We talked to Chef Michael Mina, award-winning chef, restaurateur and cookbook author about the inspiration for one of his latest projects, designing a grill. Chef Mina shares the secrets behind his new tailgating-inspired grill, its five innovative features, and his tips for grilling up the best tailgating foods.
1. What was the inspiration behind the design?
Chef Mina: “The inspiration was my passion for tailgating, of course, but beyond that developing a grill that offered a versatility that you wouldn’t get in an ordinary grill. This is not just a grill – it functions as an oven with both direct and indirect grilling simultaneously. And what’s great about it is that it goes beyond just a tailgating grill. It makes for a great backyard grill as well.”
2. How is this grill different than other grills?
Chef Mina: “The general thought behind the design (which was three years in development) is if a La Caja China and a grille got married and had a baby, this would be it. We modeled it after the rectangular grill design you see in restaurants. What’s also unique is that there’s a coal tray underneath the grill that allows you to finish say, ribs or chicken on indirect heat after starting them on the grill top. It’s also great for ribs, where you start them on the grill top, then add sauce, and then finish them on the indirect heat tray for perfectly juicy results every time.”
3. You have a restaurant, Bourbon Steak & Bourbon Pub, at Levi’s Stadium. How did that inform the need for a tailgating grill?
Chef Mina: “Before opening Bourbon Steak & Bourbon Pub, we’d host big tailgating events. We’d always break out four to five pieces of equipment. I designed this grill so that you can use it in those four to five ways.”
4. What are the coolest features of the grill?
- High-Temperature Grilling Feature – “Results in even direct heat with a lot of the flavor from the coals.”
- Coal Oven – “Ideal for foods requiring a slow cooking time, like chicken and ribs.”
- Indirect Coal Heat Feature – “Imparts smoky flavor while cooking at a lower temperature for foods that require a longer cooking time.”
- Coal Pan – “The other pans inside the oven can be adjusted relative to the coal pan.”
- Breaks Down – “The grill comes apart into two pieces, and along with the stand, it can fit in the back of a standard truck.
- Well Insulated – The grill is insulated well to where it holds heat, thereby not needing to use as many coals.”
- Buffet – “There are two shelves on both sides of the grill that function as a buffet line.”
5. Any pro tips on how to grill the best tailgating grub?
Chef Mina: “First, is spreading the grilling all day, which is what this grill excels at, because you can grill foods at different temperatures and times. But my best tip, is tossing some ribs on the grill top, then spreading rib sauce on it, and then finishing it on indirect heat. You get all the flavor of grilling with coal, but you don’t have to worry about your meat sticking or burning.”
6. What are the best things to grill on it?
Chef Mina: “It’s extremely versatile. Everything from ribs, burgers with toasted buns, chicken, salmon – this grill is designed to cook all these foods perfectly. Often when people tailgate they want to put sauce on things, but the sauce destroys your grill and then things burn. This grill is designed such that you grill your meat, add sauce on it, and then transfer it to the indirect heat tray so sauce can caramelize.”
7. Any uses for this grill besides at a game?
Chef Mina: “As a backyard grill. Since you’re going to put the work in of lighting the coals you can have the ability to cook a lot more food on it at the same time. A lot of times people don’t want to light a grill because it’s expensive to light a lot of coals. But the way this grill is designed is such that you can cook everything on it — and in it. You’re getting the maximize value out of your time, money, and flavor.”