- Matt Horn is the chef and owner of the new restaurant Horn Barbecue, expected to open in September in Oakland, California.
- Horn says every home barbecuer should know how to make chicken, steak, and fish.
- For feeding large groups, the pitmaster recommends cooking chicken or steak.
- If you’re cooking for yourself, he recommends lamb ribs, homemade hamburgers, or a personal steak.
- Horn says to avoid pressing down on the patty when cooking burgers, as it forces all the juices out onto your grill instead.
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“Barbecue is a labour of love,” according to Matt Horn, the chef and owner of the new restaurant Horn Barbecue, which is expected to open September 5 in Oakland, California.
While Horn Barbecue’s opening date has been pushed back because of the coronavirus (the restaurant planned to open this summer), Horn’s team has been serving first responders throughout the pandemic.
The pitmaster told Insider he grew up surrounded by people who respected the practice of barbecue, and he calls cooking outside over a flame “the great unifier.” He says that when cooking in this outdoor fashion at home, it’s important to give the food the same love, care, attention, and respect as you would any other meal.
Horn has dedicated his life to cooking, and he has plenty of suggestions for home cooks who are just getting started.
A must for all barbecuers: chicken
Horn says every home cook who wants to master the art of barbecue should know how to make chicken.
“First and foremost, barbecued chicken or grilled chicken,” he said. “That is definitely something that people should know how to cook.”
Horn told Insider that some people underestimated chicken as something that couldn’t be botched. In reality, he says, it actually takes a lot of care since it’s easy to dry out.
Horn said that when starting out he cooked a lot of chicken breasts. While he says you can still get a delicious meal from the white meat, he prefers to cook both bone-in or boneless thighs because the dark meat is typically more moist.
For chicken thighs, Horn recommends seasoning them the day before you plan to cook, letting the meat sit in a foil pan with foil covering the top. When it comes time to load the grill, Horn first places the thighs directly over a flame until they get some colour before moving them away from the flame so they take on a smokiness as well. Sitting a bowl of water or can of beer on the grill will add moisture, he said.
Also important: steak and fish
Horn also highlighted steak and fish. He told Insider that for both proteins it’s important to start with clean, oiled grates so neither sticks to the grill.
Horn recommends marinating steak in a little olive oil, garlic, thyme, and a little bit of soy sauce.
“That’s literally my steak secret,” he said.
To ensure you don’t overcook the meat, the pitmaster said, it should always cook longer before you flip it than after. (For a medium-well rib eye he recommends cooking over direct heat for 3 1/2 minutes on one side and two minutes on the other.)
Horn also stressed the importance of letting the meat rest in its own juices for 10 to 15 minutes before cutting into it.
For fish, Horn told Insider that high temperatures were key. His tip is to get grill marks on both sides and then finish cooking the seafood on a bed of foil with your choice of herbs, butter, or seasoning – this will stop it from overcooking quickly and will keep the flavours from dripping away into the grill.
He added that while “vegetables are easy to grill,” chicken, fish, and steak can be more challenging. “Once you get those down, everything else is simple,” he said.
Recommendations for those looking to feed a large crowd
He said chicken and steak were his go-to options for a family function or another large crowd. They’re easy to cook in batches and don’t require constant attention on the grill; it’s ideal for the host to be able to step away from the kitchen and interact with the guests.
Horn says hamburgers are a great batch option as well.
Putting a lot of food on a grill at once may seem daunting, but Horn’s tips for executing can help first-timers – or even veterans who just can’t stop their meat from sticking to the grill and overcooking.
He says it’s important that you scrub down the grill with vegetable oil before laying the meat – that will prevent it from sticking to the grate. To avoid overcooking and drying out the meat, Horn recommends pulling it off the grill once you’ve got a nice char going. He then wraps the meat in foil, which he says helps him control the heat while simultaneously adding moisture.
The chef says he prefers to use a sweet tomato-based barbecue sauce regardless of the meat he’s serving. If you’re partial to a dry rub, he recommends starting with a salt-and-pepper base and build on from there with other spices and herbs you like.
Barbecue isn’t just for gatherings
When he’s cooking for himself, Horn said, he prefers lamb ribs, homemade burgers, or steak and potatoes.
If you’re going the burger route, he recommends starting with some high-quality meat – he prefers 20% fat content. Horn suggests seasoning the meat before it hits the grill with some basic salt and pepper.
Horn also says to refrain from pressing down on your burger as it cooks, since that forces all the delicious juices out of your meal and onto your grill or pan instead.
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