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On the Grill: Chef Karl Marsh, Grill Master

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Steaks. Burgers. Brisket. Time to fire up the grill! Labor Day cookouts mean tending to the flames as part of the long holiday weekend tradition. That's why we caught up with Omaha Steaks grill master and executive chef Karl Marsh to answer our burning questions.

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(Photo Credit: David Radler)

How does one become a professional grill master?
Well, it's maybe not as easy as you think. Well, I mean, I definitely do a lot of grilling [laughs]. In my position here at Omaha Steaks, you know I'm grilling probably twelve times a week. So I spend plenty of time in front of the grill. You know, the best thing about my job is I never do the same thing twice really. I mean I get to play with food all day long -- try to come up with ideas, come up with recipes, come up with new products. I get to cook wonderful steaks all the time.

What's the secret for keeping your filet mignon from drying out on the grill?
The secret to keeping the filet mignons from drying out on the grill -- and really any steak, to keep it moist -- is you want to cook it hot and fast. You want your grill to be about 600 degrees, which is pretty much as hot as it's going to get. With filet mignon, you want to be searing the outside of it. You don't want to overcook it because that'll dry it out. So a nice medium rare with some good searing and you're going to have a really moist filet mignon.

What's a brisket burger and what makes it better than a regular burger?
First thing you have to understand is the brisket is one of the most flavorful cuts of meat that there is. We had the idea awhile back of taking that and grinding it up and trying it as a burger, and the result was incredible. So, what you have there is one of the most flavorful burgers that you're ever going to try: extremely beefy, extremely flavorful. And just a cut above a regular burger.

How do you keep pork and bacon burgers from dripping on the coals?
It sounds like they're pork burgers wrapped with bacon, but really it's a pretty unique product, our pork and bacon burgers. It's bacon that's ground up into the ground pork. Really about 10% of the actual burger is bacon, so it really doesn't drip any more than a normal burger would. So cook it just the same way you would a normal burger. On high, 600 degrees, about four to five minutes on each side.

Which produces better tasting food -- charcoal or gas?
I get that question all the time. I would say both, as long as you're doing it right. What's more important is proper technique, than the actual fuel that you're using to cook whatever you're cooking. The most important thing is to have that hot grilling surface. There are certain advantages you get with charcoal, you get a slight flavor advantage, but then you have the disadvantage of having to deal with coals and all the mess that that creates. With gas, it's very easy, it's very convenient, very quick. But again, the most important thing is proper technique more so than the heat source of the grill.

Should grilling be done with the lid up or down?
Down. You want to keep your grill closed as much as possible. You're going to get a lot more flavor when you keep your grill closed. I mean that's really, when you talk about gas grills, that's really the trick to getting good results in a gas grill is to grill it closed because your drippings are going to come down, hit those flavor bars and they're going to create smoke. That smoke is going to come back up and you want to capture that smoke. Another reason is that you help prevent flare-ups because there's no oxygen getting to the grill, so your food won't catch on fire.

How can meats be kept from sticking to the grill?
That's pretty easy. First of all, you obviously want to have a clean grill. What I like to use is a little bit of spray oil. And spray that on whatever I'm going to cook before I season it and before I put it on the grill. That's going to prevent it from sticking. You got to start with a clean grill, so you got to have a good grill brush and you want to take your time cleaning that grill.