn off any food debris. Once it cools, he wipes it off using a wire brush and follows that with a coating of olive oil, and it’s ready for next time.