Grilling: Tips for beginners and professionals from grill world champion Oliver Sievers

[00:00:02] Oliver Sievers Most people who grill too hot are not good enough. And then you always have these burnt spots, which people always find to be very crispy. [00:00:13] Lenne Kaffka We all have ideas for a better life. But how do we implement them in everyday life? In this podcast we meet people every week who tell us how it can work. Welcome to live smarter. I am Lenne Kaffka and this time I skype with Oliver Sievers. [00:01:13] Oliver Sievers Hello everyone, my name is Oliver Sievers, I like to grill for my life. And that made sure that I actually became barbecue world champion. [00:01:20] Lenne Kaffka Is a summer without a barbecue really a summer? Many people in Germany would say no. And almost everything ends up on the grill: sausages and steaks, logically, but increasingly also tofu, grilled cheese and vegetables or fruit and fish. Because reaching for cheap meat is neither up-to-date nor does it really taste good. And Oliver would never have won the world championship title with a few sausages from the discounter. [00:01:46] Oliver, how did it actually start with you that you took the grilling a bit more seriously and didn't just throw sausages, steaks onto the grill? [00:01:54] Oliver Sievers It just happened that my brother gave me an ancient kettle grill that someone else sorted out. And then I just bought a new grate because the old one had already evaporated. Then I started my first attempts there. Of course, everything was burned a bit at the beginning because I had no idea how to work with a grill with a lid. But once you understand what cool things you can do with it, it was great fun. And yes, from then on it went uphill. [00:02:19] Lenne Kaffka You are not a trained cook – did you then teach yourself everything? [00:02:22] Oliver Sievers Yes, that's right. I'm a carpenter and not a cook or anything towards that. I did it all as a hobby, just because I had a passion for cooking and then afterwards for barbecuing – it just worked really well. Lenne Kaffka Do you have to be able to cook well if you want to grill well? [00:02:35] Oliver Sievers Good cooking ensures that you can implement new ideas on the grill and not what you only see with others. I tried to put the things that I learned from cooking or the things that I am particularly good at when cooking on the grill. [00:02:46] Lenne Kaffka How long did it take you to get really good at the grill? [00:02:50] Oliver Sievers It was actually relatively quick, because I got my kettle grill in 2012 and in 2014 we became German amateur champion from a standing start out. It was really cool. It was actually relatively quick. [00:03:00] Lenne Kaffka But then you started with a bit of talent? Or do you think everyone can get so good so quickly? [00:03:05] Oliver Sievers talent may be an advantage, yes. [00:03:08] Lenne Kaffka You mentioned it earlier – you became grill world champion three years ago. What do you have to do for it? Which dish did you use to secure the title? [00:03:14] Oliver Sievers At the World Cup you have to grill nine different courses in two days. These are things like chicken with a side dish, fish with a side dish, but also original American barbecues like ribs, pulp pork or brisekt. And the two most important things, I think, to get there are the brisket and the ribs. If you can get them, then you're pretty far ahead. Of course, you shouldn't practically mess up anything. Anything that you don't do well means that you have to be particularly good at other things. In the best case, a constant good performance over two days on different dishes. [00:03:47] Lenne Kaffka world championship titles are actually more familiar from sports. Do you also train? [00:03:51] Oliver Sievers Yes, of course we always trained for a while at the beginning. In the meantime, we don't do that anymore because we are such a barbecue business that we hardly have any time left to meet up – five people, a team, is really difficult. Now we only meet for the championships, do what we want to do. And then it usually works. [00:04:07] Lenne Kaffka Exactly, you won the team title, right? [00:04:09] Oliver Sievers Yes, that's always a team championship. [00:04:10] Lenne Kaffka Do you really want to have a barbecue with friends in the evenings, now that you're a real grill professional? Or is it just your job? [00:04:18] Oliver Sievers Grilling is still my passion, even if I do it now. But still it is still a lot of fun to grill, to sit with friends, with the family. That's the best thing about it anyway. [00:04:29] Lenne Kaffka Most people are not grill professionals like you. Can I do more complex things if I just go to the park with my little kettle grill or my even smaller grill without a lid? Or are you really always just sausages and Halloumi cheese? [00:04:43] Oliver Sievers So if you don't have a lid, it's always a bit difficult, of course. