All posts by Gwendolyn Richards

Gwendolyn Richards is a Calgary-based food and travel writer and the author of Pucker: A Cookbook for Citrus Lovers. She believes burgers are one of the finest food creations and can often be seen eating one while wearing her signature red lipstick and patent shoes.
Grilled Korean Chicken Skewers topped with sesame seeds and lime on a grey plate

How to Cook the Perfect Grilled Chicken Every Time

Moo-ve along burgers and other beef cuts, crowd-pleasing chicken is the perfect protein for grilling.

What is the Best Way to Grill Chicken?

Different cuts, myriad marinades and lots of cooking styles mean you’re never at a loss for ideas about what to make. With all these options, though, can come many questions. Dark meat or light? Can you treat them the same? (Short answer, no.) What do I need to beware of before I get started? And how long does it need to cook

A few simple tips and tricks will serve you well when it comes to grilling chicken, ensuring a delicious meal every time.

grilled honey lime chicken breasts on a bed of herbs with peach avocado salsa
Get the Recipe:  Honey Lime Chicken Breasts with Peach and Avocado Salsa

How Long Do You Cook Chicken On the Grill?

Just as some people prefer barbecued chicken thighs over drumsticks or breasts, the grill doesn’t treat all these cuts equally either. The size and thickness of the pieces and whether they’re boneless or not affect both the cooking time and the minimum safe internal temperature that indicates when the chicken is fully cooked and ready to eat.

Using an instant-read meat thermometer is the only way to know for sure if it’s time to take your chicken off the heat. But there are some rules of thumb when it comes to gauging just how long that should take.

Related: 10 Grilling Tools for Barbecue Season That Chefs Swear By

Grilled Korean Chicken Skewers topped with sesame seeds and lime on a grey plate
Try it: 30-Minute Gochujang Korean Chicken Skewers

Bone-in cuts need to cook longer than boneless breasts or thighs. If you’re looking to save some time, feel free to opt for cuts without the bone. Those with them, though, will stay juicier throughout grilling.

Boneless chicken breasts — a blank canvas for all sorts of dishes and flavours— are ready to eat the fastest. They need only about five or six minutes per side and you’ll want to pull them off just before they’re cooked all the way through. The residual heat from the grill will continue to cook them as they rest. Their internal temperature should be between 160°F and 165°F.

The dark meat of chicken thighs doesn’t dry out as quickly, making it your juiciest (and, arguably, most flavourful) option for grilling. Boneless thighs are as fast to cook as breasts — give them about five minutes on each side. You’re looking for an internal temperature of 165°F.

Get the Recipe: Best-Ever Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad Sandwich

A snacking and game day favourite, chicken wings need to be turned a few times while they’re on the grill and you’ll want to plan a little further ahead because they take between 25 and 30 minutes to fully cook. They’re ready to go — maybe after a little toss in some buffalo sauce or spices — when an instant-read thermometer indicates 165°F.

For drumsticks and bone-in thighs or breasts, patience is needed. Turn them occasionally over their 40 to 50-minute cooking time and watch for an internal temperature of 160°F to 165°F.

Of course, you’re not limited to pieces alone.  A whole chicken should take about an hour on the grill — depending on its size, of course. For a twist on the classic, try spatchcocking (also referred to as butterflying) your chicken for a juicy, even cook.

A spatchocked piri piri chicken on the grillGet the Recipe: Perfect Piri Piri Spatchcock Chicken

How Do You Marinate Chicken?

Infinitely adaptable chicken does well on the grill after it has been marinated in any number of saucy options. These can be as simple as oil and some summery herbs or more complicated versions using dairy products like yogurt or buttermilk and spices.

Related: Leftover Chicken Recipes You’ll Look Forward to Devouring

No matter what the recipe, keep the chicken in the fridge, for as little as 30 minutes or, even better, up to overnight, while it soaks up the flavours. Don’t forget the salt!

How Do You Grill Chicken?

Once you’re ready to go, pull the chicken from the fridge so it has time to come up to room temperature before it hits the grill. This ensures the meat cooks evenly. Use that time to preheat your grill to medium — the ideal temperature for cooking the chicken through without drying it out. (Nothing spoils a meal like chewy chicken!) Also, prepare your grill by cleaning and oiling the grates to keep the meat from sticking or tearing during the cooking process.

Related: Cooking on an Open Fire: Everything You Need to Know

Do You Close the Grill When Cooking Chicken?

Just as steaks are better when they’ve been grilled with the lid open, chicken benefits from a closed lid. This creates an oven effect inside the grill, which helps cook the chicken all the way through. If you still want nice grill marks — and who doesn’t? — start by searing the cuts on both sides before closing the lid to finish cooking.

Your patience will be tested, but avoid opening that lid to see what’s happening. Every time you do, heat escapes, which could make the cooking uneven or take longer.

Yakitori chicken skewers alongside shishito pepper chicken skewers and a bowl of sweet, sticky glazeGet the Recipe: 10-Ingredient Japanese Grilled Chicken

When Do You Add Sauce to Chicken?

Tangy barbecue sauce is truly the taste of summer. Apply it too early, though, and you’ll end up with a sticky, burnt mess. Since most barbecue sauces, especially those from the grocery store, are high in sugar, they tend to burn quickly.

Save the sauce for close to the end — about 10 minutes before the chicken is ready to come off the grill — to get it nice and caramelized. And, of course, you can always get even saucier once the chicken is ready to eat.

How Long Do You Let Chicken Rest?

Don’t sit down to the table just yet! Letting your cooked meat rest for 10 to 15 minutes means juicier chicken from the first bite to last. While you wait, all those juices redistribute and that’s what’s going to keep it moist and tasty.

For even more great grilling inspiration, check out How to Grill the Perfect Steak Every Time and Marinating 101: How to Flavour Your Meat, Fish and Vegetables.

Watch Fire Masters Thursdays at 11ep and stream Live and On Demand on the new Global TV App, and on STACKTV. Food Network Canada is also available through all major TV service providers.

Big Food Bucket List Burgers

The Best Burgers: John Catucci’s Picks for 2019

With a job that takes him to some of the best spots and hidden gem restaurants across North America in search of crave-worthy dishes, John Catucci knows what it takes for a burger to be great.

In the first season of Big Food Bucket List, he gets to explore fresh and unusual takes — from a sweet and savoury version using a classic Chinese snack to a place that glazes their bacon strips with yellow mustard — to more standard versions of the beloved hamburger.

The only thing Catucci’s favourite burgers have in common? They all feature a beef patty (or several) on some sort of bun. Beyond that, only the chef’s creativity is the limit — even if it’s a version that honours the burger in its most classic form.

At Hamilton’s Hambrgr, the burger patties are made from a mix of chuck and inside round beef cuts, giving them a lot of juice and flavour. That signature mix is formed into a ball before it gets smashed against the sizzling hot flat-top grill, causing a Maillard reaction — similar to caramelization — that creates a golden crust. Those patties are paired with slices of bacon slathered with standard yellow mustard before they’re grilled on the flat top — adding an extra level of tang to the meaty #Hamont creation.

Hamont Burger Hamburgr

Get the recipe for The #HAMONT Burger

Burgers cooked on a flat top, especially with processed cheese, have a flavour that just can’t be recreated, says Catucci. “There’s something about that thin, flat, smashed Maillard effect… and the processed cheese that works so perfectly. It’s everything you want in a burger,” says Catucci. But, for nostalgia’s sake, Catucci likes a good charbroiled version. “It reminds me of the burger place my parents would take me to as a kid. That’s the flavour of childhood.”

Related: Big Food Bucket List Restaurant Locator

Hodad’s in San Diego comes by their relatively classic take on a burger honestly. Now owned by the third generation of the same family, this spot has been dishing up burgers for decades. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t done some tinkering. Forget slices of bacon, Hodad’s creates a patty from the salty pork to slide between their smashed beef patties — however many you’d like. “It’s a delicious mess,” says Catucci. “Your shirt is going to be ruined, but you’re going to be happy.”

Hodad's Burger
Hodad’s Double Bacon Cheeseburger

When it comes to burger toppings, Catucci goes for the standards: lettuce, tomato, mustard and relish. But he appreciates a burger that goes off the beaten path for condiments. There is no rivalry between classic and inventive for the Bucket List host — all burgers are welcome.

That’s one of the reasons why Catucci likes what Patois in Toronto is doing. At this spot, known for bringing foods and flavours from different cultures together, the burger veers from any classic version. First, there’s no ordinary mayo spread on their signature Chinese Pineapple Bun Burger, it’s oyster mayo. And the smashed patty is topped with not just lettuce and tomato, but a handful of smoky potato sticks for salty crunch. What really sets this burger apart, though, is a sweet Chinese pineapple bun takes the place of a regular version, creating a salty-sweet concoction. “It almost tastes like steak,” says Catucci. “It’s unlike any other burger I’ve had.”

Patois Chinese Bun Burger

Get the recipe for Patois’ Chinese Pineapple Bun Burger

Meanwhile, at Saltie Girl in Boston, MA, traditional bacon is replaced with a slab of golden-crusted pork belly for their namesake burger, which also eschews American cheese for gruyere and gets a spicy kick from their ‘Angry Sauce’ spiked with sriracha. No smashing here, the fist-sized patty is cooked in cast iron to get a nice crust and the whole thing is capped off with deep-fried chunks of lobster.

Get the recipe for Saltie Girl Burger

It’s juicy patty and size leaves Catucci needing more than one napkin. “It’s a complete mess of a burger, but that’s part of what makes it a bucket list, he says.”

While the burgers on this round of Big Food Bucket List are generally beef based, Catucci says he’s enjoyed several veggie or vegan burgers in his travels and he hopes to see even more in the near future as restaurants expand their offerings. “It’s amazing what you can do (with veggie burgers),” he says, noting there is still an appetite for vegetable versions that echo of their meaty counterparts. (The Beyond Meat version, for example, is making serious inroads.) “I’m hoping if there’s another season, I’ll get to eat more of those, for sure.”

Watch Big Food Bucket List Fridays at 9 PM and 9:30 PM ET.


Marinating 101: How to Flavour Your Meat, Fish and Vegetables

A little pre-planning, a bit of time and some pantry staples can take basic vegetables, fish or meat and transform it all into a tasty meal. And, with marinades pairing particularly well with standard produce and budget-friendly cuts of meat — such as flank steak — it’s also a cost-effective way to cook.

Korean-Style Marinated Skirt Steak with Grilled Scallions and Warm Tortillas Read more at
Korean-Style Marinated Skirt Steak with Grilled Scallions and Warm Tortillas

See more: How to Grill the Perfect Steak Every Time

Marinade Tips

Marinating for grilling season is as simple as mixing together a few ingredients, coating vegetables, tofu or meats and letting it all sit so the flavours can penetrate. If you’ve got five minutes, you have time to make a marinade. Mix it all in a re-sealable bag or a covered dish, put it in the fridge and, with a bit of patience, dinner is just a quick sear, roast or grill away. Since time is essentially one of the main ingredients, marinades are great for those busy days when you don’t have time to hang out in the kitchen

See more: Your Guide to Perfect Grilling Times and Temperatures

Glass baking dishes, food-safe plastic containers and re-sealable bags are your best bets here. You’ll want to make sure all your meat or vegetables are covered with the marinade — or, in a pinch, you can occasionally flip them to make sure they get equal time in the mixture. Baking dishes are great for large, flat, skirt or flank steaks. You’ll want to stay away from metal containers or pottery, though, as they can react with the acidic ingredients in your marinade.

The fridge is your friend when it comes to marinating. It keeps things cool, which will prevent any harmful bacteria from growing. For quick dinners on busy nights, you can also freeze ingredients in a marinade in advance, then let them thaw in the fridge before cooking.

Grilled Shiitake and Tofu Banh Mi

Skip store-bought and head to your cupboards for DIY versions that pack a punch of flavour. Most marinades are made up of oil, aromatics — think ginger, garlic, shallots — acids like vinegar or lemon juice, herbs and some salt. You can also find ones with yogurt bases, especially when cooking Indian. Some call for acidic fruits such as kiwi or pineapple, which are great for tenderizing meat.

You’ll want flavours that naturally lend themselves to the ingredient you’re marinating. Lemon, oregano and garlic are great for Greek-inspired chicken dishes, for example. Or go for an Asian-inspired marinade for pork using soy, ginger, garlic and sesame oil. Avoid overpowering your meat or vegetables, though. Steak, chicken and tofu can stand up to more robust flavours, but seafood is best with simpler marinades. You still want the fish flavour to shine through.

Grilled-Sea-Bream-with-Herbs-and-Garlic-CroutonsGrilled Sea Bream with Herbs and Garlic Croutons

How Long Should You Marinate For?

The combination of fat, acid and aromatics adds flavour and moisture and turns even tough cuts of meat tender. Letting ingredients sit in a marinade allows it to penetrate the ingredients’ surface for maximum flavour. Of course, the marinade can only go so far, so this works best for thinner cuts of beef, like flank or skirt steak, thinly sliced vegetables or ingredients with a lot of surface area. Cubing thicker cuts like chicken breasts will make your marinade go further with flavour. Taking off chicken skin before marinating will also help the flavours penetrate.

Timing is everything. Marinating is great because you can mix everything up and then walk away, letting it do all the work before you’re ready to cook. But you’ll still need to watch the clock. For seafood and soft vegetables, too much time can ruin dinner. Fish and shrimp only need a little time in a marinade before they’re ready to cook — 30 minutes or so. Too long and the marinade will actually start to break down or ‘cook’ seafood — like in a ceviche. Firm veggies, such as carrots and potatoes, can handle up to a half-hour of time in a marinade, but softer ones, like zucchini, just need a quick dip. Too long and they’ll just get soggy.

There’s more flexibility with chicken, beef and tofu when it comes to time spent marinating. A couple of hours will add flavour, but, for the most part, you can let these ingredients sit in the fridge in a marinade for a day. Prepare in the morning and dinner is quick to make when you get home.

The Pioneer Woman’s Jerk Chicken

See more: How to Cook the Perfect Grilled Chicken Every Time

Get Grilling

Once you’re ready to cook, it’s time to toss the marinade. It might seem wasteful, but re-using a marinade, which could contain dangerous bacteria, is a health concern. It did its job already — you can let it go!

Now your food is flavoured, you’ve tossed the remaining marinade and you’re getting hungry. The last step is to get cooking. Marinated meats, fish and vegetables are great on the grill. Thin beef cuts, cubed chicken or chicken thighs, shrimp, prawns, fish and sliced vegetables need just a few minutes of searing to make them perfect. Thicker cuts will naturally take longer. Don’t forget to use a meat thermometer to ensure chicken or pork is cooked to the proper temperature!

If it’s not grilling weather — though when isn’t it grilling weather in Canada? — you can also sear meats and vegetables on your stove top. Grill pans are great, but any pan will do. Larger portions of meat — whole chickens, pork tenderloins and so on — will do well roasted in the oven, as will sturdier vegetables.

See more: How to Properly Season a Cast Iron Skillet

They’re easy, require no chef skills or unusual ingredients, but marinades make for a delicious meal. Let that idea marinate for a bit and then hit the kitchen!

Your Ultimate Guide to Perfect Grilling Times and Temperatures

Chicken and beef are standard grilling fare, but by no means are they your only options for when you want to fire up the barbecue.

Become a master of all meats — and vegetables — with this guide, learning the secrets to cooking game meats, the right temperatures for safe eating and just what vegetables you should be picking up for a mouth-watering grilled feast (along with some good tools to have on hand). With this guide, you’ll be turning to your grill for every possible meal before you know it.

Tools of the Trade

Just as chefs need good knives and pots, grilling enthusiasts should have some key accessories in their toolbox.


Tongs: This is essential in any barbecue enthusiast’s tool kit. Barbecue forks are likely to pierce meat when used to flip it over on the grill, letting all those essential juices pour out.

A Flexible Spatula: If you plan to cook fish, invest in a flexible spatula, which will allow you to gently lift pieces off the grill without them breaking apart.

A Meat Thermometer: The only sure way to ensure your grilled meats are perfectly cooked is to use a thermometer. This simple instant-read tool, which uses a steel probe to determine the temperature in both Fahrenheit and Centigrade, will allow you to check whether your proteins are grilled to perfection in a flash. Or take to the next level with thermometers designed to stay in the food as it cooks — alerting you when your dish is ready.

Grilling Pork

Pork chops are great, but there are more great cuts of meat to explore in the supermarket for grill-ready proteins. Ribs, roasts and tenderloins are all tasty options for your barbecue — not to mention pork products, like sausages. Each of these cuts requires a different approach when you get to your grill.

One of the biggest questions for home cooks and grill enthusiasts is what temperature pork must be cooked to in order to be considered food safe? For many years, the rule was that pork needed to be well done, but now we can cook whole pork cuts to medium (or 145°F / 63°C to 160°F / 71°C) and still meet national health guidelines. That means no more dry, overcooked pork on your plate — something that should definitely have you exploring this type of meat more often. However, ground pork or sausage be cooked thoroughly.

Try: Grilled Pork Tenderloin a la Rodriguez with Guava Glaze and Orange-Habanero Mojo

Pork should be cooked over medium heat but grill times will vary widely depending on what cut you are serving. For all pork cuts, a post-grill rest will give juices a chance to redistribute, making for a tasty and tender dish.

Pork Chops: ¾” thick chops take between 8 to 12 minutes total — flip once about halfway through — while a chop twice that thickness should take anywhere from 22 and 35 minutes.

Pork Tenderloin: A 1- or 11/2-pound tenderloin needs between 20 and 30 minutes to reach an internal temperature of 145°F / 63°C to 160°F / 71°C.

Pork Roast: Whole roasts naturally take longer and cooking times are by weight. For a 2-pound roast, plan on 20 to 26 minutes per pound, while a roast weighing between 3 and 5 pounds takes about 12 to 15 minutes.

Read more: The 36 Best BBQ Pork Recipes

Grilling Lamb

No longer just served for Easter suppers, lamb is ideal for grilling year-round. This meat’s high-fat content keeps it tender and juicy as it cooks. Lamb pairs well with many types of marinades and rubs, so the flavour options are endless.

Fire Masters Lamb Rack

Lamb Chops: These are a great choice for beginners because it is easier to keep them from overcooking.

Boneless Roast and Lamb Legs: These cuts of meat also do well on the grill, even over direct heat.

Racks of Lamb and Lamb Roast: That doesn’t mean you should avoid racks of lamb or roasts, just keep that instant-read meat thermometer close at hand to prevent these cuts from drying out or getting overcooked. Look for 160°F / 71°C for medium doneness and 170°F / 77°C for well done.

Read more: 20 Simple Lamb Recipes for Chops, Roasts, Skewers and More

Grilling Game Meat

For game meat enthusiasts, grilling is a good way to go. The key difference with bison, venison or elk — compared to beef, say — is that these incredibly lean meats need to be monitored closely. It doesn’t take much to go from juicy cuts to cardboard. Cooking them past medium-rare is not advised.

A quick trick that yields the best results is to start the cooking process in the oven, roasting the meats before throwing them on the grill to get those sear marks and that signature grilled flavour. Brining or marinating the meats, wrapping them in bacon or using wet rubs will help keep game meats juicy and flavourful.

Bison: Bison is fairly common these days and can be picked up at many butchers’ as well as some chain grocery stores. For grilling, try tenderloin or striploin steaks. Ground up, will make a fantastic burger. Remove from the grill when meat reaches an internal temperature 120°F / 49°C to 125°F / 52°C for best results.

Fire Masters Game Meat

Venison: Wild venison is gamier than farm-raised deer, which tends to have a rich flavour. You can purchase it at some butcher shops, but phone ahead first to make sure they have what you’re looking for. Your best bet for this incredibly lean meat is to purchase steaks or tenderloin. Like bison, cook venison to an internal temperature of 120°F / 49°C to 125°F / 52°C.

Wild Boar: Wild boar is generally cooked like its domesticated cousin, the pig, and should come off the grill at 145°F / 63°C for a tender cut of meat.

Elk: The cooking approach for elk is the same as venison, but these two meats have very different flavour profiles. Elk is incredibly tender and has a cleaner, almost slightly sweet, flavour. Opt for roasts or steaks and cook to a temperature of 120°F / 49°C to 125°F / 52°C.

Read more: 11 Tips for Grilling Great Game Meat

Grilling Vegetables

When thinking about grilling, most tend to go straight to protein, but vegetables (and fruit!) get great flavour boosts from some flame-kissed time on a hot grill. A little marinating goes a long way and pretty much any veggie is fair game.

Fire Masters vegetables

Read more: Veggie-Forward Grilled Skewers and Kebabs

Asparagus pairs well with grilled meats — a squeeze of lemon over the plate when they’re cooked is a nice addition. Summer standards, such as corn, tomatoes and zucchini are natural additions to a grilled feast. Even salad benefits with a grilling twist. Simply cut lettuce (or radicchio) in half and cook until there’s a slight char to the cut side. Drizzle over dressing and serve as an appetizer or side dish.

Corral vegetables to keep them from falling through the cooking grids. Either of these will keep food on top of the grill where it belongs, plus they make it easy to turn fruit, veggies or delicate foods over. The hinged basket keeps everything in place, so turning items over is as simple as a flip, while you can use the wok just as you would on a stove with a pair of tongs or spatula to toss and mix.

how to grill the perfect steak

How to Grill the Perfect Steak Every Time

When it comes to cooking steak, nothing beats the grill. It’s the combination of that slight char and simple seasoning that pushes us to cook outdoors — even when it isn’t summer grilling season.

If you’re going to brave cold temperatures for winter grilling or the high heat of the hottest months, it is a good idea to know how to make the most of a steak. What cut of meat should you buy? What grill temperature is just right? Does that lid stay open or closed? These sorts of questions are all that stand between you and a delicious, flame-kissed meal. For your perfect barbecued steak dinner, we’ve got you covered with this guide to mastering the grill. Luckily, we also believe practice makes perfect — that means steak should be on the menu all year round.

What Cut Should Make the Cut?

One of the best things about steak is that from the time it hits the grill to the time it lands on the plate isn’t too long – especially for those who prefer their steak rare. Steaks with nice marbling — those striations of white fat — cook up perfectly succulent. That is because fat means flavour. So when you’re looking at the butcher counter, opt for one of these:

Ribeye: Lots of marbling along with larger pockets of fat makes these steaks great for the grill. Preheat the grill with two burners on medium-high, and two that aren’t on at all – a two-zone fire. Sear the steaks for a few minutes per side to get those delightful sear marks, then move them to the “off “ side to finish cooking. Use a meat thermometer to ensure the perfect temperature of 125°F / 50°C. Rest for 10 minutes. The high heat will melt the fat and keep this steak super juicy.

Strip Loin: This cut, sometimes called a New York strip, is leaner than rib eye but still has plenty of beefy flavour. Season simply with salt and pepper, then sear them over direct high heat for 4 to 6 minutes per side. Rest before serving.

T-Bone: A classic cut, this is what we usually picture when we hear the word steak. Kind of like two steaks for the price of one, this cut is named after the T-shaped bone that divides the strip loin and a small portion of tenderloin. Cooking depends on the thickness. For T-Bones less than 1-inch thick, searing for a few minutes per side, then resting is enough. If the steak is over 1-inch thick start it slow, using indirect heat, on a grill set to 325°F / 165°C, until it reaches an internal temperature of 120°F / 148°C, then sear over high heat for a couple minutes per side for grill marks. Rest and serve topped with a knob of butter.

Flank Steak: This long, flat cut of beef is incredibly lean and an exception to the marbling rule. It should be cooked in a flash; too long on the grill can cause the meat to become tough. Think medium-rare, about 4 to 5 minutes per side over direct, high heat. A little help from an overnight marinade before hitting the grill is always a good idea. To serve, let the flank steak rest before slicing against the grain for tender strips of beef – ideal for tacos and sandwiches.

Skirt Steak: Similar to flank, skirt steak needs to be approached the same way. Marinate it before grilling to medium rare, rest and slice.

Filet Mignon: If you’re splurging and want an incredibly tender and thick steak, you can try a filet mignon, a cut of beef tenderloin. With only a little fat, this steak is subtle in flavour, but buttery in texture. It’s easy to overcook, so best for those who prefer their steaks medium or on the rarer side. Grill them using a similar technique to the Ribeye, and keep that meat thermometer handy.

Heat It Up

Cooking steaks is all about searing, so you want to get your grill hot, hot, hot.

Heat to at least 450°F before you put those steaks on to cook. This ensures the meat gets that delicious crust and stays tender on the inside.

When using infrared heat to cook your steak, side burners, reaching the right temperature takes less than a minute. You can go from craving a nice steak to searing in the juices for a restaurant-quality meal in mere minutes.

Open or Closed?

If you’re puzzling over whether your steaks are best grilled with the lid open or not, wonder no more. The simple answer is: keep it open when high-temperature searing.

Closing the lid turns your grill into an oven — great for roasting meats, slowly cooking thicker cuts, and cooking chicken, but not as ideal when searing. A closed grill will start to cook the top of your steak, so you’ll miss that sizzle when you flip it.

An open lid gives you more control and lets you keep an eye on things. After all, there’s nothing worse than an overcooked steak.

Grilling 101

You’ve selected your cuts, heated your grill and are eager to eat. There are just a few steps to follow to make your steak truly great.

Start by generously salting your steak and letting it come to room temperature before grilling. About a half hour is all that’s needed to let the salt do its work. Use kosher or coarse salt will bring out the best flavor. Add a little freshly ground pepper or dehydrated garlic for even more flavour.

For some additional flavour, think of getting smoky. Wood chips, like mesquite or Applewood, enhance beef without much effort. With an integrated wood chip smoker tray — adding that woodsy, smoky flavour is about as easy as turning the grill on.

It’s all about timing, but even the pros can stumble over how long each side of the steak needs to reach the perfect temperature. A good rule of thumb is you need about two to three minutes per side to reach rare for a ¾-inch steak. Four minutes will be close to medium and another minute or two per side for a well-done steak. Your best bet is to take the guesswork out of the equation by using an instant-read meat thermometer.

When flipping the meat, it’s best to use tongs. Barbecue forks will pierce the meat, letting all those delicious juices escape. Finally — and this is the hard part! — let it rest for about 10 minutes before eating. This gives those juices time to redistribute and will keep your steak tender and tasty.

Is It Done?

Cooking times may vary, but steak doneness temperatures are dependable.

For a rare steak, look for an internal temperature of 120ºF / 52°C. Medium-rare is around 135°F / 57°C. Medium steaks will read 140ºF / 60°C to 145ºF / 63°C and Medium-well between 150ºF / 66°C. A steak is well done at 160ºF / 71°C or more.

Why You’ll Fall in Love With Food Network Canada’s Newest Host, Dylan Benoit

They say if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen, but Dylan Benoit is all too happy to embrace the fire and flames on the new Food Network Canada show Fire Masters. As host, he brings his passion for cooking over the fire to the small screen as three chefs compete each week to impress a panel of judges with their grilling skills.

Though a proud Canadian, Benoit has taken his talents around the world and now lives in the Cayman Islands where he can pursue his love of the culinary arts, along with scuba diving, riding motorcycles and travelling to far-flung parts of the globe.

We “grilled” the Fire Masters host about his hobbies, who inspires him in the kitchen and what he thinks about leading the hottest new culinary competition show.

How does it feel to be the host of Fire Masters?

Honestly, I never thought I would end up on TV, let alone Food Network Canada. When I was going to cooking school, I used to come home and watch the types of shows I’m now on. I never thought, ‘Oh, one day I’ll be on Food Network’ or ‘I want to have a show.’ It was always just get to the kitchen, put your head down, earn your stripes and become a great chef. The fact this has transpired is a bonus and I’m insanely grateful.

Was there a dish you were hoping someone would make all season that you didn’t end up seeing?

I didn’t go in [to filming] with any expectations. I was just happy to see everything these chefs brought to the table. And what I liked about the show was there were so many people from all over the country, the States and Mexico and the Caribbean and they brought a lot of flavours I wasn’t expecting.

Who inspires your cooking?

My mom was a huge inspiration for my cooking. We grew up eating very well around our house, so that’s where the spark started. Then, as I grew older, it was more about travel — going to different places, learning about their food and through their food.

What do you consider to be your signature dish?

The concept of a signature dish is very tough. For me, it changes all the time — depending on the season or where I am. A dish I would make here isn’t the same as I’d make in Cayman or California. I have certain ingredients that I lean towards, that I use when I can.

What about the recipes you’ve developed over the years? Is there one you’re most proud of?

Bacon. I have a lamb bacon recipe which is pretty fun. Everybody loves bacon! And there are so many other meats you can use to make it, like lamb or beef.

We hear you have cooked for some celebrities. Any anecdotes you can share?

When I worked with Chef Mark McEwan at One at the Hazelton Hotel, the Beastie Boys came in one time. All three of them sat at the bar and ate chicken noodle soup. Once, I was working at the pasta station there during the film festival and Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston came in. She had the rabbit ravioli and when the order came in, the sous chef leaned over to me and said, “That’s for Jennifer Aniston. Don’t screw it up.” I’m sure there’s plenty of others, but a lot of the time you’re in the back and you don’t know who you’re cooking for. It doesn’t matter if it’s a massive celebrity or a regular person on the street. You want to make sure the food is the same every time.

You’ve been living on Cayman Island since 2010. What do you miss most about Canada?

I miss a lot of things, to be honest. All my family, which is a big one. I do miss the seasons — not winter. I miss wearing jeans and boots and a leather jacket. That’s why little trips like this are always nice to come back and get refreshed. I miss my cottage in Georgian Bay area.

Do you have any food-inspired tattoos?

I do actually! A pineapple skull — I don’t know why. A bottle of whiskey or rum flying away. I’ve got a bowl of noodles on the inside of my index finger.

What has been your most delicious travel memory?

A lot of the really good memories, you’re just in these places you’d least expect. The little hole-in-the-wall joints. The first thing that jumps to my mind is Hong Kong. I have a favorite noodle place there called that Tsim Chai Kee. This is the bowl of noodles that all noodles shall be rated against in my mind. It’s just super simple. It’s an egg noodle with chicken broth and these dumplings the size of a golf ball. You get three of them and they’re just chock-full of shrimp.

What’s the easiest technique someone new to grilling should learn to master first?

Indirect heat — that’s where you start something on a relatively high heat on one side to get the sear you want and then move it to a side that’s on low while the high heat is still running. It allows you to rest the meat while you continue to cook it. I think that’s the one thing most people don’t understand. Everybody just goes in hard and fast with high heat and you end up with overcooked or dry food.

What’s the most overused ingredient in grilling?

Beef tenderloin. I really enjoy it, but I think there are so many other cuts that can be similar in texture and tenderness that don’t cost you as much and pack a little more flavour.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

How to Spend 48 Hours in the Heart of the Okanagan Valley

No matter the time of day, there is always something spectacular to sip, see or snack on throughout the Okanagan Valley. With several hundred wineries scattered among the green slopes that wind along a string of lakes, along with an array of boutique restaurants and hidden gem snack spots, it’s hard to narrow down the options.
A solid plan, featuring some must-see spots, will help.


Fresh fruit, BC VQA wine and samosas are just some of the tasty treats worth stopping for at the Penticton Farmers’ Market.  Photo Courtesy of ET2media.

Morning in the Okanagan Valley

Starting the day off right means getting something good to eat – and perhaps stocking up on nibbles for later with a bottle of wine. In Osoyoos, carb load with some of the fine baked goods from The Lake Village Bakery. Here, sourdough serves as the base for most of their offerings, including sticky cinnamon buns and croissants. Grab a coffee and a pastry, but also some focaccia or French baguettes for afternoon snacking.
Every Saturday throughout the summer, Penticton closes off several blocks of downtown for their weekly markets. Fresh fruits and vegetables, baked goods, preserves and honey are on offer. Treat it like a walkable smorgasbord, stopping for samosas, a spiralled fried potato on a stick and a bag of cherries or apricots. You can also pick up a bottle of local BC VQA Wine at the market while you’re there.
All weekends call for brunch. With his fourth restaurant, Sunny’s – A Modern Diner, Chef Rod Butters puts the focus on breakfast classics, including Cluck and Grunt (eggs with bacon or sausage), Door Stops (French toast) or BBBBenny & the Jets, Butters’ take on eggs Benedict, which can be ordered by the piece – allowing for mixing and matching.


