Ask the Experts


Barbecue gurus Jay Contreras and Gary Smith turned their passion for grilling and barbecuing into their business. Co-owners of The BBQ Grill Outlet, they sell and service BBQ equipment & BBQ islands throughout Orange County. Both partners work the stores and are involved in the day to day affairs of the business six and sometimes seven days a week. They are passionate about helping customers who enjoy cooking outdoors and designing custom BBQs that meet their specific needs. Jay is also a certified Kansas City Society BBQ judge. In addition, together they are proud that the majority of the grills they sell are made in the U.S., even more, specifically Cerritos, Commerce and the City of Industry.

Just as barbecue season is heating up, we turned to Jay and Gary for some expert advice and knowledge about all things grilled. Here’s what they had to say.

Gas, Charcoal, or Wood?
Nothing beats the convenience of a gas grill and nothing beats the taste of a charcoal/wood fired grill. Gas grills start up faster, are more responsive to temperature adjustments and need less clean up between usages. To get close to the taste of charcoal grill with a gas grill you need to introduce some smoke. This is easily accomplished with wood chips and a metal wood chip smoking box. What makes using wood chips fun is to experiment with different types of wood with different cuts of meat.  For example, try pecan chips with turkey or baby back ribs. Cooking with real wood takes the longest prep time because the wood really needs to get to the coal stage before you start grilling, but like charcoal, which starts faster than wood, it gives that smoke flavor that so many people prefer.


Grilling Vs. Barbecuing

Many people use the terms grilling and barbecuing interchangeably. But Jay points out there are distinct differences. “Grilling is cooking over an open flame for a short period of time. It’s the way most ‘flat’ pieces of meat are cooked, such as hamburgers, steaks and chicken breasts. Barbecuing is synonymous with smoking. The difference between grilling and smoking is time, temperature and indirect heat. ”Smoking is usually done with indirect heat and always at a lower temperature for a longer period of time. Smoking does two important things to the meat: it adds more flavor and tenderness. A brisket, for example, is a difficult cut of meat to tenderize. According to Gary, the best way to do this is to smoke it at a low temperature, say 180 to 220 degrees for 10 or more hours.

The Do’s and Dont’s

• DO stay focused on the internal temperature of the meat. Understanding the internal temperature of the meat is key to perfect results. It’s so easy to overcook salmon or a chicken breast. The window between under cooked and over cooked is short with some pieces of meat and the temperature gauge is your best friend.  It’s also important to remove the food from the grill about five  degrees before the targeted temperature, since the meat will continue to cook. DO use  a meat temperature gauge to determine when the meat is cooked to the intended temperature – especially with larger, thicker cuts of meat.

• DO use a stainless steel or copper bristle brush to clean the cooking grids.

• DO  experiment.

• DON’T use a fork! A fork pierces the caramelize shell of the meat and allows               important moisture in the form of juice to leak out.

• DON’T stress.

• DON’T walk away to watch the game.
Best Brands

In the more affordable category it’s hard to beat the Weber grills. You can easily expect 18 to 20 years of grilling on a Weber Genesis. In the long run, it’s much cheaper to buy a Genesis than a “disposable grill” that only lasts a few years. In the premium category, it’s hard to beat a Lynx or Twin Eagles grill. Both are designed by the same person and both have beautiful lighting, high temperature capacity, rotisseries, sear burners, wood chip smoking boxes and warming racks that move out of the way without leaving the grill.

New Trends in Barbecues

Keep a look out for some of the newer trends in barbecue design and function. Some slick features include infrared back burners for rotisserie cooking, infrared sear burners for quick searing of steaks and fish, windows in the hood, digital displays, built-in lights and smoker boxes, spring loaded hoods, and there is no question that the newer better grills have more heat and consistent temperature throughout the grilling surface.


Health Benefits of Grilling

Grilling is a healthy way to cook. Much of the fat is released from the meat and incinerated by the grill, creating smoke that flavors the meat creating the BBQ flavor we all enjoy. Like other food choices, the leaner the meat the better the health, but at least when you grill, what fat there is is not soaking into the meat as compared to frying. The grill is great for other foods too. Grilled vegetables and fruits are wonderful additions to any meal. Try slicing a peach in half, throw it on the grill then sprinkle with a little brown sugar and eat it over a bowl of ice cream. An EPICUREAN DELIGHT!!!  This is true for pineapple and bananas as well!
For more information on The BBQ Grill Outlet, visit

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