Aside from the popularity of his lovely restaurants—Goosefeather and others—Dale Talde has one of the most recognized faces on food TV. Even the most casual food media spectator will have caught him on Top Chef, Chopped, Iron Chef America or Knife Fight. But for all his celebrity cheffiness, Talde is also just a pleasant hang. I caught up with him recently, right before his show for Tastemade, All Up in My Grill, started debuting its second season. With summer coming, we got down to the nitty gritty on grilling.
Q: Okay, so what are you looking for when you’re choosing a grill?
A: I mean, I like the flexibility of having gas, wood and charcoal, honestly. The crappy thing is that you probably need to get two grills. So typically, I get a small gas grill and then I also get a larger wood-burning/charcoal grill.
I have a Kudu at home. That’s for my wood and my charcoal. And then a gas grill—that’s for my everyday cooking. It’s like, “hey, it’s hot out, and I have to get food on the table.” The gas is quick. And then the wood grill is for when I’m feeling really motivated and inspired. I almost only cook on hardwood and charcoal when I’m cooking for a crowd.
Yup, me too. Here’s a thing that people really debate: How do you clean your grill?
Whether it’s gas or whatever, get it as hot as you possibly can. Then take a piece of foil, crumple it, and then use your tongs to scrub the crap out of the grates. And then come back with a piece of a wet paper towel or cloth and wipe that down, and then do the same with oil.
Yeah, those brass brushes sort of mash down, but also, if the brass filaments break off and get in your food, it’s really dangerous.
Like, if you’re gonna buy a grill brush, it’s probably gonna be crappy. You’re never gonna wash it, right? And then, it’s gonna be gross. People will be like, “Oh, you’re cleaning that new grill with that?” Yeah, no. You scrub it and recycle the foil.
Do you have any non-negotiable tools?
A pair of tongs. Not the “Joe Barbecue” tongs [He’s referring to the awkward, outsized trios of He-Man grilling tools often sold at hardware stores].
I saw you mocking those on your show!
My thing when you’re grilling is that you’re just basically cooking outside: It’s not a separate thing. It’s just an extension of your kitchen. So, what tools do you use inside? A spatula, you know, one of those bigger pancake spatulas—the offset ones with holes. Use all the stuff you’d use inside.
I did notice that you use a silicone brush rather than a regular fiber brush.
Yeah, because those fiber brushes are super gross! Anyway, you should use anything that you would use inside. I mean, honestly, for me, the idea of having completely separate tools for outside—it’s like, crazy! You know what I use on my outdoor grill? I use a cast iron pan. Yeah, a lot. Because I’m just cooking over charcoal, right? The grill is just a source of heat.
Yeah, that’s what I like about your show. You don’t get ridiculously fussy. You’re basically just cooking outside on this propane grill, and you’re using a griddle and a frying pan and stuff from your kitchen.
Cooking on a grill is just an extension of your indoor kitchen. But also, I’d rather be cooking outside. The weather’s nice. And there’s a nice breeze, and I have a frosty beverage in my hand. I’m kicking a ball around with my dog, enjoying my garden and cooking outside.
So, what do you think grilling adds to food that other cooking methods don’t?
It’s the only cooking method that imparts flavor.
Well, if you’re using wood or charcoal…
No, even on gas. Grilling is the only cooking method that imparts flavor, even if using gas. The food has direct contact with that grate, and it’s over an open flame, whether it’s a wood or propane flame. The flame is leaving these char marks that you wouldn’t get otherwise. It’s the only method of cooking that adds flavor. So, you have a piece of chicken, right? And the fat renders off that chicken, and it hits the fire and flares up. That carbon that’s now on the chicken is what’s imparting flavor. Say it’s a piece of cauliflower, but, like, the marinade drips down, and the fire flares back up. That’s imparting flavor, right? So that’s grilling.
Yeah, it’s interesting. I was questioning that because most methods cause a Maillard reaction. But if you’re talking about carbonization and the actual burning up of marinades—yeah, absolutely. So, what are the common grilling mistakes that you see?