Be sure to try the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir at the See Ya Later Ranch, a winery that boasts some of the highest-altitude plantings in the Okanagan. Photo Courtesy of Wines of British Columbia.

Afternoon in the Okanagan Valley

Build an appetite or work off a luxurious lunch by renting a bike – even an E-bike to help with hills – and heading up to the Naramata Bench. This 15-kilometre stretch is home to dozens of wineries, including Laughing Stock Vineyards and one of the Bench originals, Hillside Winery. Naramata Road serves as an unofficial divide between the two distinct terroirs, with glacial till on the upper side and sand, silt and clay on the lower.
Stop for a bottle of bubbles and an interesting history lesson at the Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards, an estate winery set against the lake, just south of Peachland. Once a fruit orchard, that same plot is now awash with grape vines used to make Fitz Brut, Reserve Sparkling and some still wines. Sit on the patio – which serves as a crush pad come harvest – and enjoy pizza from the restaurant’s wood-burning oven.
From the depths of the valley, wind your way up the road to See Ya Later Ranch, a winery that boasts some of the highest-altitude plantings in the Okanagan. After trying some of its offerings, including the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, head outside and look up to see the rows of vines sloping toward the sky.
A winery on the smaller side, Moon Curser earns a reputation with its unusual varietals and quirky story. The name of the family-owned winery pays homage to smugglers trying to cross the U.S. border near Osoyoos. The moon was something worth cursing when conducting illegal pursuits. Try some of their more unique offerings, like the Tannat, or sip on others based on their names, such as Afraid of the Dark or Dead of Night.


Nk’Mip Cellars, North America’s first Aboriginal-owned winery is a must-visit spot. Photo Courtesy of Milk Creative Communications.

Night in the Okanagan Valley

To better understand the history of the region, and the people who lived here long before grapes were first grown, a visit to Nk’Mip Cellars, North America’s first Aboriginal-owned winery, should not be missed. Begin, if possible, at the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre on site at Spirit Ridge Resort to explore exhibits and take the interpretive trail that winds through the semi-arid desert that makes the terroir so unique. Follow it up with wine and dinner at the cellars – try their signature Mer’r’iym (marriage) blends and sample some traditional ingredients, such as bison or salmon.
Further north, Liquidity Wines offers its own sort of education with a limited presentation of the National Geographic Photo Ark project, which features images of thousands of creatures. This is the only place where the Photo Ark is exhibiting the work in Canada, and Liquidity has it on-site until Labour Day. Finish up with dinner overlooking the vines, and try a few of their signature wines, including the gorgeous rosé.
Overlooking stripes of vines down to Okanagan Lake, the view from Old Vines Restaurant at Quails’ Gate Winery is unparalleled. On warm summer evenings, the restaurant opens the wall of doors onto the patio, breaking down the division between inside and out. Feast on dishes made with local, seasonal ingredients, expertly cooked and beautifully plated, and take advantage of the expert suggested pairings. Lastly, don’t skip the chance to try their splendid Syrah.

Looking for more inspiration? Get a Wine Lover’s Guide to the Okanagan Valley.

Sumac Ridge Signature Cellar

A Wine-Lover’s Guide to the Okanagan Valley

Once known for fruit orchards and lakes, the Okanagan is now a destination for wine lovers everywhere. The hills and valleys are striped with grape vines of all varieties and area wineries and restaurants continue to push the envelope in their abundant offerings. Here are 10 spots that can’t be missed on your first, or next trip to this beautiful region. To plan your trip or see a complete list of B.C. wineries visit

Sumac Ridge Signature Cellar Grazing and Harvest Dinner, Summerland

This educational and delicious evening starts in the sparkling wine cave where guests learn about the traditional French method for transforming wine into bubbles before watching a Sabre Ceremony pop open Stellar’s Jay Brut. Private Reserve wines will be poured during the dinner that follows.

Nk’Mip Cellars, Osoyoos

Explore connections of place and people at Nk’Mip Cellars, the first Aboriginal-owned winery in North America. Winding through the process of grape to glass, the legacy tour speaks to the Osoyoos Indian Band and their work to translate desert terroir to bottle.

Summerhill Pyramid Winery, Kelowna

If the idea that wine from this organic and biodynamic winery is better because it’s aged in the sacred geometry of a pyramid isn’t enough of a draw, then tasting some of the award-winning Cipes Brut should be.

Nichol Vineyard, Naramata

Among the first wineries to settle on the Naramata Bench, Nichol has remained small compared to others in the Okanagan. In this case, size does matter. Most of the work here is done by hand, including during harvest when workers pluck bunches of grapes by hand from the vine.

Tantalus Vineyards, Kelowna

Matching historic vineyards with modern facilities, Tantalus brings together the traditions of wine with a progressive approach focused on sustainability. The new LEED-certified winery features enviable views from the tasting room, where you can sample their premium, single-vineyard wines.


SunRock Vineyard Tour, Osoyoos

Named for its perch on a mountain slope, this is the ideal spot for a lunch and sampling of wines. Sip on SunRock and Jackson-Triggs Okanagan wines at this organized vineyard tour and barbecue lunch made with local, seasonal ingredients.

Terrafina Restaurant at Hester Creek Estate Winery, Oliver

A small slice of Italy tucked into the landscape south of Oliver, Terrafina’s menu takes classic dishes — pasta carbonara, meatballs, risotto — and twists them into something unique. (That carbonara features crisp pork belly and a rhubarb gastrique, for example.) Considering the winery’s Italian heritage, it’s the perfect marriage between the old country and the Okanagan.

The Vibrant Vine, Kelowna

A cacophony of colour, no tasting room compares to The Vibrant Vine. Sample some of the famed Woops blends with its signature upside-down labels or stop by Friday evenings and weekend afternoons to sip Vibrant Vine wine while listening to local musicians on the lawn.

Mission Hill Family Estate Winery, West Kelowna

Set atop the west side of Kelowna like a crown, Mission Hill Family Estate Winery is hard to miss. The architecture — complete with bell tower and amphitheatre — is as bold and evocative as the wines Mission Hill produces.


The Lumberjack Breakfast Sandwich Delivers All Your Faves In One Bite

Behold, the Lumberjack Breakfast Sandwich! All the parts of a hearty start to the day — eggs, toast, sausage, bacon, pancakes and hash browns — in one nifty, stackable, portable package. (Don’t forget the napkins.)

lumberjack breakfast sandwich

Layers of breakfast meats, a hash brown patty and fried egg are interspersed with a key structural piece: the pancake. Akin to a traditional clubhouse, this middle starchy tier serves as both a condiment layer (douse it in syrup for a salty-sweet combination, slather simply with butter or spike with hot sauce for kick), while also soaking up those runny egg yolk, sausage and bacon juices.

After breakfast, you’ll be ready to tackle the woods…or a nap on the couch. Which would, again, be completely understandable.

Lumberjack Breakfast Sandwich

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4

16 slices cooked bacon
4 cooked hash browns, prepared according to package directions
4 cooked pancakes
16 uncooked breakfast sausages
4 large eggs
8 pieces of toast
2 Tbsp butter, more as needed
maple syrup, for serving
hot sauce, for serving
ketchup, for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 200ºF.
2. On a large baking sheet or large ovenproof dish, add bacon, hash browns and pancakes. Keep warm in oven while preparing the rest of the ingredients.
3. Remove the sausages from casings; discard casings. Take 4 uncased sausages and squash them into 1 thin patty, just slightly larger than the piece of bread you will be using for toast. Repeat with remaining uncased sausages for a total of 4 patties. In a large skillet, fry patties over medium heat, flipping once, until browned and completely cooked through, approximately 5-7 minutes. Transfer cooked patties to oven with other ingredients to keep warm.
4. Using the same pan with residual sausage patty fat, or a clean one with a bit of melted butter swirled around the bottom to reduce sticking, fry the eggs sunny side up until the whites have completely set and the yolks are cooked at the edge but still runny. Season eggs with salt and pepper.
5. To assemble, building from the bottom up, start with 1 piece of toast, buttered, if desired. Top toast with 4 slices of bacon, 1 hash brown, 1 pancake that has been dressed to your liking (with maple syrup, butter and/or hot sauce), 1 sausage patty and 1 fried egg. Top your stack with a second piece of toast. Repeat with remaining ingredients to make 4 sandwiches. Serve with maple syrup, hot sauce and ketchup. Enjoy!

Looking for more Canadian dishes? Try our 10 Perfect Peameal Bacon Recipes.

Summer Berry Sangria

1 Bottle of Wine, 3 Sangrias to Sip All Summer

Nothing says summer quite like sipping some sangria on a patio. It’s cool and refreshing, and eating the fruit that’s been soaking up the wine means it’s a drink with a snack included.

Summer Berry Sangria

While we tend to think of sangria in its most traditional form – red wine and brandy with orange juice, apples and wheels of lemon and lime – any bottle of wine can be transformed with a little fruit and liqueur.

One bottle of Sauvignon Blanc can be transformed into a hundred variations of sangria, from the sweet and sparkly to a deeply cooling version that refreshes with cucumber instead of fruit. Here are three new and tasty ways to kick off your summer with sangria.

Summer Berry Sangria

Summer Berry Sparkling Sangria
Brightly coloured berries really pop against the background of a white wine, so this sangria is perfect when the summer heat sends raspberries, strawberries and blackberries to the farmers’ markets. Tumble any combination you like of the berries into a pitcher, add a bit of simple syrup – depending on how sweet you like your sangria – and then let it all sit in the fridge to infuse those flavours. When ready to serve, pour in a bottle of sparkling wine for some bubbles and top with fresh mint leaves.

Tropical Sangria

Tropical Fiesta Sangria
Give your sangria a tropical twist by using fruits that are a little more exotic. Tangy pineapple and sweet mango are excellent; papaya is also great. You can also thinly slice some kiwis for a little pop of green colour and some lemon for a hit of citrus. Adding in Cointreau – or another brand of orange-flavoured liqueur – will give a nice undertone and plays well with the tropical fruit.

Cucumber Gin Sangria

Gin-Cucumber Sangria
For something completely different and incredibly refreshing, taking a page from another summer classic, the gin and tonic, and make a Gin-Cucumber Sangria. This one starts with Sauvignon Blanc and then gets a botanical and floral infusion by swishing in elderflower liqueur and gin – go for one with a particularly botanical or floral bend for full flavour, like Hendrick’s. Slices of lime add some tang, while mint makes it suitably refreshing. Finally, thin slices of cucumber bring some coolness to the mix.

Looking for more delicious summer cocktails? Learn how to make Ina Garten’s Rose Sangria.

Exclusive Interview With The Winner Of Top Chef Canada: All-Stars

In a competition that pitched the best of four seasons of Top Chef Canada, Nicole Gomes sliced and sautéed her way to the champion spot. For the Calgary-based chef-owner of the catering outfit Nicole Gourmet and co-owner of Cluck n’ Cleaver, a chef-driven, fast-casual spot specializing in fried and rotisserie chicken, the win was hard fought and earned. Eliminated only two episodes before the finale in Season 3, Nicole came back to the Top Chef Canada kitchen eager to compete. Leading up to the finale, she won five challenges – three Quickfires and two Eliminations – and faced a panel of disappointed judges twice.

