Behind the Scenes with Wellesley’s Director of Culinary Operations: July 4 Edition

Fireworks over lake waban
July 4, 2019

Happy Fourth of July! Whether you are a seasoned grillmaster or you’re entertaining for the first time, Wellesley’s own director of culinary operations, Keith Tyger, has you covered this Independence Day (and all summer long). 


Q: When you want to create something simple, quick, and delicious for a Fourth of July cookout, what do you make?

Keith Tyger: Sweet corn! There are no special concoctions, seasonings, or methods. All you have to do is simply soak the un-shucked ears in salt water, then grill. Allow it to cool a little, and then shuck before eating. Most of the time (with good in-season corn) you do not even need butter or additional salt. It is also far easier to shuck and have only a few of the strings to pick off.

Q: What’s an easy food to grill that everyone assumes is difficult?

Tyger: I think seafood is one. The cedar planks work for all meats, and especially seafood, since they assist in keeping the meat moist and prevent it from drying out due to high heat.

Another item would be large cuts of meat, I think. So many people use their grills at too high a flame or over too much charcoal. Too much heat dries out items like whole chickens, turkeys, and beef rib-eye roasts. My pro tip is to utilize high heat to get an initial sear on the item, and then lower the temperature to allow the item to roast to desired doneness.

Q: Is there a cut of meat or dish currently outside of the pantheon of common Fourth of July/summer cookout staples that you think should be in it?

Tyger: Pizza! Everyone loves pizza. Purchase or make your favorite pizza the day before or with enough time to allow it to be chilled. Reheat the pizza directly on the grates on medium-low heat with the lid closed on the grill. It adds a little smokiness, crisps the bottom of the crust, and only takes five to 10 minutes. And it’s a great appetizer or snack for later in the day after the main meal.

Q: What are some of your favorite cookbooks for cookout recipes?

Tyger: Weber's Ultimate Grilling: A Step-by-Step Guide to Barbecue Genius by Jamie Purviance is a great book that is part of the Weber grills series of books. I would also highly recommend Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling by Meathead Goldwyn and Greg Blonder.

Q: What is your go-to dish to bring to a cookout?

Tyger: Cedar plank salmon, which works equally well on gas or charcoal grills. The salmon is always moist and flavorful with a light smoked flavor. You can use any seasoning with this method, from a simple lemon salt to a Peruvian marinade.

Q: What are your cookout tips for anyone heading the grill today?

Tyger: Purchase a good digital thermometer to take the internal temperature of the foods you are cooking. I use mine every time I grill.

To easily add additional flavor, use some wood chips. You can purchase wood chips for grilling at most grocery and home improvement stores. You can choose from sweet woods like apple and pecan to more bold flavors like hickory and mesquite. 

Simply soak the chips for 30 minutes in water and use a doubled-over piece of foil or a small foil pan to hold the drained chips. Remove a cooking grate from the grill and then preheat it. Once it is heated, set the pan of chips on top of the burner covers or charcoal pushed to one side of the grill. Replace the cooking grate and close the lid. Once you see signs of the chips smoking, place the meat on the grate to smoke and lower the heat of the gas grill. The chips usually smoke for about 20 minutes. After the meat is done cooking, spread out the charcoal/ turn up the heat and finish the meat to the proper internal temperature.