First of all, and I come from a family of immigrants, but this whole putting foil down before you grill? Like, that’s the craziest shit I’ve ever seen! My in-laws do it, and I’m like, “Yo, you don’t need to do that!“
What did a cookout look like when you were a kid?
It was hardcore Filipino. It was like burgers and hotdogs for the kids that no one really put any love or care into. Chicken inihaw, which is like soy and sugar and, like, coconut-vinegar-marinated chicken. It was chicken barbecue. There was pork barbecue that was marinated in, I think, banana ketchup, Sprite, ginger and, I mean, garlic for days.
Did you say Sprite?
Well, when you think about it, it’s actually a sick marinade because that effervescence, people think it helps break down the protein and makes meat tender. But, also, it’s a sugar, right? It’s adding, whether it’s artificial or not, a little citrus flavor. But even if it’s high fructose corn syrup, it gives a syrupy quality to the barbecue. It helps lacquer things.
I get it.
I mean, there was a lot of pork, right? You know, you made rice inside and you dropped the rice cooker outside so people are scooping rice. And then shrimp, a lot of seafood—a lot of barbecued seafood—and milkfish grilled over the charcoal.
Was that marinated? Or did it have a sauce?
So my mom would wrap it in banana leaves and then she would stuff it with a sofrito of onions, garlic, tomatoes and ginger. Scallions. Delicious.
Man, that sounds good.
It was so good. If we were lucky enough, someone would make bananacue, which is like super ripe plantains, dusted in sugar and roasted on a stick over the fire.
Yeah, it’s exactly what you think it is. It is overly ripe, sweet plantains—it’s like maduro, you know, the Cuban thing? Except roasted over an open flame. It’s like, you get that shit as street food, and it’s so bomb as fuck. My mouth is watering thinking about it; it’s a distinct taste of the Philippines for me.
It sounds like bananas Foster, you know—like that creamy, sweet banana.
Right, right? Yeah, 100 percent, except it’s portable.
It’s on a stick!
You walk up and say, “let me get one,” and they give you this plantain—and you know, in the Philippines, there are like thousands of varieties of bananas, and those thousand varieties of bananas include different varieties of plantains. So, you’ll get one that has real floral notes to it.
We’ve been robbed. We only have that one banana, the Cavendish, in this country. I remember going to Europe and being like, “Wow, there are so many different bananas because they’re coming from Africa.”
What do you traditionally drink at a cookout?
Oh, my God. I mean, like—anything with tequila. I’m a clear liquor person in summer, so blanco tequila with a squeeze of lemon in it. I mean, if someone’s making margaritas, I’m down. But I do love just, like, not fancy tequila with a couple of limes squeezed into it, over a bunch of ice. It’s my jam.
Well, it’s so perfect because a lot of the food at a cookout is sort of sweet and kind of heavy. Meaty. So, you need something sharp and tart.
When you’re out there, listen, you’re pounding carbs—whether it’s a sandwich or a bun or whatever. And, like, lighten it up, man. You don’t need more carbohydrates, you know what I mean? Listen, I love a good light beer. Whenever I think of grilling, it’s quality…but also, it’s a marathon. Anyone that’s like, “Oh, I love this rich IPA,” can fuck off. I don’t need to drink a basket of bread if I’m fucking grilling outside. I plan on having 15 beers, and if I have three of these [high ABV beers], I’m wasted. No. We’re gonna be here all night. I want something that’s light and easy, that’s almost water.
Yeah, I totally 1,000 percent agree with you on that—like a pilsner is perfect. But there’s this whole faction of beer nerds who are like, “Oh my God, if it’s not opaque, I won’t drink it.”
It’s madness, man. Like, great, dude: It’s 95 degrees, and we’re in a backyard in Brooklyn getting eaten up by mosquitoes, but we’re out here anyways and loving it. It’s hour five, and you’re already half in the bag, but I’m still cool and ready to party.
The wine analog would be sitting in the sun on a 100-degree day and drinking port. Ew.
When it’s like that, I’m drinking a Grüner Veltliner that’s low in alcohol, and high in acid. Or Vinho Verde from Portugal—I can drink four bottles of it and still be like, standing straight. You know, and it’s a great food wine!
Feature photo courtesy of Tastemade.