Nicole in Episode 3 of Top Chef Canada: All-Stars

We chatted with Nicole about how she prepared for All-Stars, what made this time different and what’s next after her big win.

Why did you want to return to Top Chef Canada to compete again?

It took me a long time to reply; I had to think about it. I had no clue who was going to be on, so that was a hesitation. But I knew this round would be great competition – more about the food because it’s All-Stars. And I really wanted to win. It’s not about the money – that’s a bonus, to be honest. It was about a woman winning, as all of the four past seasons have been men.

How did you prepare for competition?

The first season that I did, I prepared by actually cooking and testing dishes, but that was silly. I have so much under my belt from over 20 years of cooking experience, why would I do that? So, this time I prepared by investigating flavour profiles. I read a book I love called The Flavor Thesaurus (by Niki Segnit). You just go into the index and say, “I’m cooking with almonds today, what pairs with that?”

We’re not allowed to bring any recipes, so when you arrive, you have to write down everything you know in your head. Cooking isn’t a problem, but baking you had to memorize before you left – basic recipes: a pie dough, biscuit recipe, cookie recipe, ice cream base.
We were given a book we were allowed to use. On the first page I wrote down mantras, mistakes I’d made from season 3, things I needed to improve on. And as I was going along in the competition, mistakes I made that I wouldn’t do again. That’s the biggest thing about life, you should learn from your mistakes.

More words of wisdom from Canada’s Top Chef.

What did you learn from your own season that you brought to All-Stars?

I said to myself, “Be more quiet.” That didn’t happen. Ha!

The other thing was to cook what I know and just make it relative to the challenge. I didn’t do that in season 3. I was trying to reinvent the wheel and that was the biggest mistake. I know such a variety of cuisines and techniques that you can pretty much apply to any challenge if you’re quick on your feet.

How was it different than your first time on the show?

The level of cooking was more elevated. The food level was way higher. People really brought it. Also, the pantry was amazing, what they stocked it with. As far as the challenges, this season was more, almost, catering based. They were bigger events.

Nicole in Top Chef Canada Season 3: Evidence that her personality hasn’t changed too much since her first time on the series.

What was your favourite challenge?

For the excitement of it, the [Late Night Eats in the TTC Lower Bay station] challenge was good – and not because I won. It was a really cool set, it was a cool day. It was challenging to produce that much food for that many people walking off the train at the same time.
I really liked the retail wars challenge as well – and not because our team won. It was because it was more in my wheelhouse. Cooking is not all about restaurants. It’s about providing a service that people don’t know how to do at home.

Nicole and team celebrating their Retail Wars win.

When I started cooking, it was fancy – go out for an anniversary or birthday. It was an occasion. For most people, everyone ate at home and sat around the table and talked to each other. People now don’t do that; people don’t know how to cook. That changes the way we go out and eat. The retail challenge really solidified that. People eat out, out of necessity, not a special occasion anymore.

Which challenge pushed you the hardest and why?

The finale. You want to win. It’s you and this other dude, who is awesome. At some points, I told myself to forget it, you got this far.

I had not prepared a final menu. I was out the night before at Bar Raval with friends and I wrote a menu while they were drinking. It’s all handwritten. They were asking what I was doing and I couldn’t tell them why I was [in Toronto], so I said, “I have a big day tomorrow; I’ve got to do this menu. I’m catering something.” I’m going to frame it; it’s so full of notes.

Who was your toughest competition?

(Dustin Gallagher the Toronto-based chef whom she would battle in the finale.) It was Dusty all the way for me. I didn’t realize it until halfway through, though. He was cooking so well. He has quite a vast knowledge of a variety of cuisines.

Andrea, as far as the women, she’s quite well versed. The retail challenge, I thought for sure she’d kill that. She gives people what they want; she understands her audience.

Nicole and Dustin awaiting the judges verdict one last time in the Finale.

Tell us about your finale menu, the inspiration and the story you wanted to tell the judges.

For most of the season I hadn’t cooked any Italian. It was all Asian or French. I did pain perdu and these prawn cakes and curries and carrot cake. I wasn’t holding out at all, there just wasn’t an opportunity really for me to do Italian. And that’s my specialty.

I love Italian because of how it brings a table together. Italians eat more culturally. Cooking is about bringing people together and so I decided to do something more comfort-like. I worried, is it too simple? But I know how to refine Italian.

I remember every detail of this menu. The fish dish I was a little disappointed in myself for that; I lacked finesse on plating. I was rushing it. I made a few bad calls there. I had fried celery but the basket still had capers in it and that carried over because I was rushing and I got called out at Judges’ Table.

Nicole’s Beef Carpaccio with Pine Nut Aioli, Arugula Pesto and Crispy Capers

My favourite dish on that was the carpaccio, for aesthetics and the way it ate and the quality of the beef I was able to get. The other dish on that finale menu I was quite proud of was the panna cotta; panna cotta is simple, but it’s difficult. If you don’t do it right, it’s a mess. I loved the flavour combinations of it: wild strawberry, vin cotto, the Marcona almond-bee pollen crumble. It turned out well and it surprised me; that’s where I thought I failed.

During the finale, Eden Grinshpan remarked:  “I can’t get over how perfect the pairing of flavours is.”

What are your plans for the future?

Cluck n’ Cleaver is my baby still. The expansion of that is happening quite quickly. I’m looking in Vancouver, and Francine (Gomes, her sister and Cleaver’s co-owner) is on the ground here in Calgary. We’ve had a lot of opportunity come our way and a lot of franchisee people are interested in us.


I hope that maybe sometime down the road when I get Cluck n’ Cleaver settled that I can open a restaurant. A restaurant would be a dream. I just want a small room, under-designed. Just good food.
I want you to be able to come and get amazing pappardelle and a curry rice bowl. A “neighbourhood” type place would make me happy; knowing the people coming in the door and they’re regulars, having a discussion about how they’re doing. That’s more where I’d be because I love talking to people about food, travels and what they’ve been up to. That’s what I want. It’s not for money; it’s purely to feed people, make them happy. I don’t think there’s anything that would make me happier.

More Top Chef Canada: All-Stars:
Read our Finale Episode Recap for exclusive insight from the Top Chef Canada judges.

Read 12 Times the All-Stars Chefs We’re Just Like Us!


Top 10 Tips for Making Homemade Pasta Like an All-Star

Pasta can be simple and rustic, or decadent and elegant. It can be dished up on a massive platter and passed around a boisterous table, or perfectly, artistically plated and served with pristine silverware and white linen.

Nicole’s Goat Cheese Tortellini

For Top Chef Canada: All-Stars winner Nicole Gomes – as revealed in the finale last night – it was a key part of her five-course menu. The judges fell in love with her Goat Cheese Tortellini with Preserved Lemon, Ricotta Salata, Peas and Pancetta in a Butter Sauce (not to mention the other components of her Italian-themed dinner).

Nicole channeling her inner Italian nonna while prepping her tortellini.

Head judge Chef Mark McEwan highlighted Nicole’s pasta as the best part of her finale menu. “Just her finesse on that meal was really extraordinary,” he said.

Nicole preps the filling while Andrea uses a stand mixer attachement to roll out the dough.

Whether it’s to impress a panel of Top Chef Canada judges or to feed the family at home – who, no doubt, can also be tough critics – pasta fits the bill. At its heart, no matter who’s being served, it’s the same basic dough; rolled, stuffed or cut in many ways and topped with sauce. The trick is having a good recipe (see our list below) and remembering these 10 essential tips and tricks:

1. Trust Your Gut
Making pasta from scratch is really more about a feeling, rather than measurements. Depending on the humidity, the flour, the size of the eggs, you may need more or less flour going along, so getting a feel for the dough is essential.

2. Traditional Is Best
The traditional way of making dough from scratch – with a well of flour, and the eggs and salt in the middle and using a fork to draw the flour slowly in to the liquid – ensures the perfect amount of flour gets added before kneading into a nice ball of golden dough.

3. But If You Don’t Have Time… 
However, for those of us who prefer to use our stand mixers, simply hold back a bit of the flour and only add it when necessary, or add a spoonful or two of water if the dough is too dry.

4. Remember This Basic Ratio for Ingredients
As a general rule, the ratio is three parts flour to two parts eggs by weight. There are tons of variations on this, many depending on if you also want to add water, the type of flour (all-purpose versus durum semolina versus the finely-milled 00) and if you want to add a couple of additional yolks to the mix for a richer dough. (Water-only dough is also common.)  However, this basic ratio will serve you well.

5. Pasta Dough Needs To Be Kneaded
Once your dough is mixed, it’s all about the kneading. It will take up to 10 minutes to transform the shaggy mix into a smooth and elastic ball.

6. Take A Rest
After kneading  it will be time for a rest – for both you and the dough! A little forethought here is key because you’ll want to let the dough relax for at least an hour before proceeding. This will make it smoother and easier to deal with when rolling it out.

7. Salt Cooking Water Generously
Pasta water should be salted to taste like the ocean (or the Mediterranean!) – because that is going to flavour the noodles.

8. Never Rinse Your Pasta
Don’t ever do this! If you rinse pasta after cooking, you rinse off the starch adhering to the noodles. That starch helps the sauce cling to the noodle.

9. Store It If You’re Not Cooking It Right Away 
If waiting, divide the pasta into portions, dust with a little bit of flour to keep the noodles from sticking together and then make nest-like bundles on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and set aside until ready.

10. Fresh Pasta Freezes Well
Fresh pasta can also be frozen for future meals. Just put the baking sheet of noodles into the freezer for about 15 minutes – to keep the pasta bundles from sticking together – and then transfer to a freezer bag, removing as much air as possible. Frozen pasta should be cooked directly from the freezer. Add about 30 seconds to 1 minute to the cooking time.

Anna Olson’s Mushroom Ravioli with Asparagus and Tarragon

Want to try making fresh pasta at home?  

Here are great pasta recipes from our chefs:
Michael Smith’s Homemade Pasta Recipe
Ricardo’s Fresh Pasta
David Rocco’s Basic Fresh Pasta Dough Recipe
David Rocco’s Fresh Tortellini (Use His Basic Fresh Pasta Dough Recipe for this)
Anna Olson’s Homemade Pasta with Garden Vegetables and Parmesan
Anna Olson’s Mushroom Ravioli with Asparagus and Tarragon

Have the pasta ready and need some inspiration for sauces?

Try these delicious sauce recipes from our chefs:
Chuck’s Bolognese
Tomato Sauce
Giada’s Rigatoni with Eggplant Puree
Giada’s Penne with Shrimp and Herbed Cream Sauce

Top Chef Canada Judges Reveal Who They’d Want to Return for the Finale

We all have off days. Those days when we must deal with slip-ups and mistakes, bad choices or simply not doing our best work. Unlike the rest of us who can wake up the next day, shake it off and continue, a bad day on Top Chef Canada: All-Stars can mean the difference between surviving for another round or being sent to pack your knives.

