When buying or building a home, chefs pay a lot of attention to the kitchen. In the Las Vegas Valley, many chefs spend as much time cooking outdoors as they do in the house. So as we head into the fall backyard barbecue season, we asked a few of Las Vegas’ top chefs to show us their backyard cooking setups. They also shared some al fresco culinary tips for home cooks.
Executive chef, Block 16 Urban Food Hall
Backyard setup: Wood-burning pizza oven, robata grill, pellet grill and “an old-school Weber”
You do get flashpoints (with outdoor cooking) that you don’t get in traditional ovens. So you have to be careful about that.
“When we built our backyard we were able to extend part of it and give us a seating area. That was what my wife asked. She wanted a seating area, and I wanted a kitchen. And I knew I wanted something wood-fired. So my dad and I went to L.A. and found this place Wildwood Ovens. And this was the largest oven he produces. It came in two crates to the house and then we lugged it all the way back here and … put the thing together, fired it, cured it and then had my tile guy come back and match the tile.”
Advice for home cooks: “You do get flashpoints (with outdoor cooking) that you don’t get in traditional ovens. So you have to be careful about that. When you’re adding charcoal or adding wood, how is your temperature changing? What is it doing to your food? And if you do happen to go with wood-fired, cover things. It never hurts to cover things up once in a while and let them continue to (cook), and then finish them and crisp them up.”
Master development chef, Perry’s Steakhouse & Grill
Backyard setup: Wood-burning pizza oven, smoker, gas-fueled paella pan, fire pit with cauldron, two propane burners.
The No. 1 fear or concern, when cooking fish on a grill, is stickage. So obviously you want to have a grill that’s hot.
“I always wanted a pizza oven, so that’s the center of attention. That’s always been a dream of mine because I love to burn wood. … And the cauldron, I found it online, it was cheap. But then I had to season it. So I had to start fires to start to get this black coating on the inside of it. And I used animal fat to do that. So I made my own bacon in there, all kinds of stuff. And once I got it seasoned, I can leave it outdoors.”
Advice for home cooks: “The No. 1 fear or concern, when cooking fish on a grill, is stickage. So obviously you want to have a grill that’s hot. You want to brush (the grill) just before you put anything on it. Rub a little bit of oil on it with a rag — don’t go using that spray because that’s extremely dangerous. But coat your fish with flavored mayonnaise. Take mayonnaise and season it with sriracha or cumin or coriander, fennel, whatever you want to put on there. Brush that on. Put it down on a grill that’s hot, you just lay it down there and leave it there. And then it forms those carbon lines, and you just roll it over.”
Chef/owner, Fleur by Hubert Keller, Burger Bar
Backyard setup: Custom-built wood-burning oven, gas barbecue grill, “off-the-shelf” smoker
When we bought the house about 10 years ago, the first two years I never used the barbecue.
“When we bought the house about 10 years ago, the first two years I never used the barbecue. Because I had never had the chance to use a barbecue before in my life. So it’s kind of funny, as a chef, saying that. But it’s true. And I got into it, got involved in it. And now, when I want to sit with my wife, 85 or 90 percent of the time that’s what I use to cook anything.”
Advice for home cooks: “First, heat up your barbecue. And then just clean it. It doesn’t (require) much maintenance. But when it’s really getting hot, I just brush it down. That’s the first thing. And then, things like a chicken breast or a steak, when you marinade them or you have them in oil, try to take some off the oil off. Because that’s the first thing that’s going to drip into your barbecue and set the whole thing on fire. And then, of course, it’s going to burn. So wipe it off. Just have a thin layer of oil on it. And then barbecue really hot and sear it.”
Chef/restaurateur, Hexx, Alexxa’s, Beer Park, Big Chicken, Chayo Mexican Kitchen
Backyard setup: Gas grill with rotisserie, counter-top wood-fired pizza oven, smoker, sink, refrigerator. Island with storage for knives, utensils, etc. Garden with three beds for herbs, lettuce and vegetables, assorted fruit trees and grape vines.
I have a salad spinner out here, so I can do the lettuce. You can do everything out here and never have to go inside.
“I’ve seen plenty that are much more fancy than this in town. But this I designed it to flow and to work and to actually cook and to have fun. I can pick the herbs and the vegetables here, wash them. I have a salad spinner out here, so I can do the lettuce. You can do everything out here and never have to go inside.”
Advice for home cooks: “The best piece of equipment (is) that countertop pizza oven. You can use it for everything. Pizza is probably 10 percent of what I put in there. My paella pan fits in there. I do all the roasted vegetables, roasted meats, every single thing.”