12 All-Stars chefs assembled in the first episode.

Judges were forced to make tough decisions based solely on the most recent challenge, and ignoring any stellar performance and crave-worthy dishes that had led up to the current one that had failed to impress.

“Those decisions are never clear and they never sit very well,” said head judge Chef Mark McEwan.

If given the chance to erase one of those unclear decisions, who would the judges bring back to compete in the finale? For most, the answer was clear: Andrea Nicholson.

Premiere Episode: Andrea, Trista and Curtis  find out their Elimination Challenge dishes were the top performers.

Andrea impressed the judges from the first episode when her history on a plate creation for the Elimination Challenge hit all the right notes. “A stand out dish,” said judge Janet Zuccarini of the roasted bison striploin with a barley risotto with a pickled mead and pear gastrique.

She went on to win the mise en place Quickfire Challenge in episode 2, and episode 5’s blind taste test Quickfire Challenge where famed Chef Daniel Boulud picked her Cod Basquaise  as the best of the bunch. She had been a top performer in the first episode as well as with her team for the Middle Eastern feast in episode 3.

But the Elimination Challenge in episode 5 “Retail Wars” would prove to be her undoing.

Retails Wars Episode: Andrea leads her team in putting together the menu.

“That was a real tough decision [to send her home] because she had made so many great plates up until then and her compositions were good, her seasoning was mature and then retail wars just kind of unraveled,” said McEwan.

As team leader, Andrea went into the challenge with more responsibility. That, and a disappointing meatball with a solidified mozzarella centre sealed her fate.

The judges have spoken: Andrea is sent home in Episode 5 but not before a hug from fellow chef Connie DeSousa.

For the judges, it was a gut-wrenching choice, which is why judges McEwan,  Zuccarini and Mijune Pak and host Eden Grinshpan agreed they would be quick to put her right back into the competition if given the chance.

“Leading up to [retail wars], in my heart of hearts, I was saying to myself, ‘She’s going to win this, she’s going to win this,’” Zuccarini said. “She’s so talented and her dishes were very sophisticated, really from a seasoned and professional chef.”

Calling her a fierce competitor, Grinshpan said Andrea made some of the best dishes on the show.

“Her food is just so exquisite and she’s so good at really showcasing flavours and not overcomplicating foods and just making foods that you want to eat and make you feel good.”

One of Andrea’s stand out dishes: the Lamb Tartare with Harissa Labneh and Za’atar Crisps from Episode 3.

For his part, though, judge Chris Nuttall-Smith would have given another chance to Connie DeSousa who was facing some personal challenges during the show that affected her performance.

Connie prepping her Dark Chocolate Soufflé in the premiere episode.

Or, he says, Todd Perrin who didn’t manage to shine to the level he could have.

“He is this experienced, mature, smart, salt-of-the-earth, hugely talented chef who got eliminated quite early on in the competition; I would love to see him come back and show what he could do,” he said.

Todd saying goodbye to his fellow chefs at the end of the second episode.

Though perhaps Nuttall-Smith just wanted a finale where he could try something from every chef, and who could blame him?

“For the most part, they were just extraordinary chefs and you kind of wanted to see them all go through.”

Tell us who would you want to bring back for the finale in the comments below!

Watch the Top Chef Canada: All-Stars finale Sunday, June 4 at 10 E/P.

Your Guide to Grilling Game Meat Like an All-Star

Game on: A spot in the Top Chef Canada: All-Stars finale came down to the competitors knowing their way around wild game and a grill. The grill is easy to master, and eager Canadians cook this way year round. Game meats, on the other hand, are tricky. Unlike beef, pork and poultry, game meats are incredibly lean and, therefore, easy to overcook, which means the difference between a juicy piece of meat and something akin to cardboard are not far apart when it comes to grilling.

Dennis Tay grilling up bison in Episode 9.

Keep a few tricks in mind when throwing these on the grill and you’ll have a winning meal. First, let’s break down the three most common game meats — cooked up on last night’s episode — and some of their best cuts.

Bison, the most common game meat, is easily found in butcher shops and even chain grocery stores these days. In the winter, braised short ribs or slow-cooked roasts are the way to go, but tenderloin and striploin steaks are where it’s at for summer grilling. Of course, the richly flavoured meat also makes a fine burger.

This bison steak looks very similar to a beef steak.

Like beef, bison steaks are great when grilled. Try this recipe for Grilled Bison with a White Currant BBQ Sauce.

Grilled Bison with White Currant BBQ Sauce

Short ribs aren’t just for slow braising in colder weather. Bobby Flay shows how to grill up some sweet and spicy bison short ribs, complete with a matching barbecue sauce. Get Bobby Flay’s recipe for Spice Rubbed Bison Short Ribs with Orange Honey Chipotle BBQ Sauce.

Bobby Flay’s Bison Short Ribs

How about a surf and turf bison burger, topped with crab and a spicy banana pepper jam? Get the You Gotta Eat Here! recipe for the Wild Fennel Bison Burger.

Wild Fennel Bison Burger

Venison — meat that comes from deer — is often thought to be quite, well, gamey. Meat from wild deer does tend to be, but that from farm-raised venison, which is what we see in butcher shops, is less so. The flavour can be beef-like, but is generally richer. Incredibly lean, when it comes to grilling, it’s best to stick to steaks or the tenderloin.

This venison steak is extremely lean and has a rich red colour.

Simplicity showcases the meat at its best with this straightforward recipe for a rack of venison. Get Martin Picard’s recipe for Grilled Rack of Deer with Rosemary.

Grilled Rack of Deer with Rosemary

Summer isn’t the same without at least one round of burgers on the grill. Switch out the standard beef for venison for this recipe from You Gotta Eat Here!

Boar is similar to its relative the pig, in both flavour and texture. The difference is that the meat tends to be darker in colour and is slightly richer. A larger animal than its pig counterpart, expect bigger cuts. Chops are great for grilling.

These look like well-sized pork chops but they’re actually wild boar chops.

Elk, although not one of the ingredients the final four chefs were tasked to cook with, it’s also a great game meat. While similar to venison — cooking tips are the same for both — elk has a cleaner, almost slightly sweet, flavour. Its meat is dark red, almost like beef, and very tender. Roasts and steaks are some of the best cuts.

For an elk loin, Top Chef Canada Season 2 winner Carl Heinrich uses the technique of roasting the meat in the oven before transferring to the grill. Get Carl Heinrich’s recipe for Roasted Elk Loin.

Carl Heinrich’s Roasted Elk Loin

Because game meats are lean, the main trick for grilling them is not to cook past rare or medium-rare. When cooked past that point, the meat will become dry and chewy — not a Top Chef Canada-worthy result. For venison and bison, that means taking the meat off when it has an internal temperature of 120°F to 125°F; wild boar should be removed from the grill at 145°F.

Starting the meat in the oven with a quick roast, then using the grill to get that signature flavour and markings are a good way to keep the meat from overcooking. As is brining or marinating first, using wet rubs or wrapping game meats in bacon, which will help keep them from drying out.

Looking for more ideas? Learn the rules of the game from our 11 Tips for Grilling Great Game Meat.

7 All-Star Ways with Watermelon

Watermelon’s ability to masquerade as tuna and tomatoes was a surprise to those of us who only associate the juicy fruit as a summer treat for hot days. But the competitors on Top Chef Canada: All-Stars saw the brightly hued ingredient for its versatility in the unusual trompe l’oeil challenge where the goal was to trick the eyes and the tastebuds of judges.

Dustin’s Tuna Poke that’s really compressed watermelon.

Dustin Gallagher transformed compressed watermelon into a version of trendy poke, with the melon’s colour perfectly imitating that of deeply pink cubes of raw tuna, while Nicole Gomes created a “cherry tomato” from the melon, stuffing it with feta and topping with balsamic jelly and mint. Taking a cocktail cue, Jesse Vergen compressed his watermelon with beet juice and negroni.
In each of these dishes, the judges were meant to be fooled into thinking they weren’t eating watermelon.

Nicole’s Cherry Tomato that is actually a watermelon stuffed with feta.

Take a page out of the All-Stars chefs handbook and have watermelon in other ways than just a slice of cool fruit on a hot summer day. From savoury, sweet to boozy, here are a seven delicious dishes to make watermelon the All-Star of the show.


Watermelon and Haloumi
The watermelon soaks up a vibrant vinaigrette made with garlic, shallots, honey and mint. The haloumi is seared off until it’s hot and melty in the middle and is then served with the cool, savoury and sweetly fresh watermelon.

Watermelon Gazpacho
Gazpacho is not only the realm of tomatoes. This chilled summer soup can also be made with watermelon, as Tyler Florence demonstrates. Just like the more traditional version, it gets some spicy kick from chilies and acidic tang from vinegar, but the fresh watermelon adds an interesting twist.

Arugula, Watermelon and Feta Salad
Peppery arugula, salty feta and refreshing mint combine with cooling watermelon for a fantastic summer salad. Ina Garten tops it with a dressing made with lemon and orange juice for a citrusy punch.


Watermelon and Strawberry Icebergs
Spiked or Shirley Temple-style for the kids, these Watermelon and Strawberry Icebergs are a sippable way to beat the summer heat. The fruity drinks are topped with cooling slush and flavoured with a hint of summery mint.


Watermelon Granita
Watermelon is a cooling treat on its own, but when mixed with a bit of sugar and water and then frozen into a granita, it becomes a superior way to chill out. The best part is there’s no need for fancy ingredients or an ice cream machine.

Watermelon Cake
While we usually think of eating watermelon in its natural state – cubed, sliced or pureed – Lynn Crawford has a recipe that takes the fruit and adds it to a baked cake for something completely different. To really bump up that melon flavour, some of the juice is also added to the glaze.

How to Win at Dessert: Use Versatile Pâte à Choux for All-Stars Treats

From profiteroles – or, as we more commonly know them, cream puffs – to savoury, cheesy gougeres, towers of spun-sugar caged croquembouche and chocolate eclairs – all are built on one simple recipe: pâte à choux. This pastry is airy, light and hollow – which makes it ideal for filling with delicious things. Top-Chef-Canada-Episode-6-Nicole-Gomes-Paris-Brest Nicole Gomes’s Paris-Brest with Apple-Rhubarb Compote and Ginger Pastry Cream celebrating Canada’s 150th Birthday. When it doesn’t work out, as chef Nicole Gomes unfortunately had happened to her in the sixth episode of Top Chef Canada: All-Stars, the pastry was dense, heavy and hard to cut. The difference here between the two comes down to technique. Croquembouche Anna Olson’s impressive croquembouche.  Pâte à choux’s name reflects the dough’s cabbage-like appearance when baked. A fundamental part of the world of French pastry, it forms the backbone of many a dessert, including:

    • Profiteroles or Cream Puffs – small puffs of choux pastry, often filled with pastry cream, ice cream or sweetened whipped cream and dipped in a chocolate glaze.
    • Chouquettes – essentially profiteroles, but topped with pearl sugar before baking.
    • Croquembouche – A tower of profiteroles, held together by caramelized sugar and typically encased in a spun-sugar cage.
    • Eclairs – like profiteroles but oblong in shape.
    • Paris-Brest – named for the famed bicycle race, it is shaped like a wheel.
    • Honore Cake – A dessert with a puff pastry base that is topped with pastry or whipped cream and encircled on top with profiteroles.
    • Gougeres – a savoury profiterole, the choux pastry is augmented with cheese and sometimes herbs.

So, how to ensure you’ll have a Top Chef Canada-worthy pastry? Well, understanding the science behind pâte à choux is a good place to start. Whereas cakes and cookies rely on baking soda and baking powder to give them lift – created by a chemical reaction between the leaveners and other ingredients – the puff in a cream puff comes from steam being released. The water in the dough is heated as they bake and starts to expand, but the shell of the pastry has already started to cook, so that steam creates a ballooning effect. The result is a hollow dessert waiting to be filled. Laura-Calders-French-Food-At-Home-Gougeres A savoury treat: Laura Calder’s Gougeres made with gruyere cheese.

The ingredients are simple: butter, water, flour, eggs and a bit of salt. It’s the technique here that matters. Think of pâte à choux as a four-step process: two parts for making the dough and two parts when it’s baking.

The dough starts with one part butter and two of water – or a water-milk combination – that are brought to a simmer and then combined with flour. It’s key to add the flour all in one go and then keep stirring the mixture without stopping for several minutes to cook out that raw flour flavour and start drying the dough a bit. Good news: this is an excellent arm workout.

If you want to keep working your arms, you can transfer the dough to a bowl and add the eggs while continuing to stir, but feel free to move to a stand mixer or pull out your handheld one for the next step. The addition of eggs is where intuition needs to take precedence. Adding too much egg will lead to a runny dough and that means flattened pastries. Instead, add them one at a time while mixing and resist the last one if the dough is glossy and soft, but holds its shape when scooped.

Bake-with-Anna-Olson-profiteroles-eclairs Baking Queen Anna Olson’s eclairs and profiteroles.

A piping bag can be used to make the desired pastry shapes, but dolloping the dough with a spoon to make profiteroles works just as well. If piping, dip the end of your finger in a bit of water and smooth out any tips on the dough that could overbake.

Now the dough is ready for the oven. The key here is to start at a higher temperature and then reduce it. That initial blast of heat will help them puff as the water evaporates; the lower temperature will help them finish baking without overcooking. For best results, the tip of a sharp knife should be used to pierce the bottom of the pastry as soon it’s out of the oven to let any residual steam escape and keep it from getting soggy. These vents are perfect for then piping in pastry cream. The result should be a light and crisp outer shell with a virtually hollow interior. All choux pastries are best when eaten on the same day they’re made – which, really, is the perfect excuse to finish them all off.

Spring-Pastel-Eclairs Try these eclairs with pretty pastel-coloured glazes.

Pâte à Choux
Cooking Time:
45 minutes
Serves: 20 to 25 profiteroles or about 10 eclairs

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 cup butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat, bring the water, milk, butter and salt to a simmer. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add all the flour at once, stirring vigorously until the dough is no longer sticking to the side of the pot.
3. Transfer the dough to a bowl and, using a stand mixer or handheld beaters, mix in the eggs, one at a time, making sure they are fully incorporated before adding the next one.
4. Scoop or pipe the dough into mounds on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet for profiteroles, smoothing over any points with a wet finger. (For eclairs, pipe oblong shapes.)
5. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and bake for another 15 minutes or so. The pastries should be puffed and nicely golden.
6. Using the tip of a sharp knife or a toothpick, poke a hole in the side or the base of the pastry to vent any extra steam.
7. Cool completely before filling with ice cream, sweetened whipped cream, pastry cream or even savoury fillings.

Filling Recipes:
Laura Calder’s Pastry Cream
Savoury Cream Cheese Profiteroles

Want more tips? Watch Anna Olson make her version of pâte à choux along with her recipes for Profiteroles, Croquembouche and Gateau St. Honore.

Make Daniel Boulud’s Top Chef Canada Cod Basquaise at Home

Creating a dish from memory is one thing, but it was a whole different game in the fifth episode of Top Chef Canada: All-Stars when competitors were asked to blindly taste the four favourite dishes of famed chef Daniel Boulud and then attempt to recreate them. Added to the pressure? They would be cooking for the master chef himself.

Daniel Boulud with Mark McEwan in the Monogram Kitchen.

While others tried to parse out the ingredients in a Mussel and Cauliflower Veloutè, Poulet Chausseur and Steak Tartare, Andrea  and Nicole  were presented with Cod Basquaise, a fish dish flavoured with ingredients that region is known for, including tomatoes, Espelette peppers and chorizo.

Nicole and Andrea blind tasting Boulud’s Cod Basquaise in the Episode 5 Quickfire Challenge.

Andrea was praised for her version which had all the key components, while Nicole neglected to add peppers – to Boulud’s surprise. (Ultimately, Boulud and head judge Mark McEwan, awarded Andrea the Quickfire Challenge win – and earned the coveted advantage going into the elimination round.)

Andrea’s interpretation of Boulud’s Cod Basquaise 

The Basque Country region overlaps the border between France and Spain, at the western edge of the Pyranees mountain range and along the Atlantic coast. Unsurprisingly, seafood is a chief ingredient in the Basque people’s celebrated cuisine, which shares some commonalities with Spain, including the use of olive oil and tomatoes. Peppers are also frequently seen in dishes. But, while we in North America will likely reach for red peppers, those in Basque use the Espelette, a variety grown in the Basque area.

Espelette peppers

This trio – tomatoes, peppers and olive oil – are key ingredients in Boulud’s celebrated Cod Basquaise, which takes the fish and cooks it with the vegetables, oil and onions, along with some garlic, naturellement.

While chicken is often on the ingredient list for Basque-style recipes, Boulud uses it and cod in seemingly equal measure. In his Café Boulud Cookbook it’s all about the fish (along with chorizo and clams), while on his website, he has posted his recipe for Poulet Basquaise with Artichokes, Peppers and Chorizo.

Fish is such a treat to make a meal from because it cooks quickly and, when done right, is flaky and light. Boulud’s Cod Basquaise takes about half the time to prepare and cook compared to the chicken version – even quicker if you consider the famed chef recommends seasoning the chicken the night before cooking the recipe.

Daniel’s Cod Basquaise from Top Chef Canada: All-Stars Episode 5

A fish like cod, known for its mild flavour and versatility, does well when paired with most flavours, including the bold ones associated with Basque cooking. However, fish can seem intimidating to many of us because for lack of experience cooking it, fear of committing the cardinal sin of overcooking.

Cooking fish at a lower temperature – whether roasting or pan-frying – makes it easier to catch it when it’s cooked to perfection and before it’s gone too far. For Boulud’s recipe, the temperature of the pan is turned down to low once the cod has been added to the pan, for example.

While Andrea fairly accurately recreated Boulud’s memory only from taste, those of us wanting to attempt Cod Basquaise at home have a little help – Daniel Boulud  shared his recipe with us! This recipe has been modified slightly for the home cook.

Daniel Boulud’s Cod Basquaise

Total Cooking Time: 15-20 minutes
Servings: 4

Extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, split and sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 bell peppers, red and green, cut into thin strips
1 tsp piment d’Espelette
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 cup white wine
4 plum tomatoes, peeled, split, seeds removed, cut into thin strips
4 5-oz filets of cod
2 Tbsp chopped parsley

1. In a shallow braising pan set over medium heat, warm 2 Tbsp of olive oil and add the onion, garlic and bell pepper.
2. Season with salt, piment d’Espelette and smoked paprika. Cook for 5 minutes, until the onion and peppers have softened, then add the white wine, tomato and cod.
3. Cover, reduce the heat to low and continue cooking 8 to 10 minutes, until the fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.
4. Top with the chopped parsley and serve with crusty baguette.

You can also try these delicious cod recipes:
Ling Cod with Clams

Granadian Cod and Orange Salad with Black Olives

Pan Braised Cod with Puttanesca Sauce

Iron Chefs Reveal Their Secrets to Winning in Kitchen Stadium

When seven chefs enter Kitchen Stadium to earn the chance to cook against three Iron Chefs in the new series, Iron Chef Gauntlet, they will need focus, good time management and solid flavours in their dishes.  So say the chefs the competitors will have to topple in order to earn the Iron Chef title.

A new generation of Iron Chef hopefuls enters Kitchen Stadium in the new series. Find out who they are here.

Iron Chef Gauntlet – airing Sundays at 9 E/P – features seven superstar chefs competing first against each other in Kitchen Stadium, until one is left to face off in separate battles against Bobby Flay, Masaharu Morimoto and Michael Symon for a chance to earn the right to be called an Iron Chef.

Iron Chefs Flay, Morimoto and Symon getting ready to battle in the Gauntlet.

The competition will be fierce; the trio of Iron Chefs have a combined 103 wins in Kitchen Stadium. Through all those battles on both Iron Chef America and, for Morimoto, on the original Japanese show, the three have learned a thing or two about how to come out on top.

Michael Symon competing in an octopus battle in Iron Chef America Season 10. 

“The last five minutes goes really quick,” says Michael Symon, who holds the highest rate of wins compared to his fellow Iron Chefs, with 34 first-place finishes out of 42. “Don’t underestimate how quickly it goes, and start getting your food on the plate as quickly as you can.”

Symon understands what it’s like to be on the other side of Kitchen Stadium; on his first appearance on the show, back in 2005, he lost to Morimoto who created a series of stunning dishes featuring asparagus, including his signature ‘stained glass’ sushi.

He advises competitors to rely on their cooking strengths.

“Cook the food that got you here,” he adds. “Not the food that you think someone else wants you to cook.”

One of Flay’s losses was to challenger Chuck Hughes in a battle using lobster.

Flay, who was been triumphant 43 times out of 60, echoes Symon’s advice about not venturing too far out of the culinary box.

“Do something that is simple,” is his advice. “Something really well-executed is important, [because] these judges know what they’re tasting. So, taste, taste, taste.”

Morimoto may have the longest history with the Iron Chef show, but he keeps his advice succinct. “Focus,” says the chef who has won 26 times in his 44 appearances. “Don’t have too much focus and forget about normal potential.”

In Iron Chef America season 10, Morimoto battles with the secret ingredient paiche fish.

No matter how well they manage their time is or how focused a chef is on presentation and creativity, ultimately it all comes down to the flavours of the dishes.

“Make sure you have a contrast of textures and then some surprises as they’re eating it,” says Flay.

Symon points out that because it’s a competition, the judges are faced with eating a number of dishes and competitors will be smart to keep that in mind.

“Keep your flavours very simple and clean, but remember that the judges are only going to take probably one or two bites of your dish, so … you can’t cook subtly,” says Symon. “I think you have to have nice, poppy flavours that are going to excite the judges with one bite.”

Host Alton Brown takes you behind-the-scenes of Iron Chef Gauntlet:


How to Make a Top Chef Canada-Worthy Meat Pie

In a challenge that came down to pie vs. pie in Top Chef Canada All-Stars Episode 4, the winners were most definitely the judges, who were treated to some seriously stunning dishes. Both Nicole Gomes and Connie DeSousa whipped up meat pie creations for the elimination round that challenged chefs to get inspired by cities across the country; their efforts put them both into the top three for the night.

Nicole’s Montreal-inspired meat pie with bacon, duck, veal, trumpet mushrooms and albufera sauce.

“Holy smokes, this is the best meat pie I’ve ever had in my life,” guest judge Chef Lynn Crawford said after tucking into Gomes’ indulgent, Montreal-inspired, triple-meat pie.

Connie DeSousa’s rustic hunter’s pie, inspired by St John’s, Newfoundland, had a whimsical presentation and judges couldn’t stop raving about the bone marrow chimney. Months later, resident judge Chris Nuttall-Smith can still recall the details and the flavours of it.

“That, to me, was an example of a chef at the top of her game, making beautiful food that people can’t help themselves from eating almost compulsively,” he said. “I could have just eaten the whole thing.”

Connie’s St. John’s-inspired hunter’s meat pie with bone marrow and roasted root vegetables.

Both chefs found the formula for a compliment-earning, crave-worthy pie: a good, flaky crust; tender, well-seasoned meat; and a rich sauce.

Making a Top Chef Canada: All-Stars-worthy pie can be done by keeping a few simple tips and tricks in mind. First, though, let’s talk about the main types of meat pies.  A standard meat pie typically features flaky pastry above and below, encasing tender pieces of meat, a gravy-like sauce and some vegetables for colour and flavour.

Try this recipe for a classic tourtière.

The Québec classic tourtière has a pastry crust, but is made from ground meat, warmingly flavoured with allspice, cloves or cinnamon and without much sauce to speak of.

Ina-garten-Chicken-Pot-PieIna Garten’s chicken pot pie has moist chicken in a rich sauce and is topped with a tender, flaky crust.

Pot pies, typically reserved for chicken, only get pastry (puff or otherwise) lids, while shepherd’s pie foregoes pastry altogether in favour of fluffy mashed potatoes dolloped atop and then baked until the edges are crisply golden. (Technically, most people serving this dish are making cottage pie, which is made from beef, instead of shepherd’s pie that is traditionally made with lamb or mutton.)

It’s no secret that the key to a flaky dough is having a light touch; overworking the pastry will only lead to a tough crust.

A simple trick is to freeze the butter and grate it, right into the flour mixture, on the large holes of a box grater for evenly-sized pieces. You can also blitz the two together using a food processor — just make sure not to over process! The mixture should resemble coarse crumbs.

Watch this video to see how to blend the flour, butter and water in a food process to make the pastry.

Add the minimum amount of liquid and tumble it all onto the counter to press together the loose chunks to form the dough. Work quickly to keep everything cold and give the pastry a chance to chill out in the fridge before rolling out and using. Try Ina Garten’s recipe for the perfect pie crust.

Anna Olson makes her meat pies with a savoury pastry that uses cake and pastry flour, and room temperature butter to form a crust that’s sturdy enough to stand up to the filling, but still tender. For her pastry, she recommends using a mixer as opposed to a food processor. Get Anna Olson’s pie crust recipe here

The filling needs to be rich and, well, meaty. Unlike many fruit pies where the filling is just tumbled into the crust, covered and thrown into the oven, meat pie fillings are usually cooked in a separate pot or pan before being encased in pastry and baked. This is a great way to build flavour and ensure the meat is cooked before going into the pie.

Good fillings have some sauciness to them, but they shouldn’t be overly runny; cooking it off first helps get that thick, gravy-like consistency.

Rocket-Bakery-lamb-stout-pie-2A mirepoix of aromatic vegetables add flavour to a sauce made of beef stock and stout in this Lamb and Stout Pie.

For pies with bottom crusts, it’s key to let the filling cool before baking the pie, so a little organization will be necessary. That’s less of an issue for pot pies since a hot filling has no bottom crust to cook too quickly, nor for shepherd’s or cottage pies because there’s no pastry to begin with.

Save the lattice tops for fruit pies; you’ll want a fairly solid pastry lid to keep all that delicious meaty filling inside.

However, you’ll want to give the steam a chance to escape, so make cuts into the top crust or throw in a pie bird or chimney. You can certainly get creative with how you slash.

A close up of Connie’s pastry decorations on her meat pie.

Connie decorated her chubby little pies with small pastry leaves, which were both pretty and evocative of the woods where hunters would gather game. Pretty pastry decorations are also a great way to use up any last scraps of dough.

Even if pastry isn’t the starch of choice, using the tines of the fork to create patterns in the mashed potato topping of a shepherd’s pie can be beautiful. The peaks of those striations will get deeply golden brown and stand out nicely when served.

Here are some more recipes to get you started on your efforts to make a Top Chef Canada-worthy pie:
Puff-Topped Spiced Pork and Apple Pot Pie
Alton Brown’s Shepherd’s Pie
Chuck Hughes’s Tourtiere
Mini Chicken and Broccoli Pot Pies
Mexican Beef Pie with Cheddar Crust
Tomato Slab Pie

How Iron Chefs Flay, Morimoto and Symon Dominate Kitchen Stadium

In the fight for culinary supremacy, there is no greater arena than Iron Chef’s Kitchen Stadium. Here, chefs have sweated and swore as they sliced and diced their way to victory (or defeat!) by conjuring up a series of dishes all using a mystery ingredient. Each dish is presented to a panel of exacting judges and the chef with the highest total score in taste, presentation and creativity wins.

Iron Chefs L-R: Masaharu Morimoto, Bobby Flay, and Michael Symon

In its next iteration, Iron Chef Gauntlet, premiering  Sunday, April 23 at 9 E/P,  the original cooking competition show takes a new turn as seven chef superstars face off first against each other in kitchen stadium. The last one standing then challenges three Iron Chefs – Masaharu Morimoto, Bobby Flay, and Michael Symon.  Should they be successful against the acclaimed trio, the challenger earns the title of Iron Chef.  That will be no small feat.

These three were guest judges on The Next Iron Chef: Redemption’s Final Battle “Heritage.”

Morimoto, Symon and Flay are all accomplished chefs that have earned their way into Kitchen Stadium, building up restaurant empires that dot the United States and beyond.  Their varied backgrounds show there’s no one way to become an Iron Chef.

Masaharu Morimoto as Iron Chef Japanese in the original Iron Chef series.

A chef trained in the art of sushi, Masaharu Morimoto has combined his instruction and heritage with his years of cooking in the U.S. to create his own fusion approach. His first restaurant opened in 1980 in his home city of Hiroshima. After running it for five years, he left Japan for the U.S. where he was ultimately tapped to be the head chef of famed restaurant Nobu.

Morimoto joined the original Japanese version of Iron Chef in 1998, while still leading the Nobu kitchen.  After the series came to an end, Morimoto eventually left Nobu and opened his own restaurant in New York City  – the first of many, including ones in Napa Valley, Mumbai, New Delhi and Tokyo, for which his restaurant earned a coveted Michelin Star in 2008. When Iron Chef America was created and filming was moved to New York, Morimoto returned to kitchen stadium to battle once again. He also served as a guest judge on The Next Iron Chef.

Masaharu Morimoto working with the secret ingredient salmon  in season 10 of Iron Chef America.

He would ultimately take 42 wins out of 68 head-to-head battles in both the original series and Iron Chef America, showcasing his out-of-the-box thinking and fusion approach with his dishes. While he won more than he lost, his battle against Homaro Cantu was an upset when he was bested by the chef known for his technological and molecular gastronomy approach to cooking the humble beet.
But perhaps the most noteworthy battle pitted him against now-colleague Flay in the first of four episodes across different iterations of the show. That first time, Morimoto was horrified at Flay’s behavior after he jumped on the counter at the end of the cooking time. He stated that Flay was “not a chef” because of how he behaved. (Flay lost that battle, but won the next against Morimoto in a rematch in Japan. They’d each win one more round against the other.)

Watch Worst Mishaps on Iron Chef America, including one from Bobby Flay.


Flay is known for his brashness – after all, one of his most popular shows, Beat Bobby Flay, has him challenging chefs in culinary competitions. However, with several Food Network shows under his belt, not to mention numerous restaurants across the U.S. and in the Bahamas, Flay has earned the Iron Chef title.

Bobby Flay came into prominence as the Executive Chef at Mesa Grill and not long after opening the spot, he  became a partner in the southwestern-focused restaurant. Other Mesa Grills, along with Bolo Bar and Restaurant, would follow, including one in Las Vegas which earned a Michelin Star in 2008.

Bobby Flay and Michael Symon team up in a Thanksgiving themed episode of Iron Chef America.

While he continued to build his restaurant empire, Flay joined Iron Chef America in its first season in 2005, racking up 43 wins out of 61 battles. Among them, a battle that saw his competition, Hiroyuki Sakai (who had the most wins under his belt in Japan) make ice cream from trout – and serve it with a trout skin crisp. (Being a judge on Iron Chef America would never be dull.)

ron Chefs Symon and Flay team up against Alex Guarnaschelli and Geoffrey Zakarian in Iron Chef America’s Thanksgiving battle.

Compared to those two chefs, Michael Symon is a relative neophyte, only joining Iron Chef America in Season 5.  He opened his first restaurant, Lola, in Cleveland in 1997, followed by Lolita and his B-Spot burger joints in the same city.  Roast, in Detroit, began dishing up meat-centric meals starting in 2008. His latest restaurant, Mabel’s BBQ opened last year. Symon was named best new chef by Food & Wine Magazine in 1998 and Bon Appetit named his burger joint as one of the country’s ten best. His food has a Mediterranean focus – something he comes by honestly, having grown up in a family of Greeks and Sicilians.

Michael Symon and Masaharu Moritmoto meet again in Kitchen Stadium in an Iron Chef America Holiday Battle.

His first foray into Kitchen Stadium was as a competitor on Iron Chef America, trying to best Morimoto in a battle featuring asparagus. The Japanese chef showcased a stunning dish of “stained glass” sushi, wowing the judges with all his plates and taking the win. Symon may have lost, but clearly did not lose his fire for competition.
Three years later, he competed on The Next Iron Chef, coming out on top and earning a spot on Iron Chef America alongside Morimoto and Flay. Although the newest of the three to join the show, Symon has the highest rating of the trio with an impressive 34 wins out of 42 battles.

Michael Symon (third from left) with the cast of The Next Iron Chef.

Go behind-the-scenes of Iron Chef Gauntlet:
Watch Iron Chef Gauntlet Set Tour
Watch Tools for Iron Chef Gauntlet

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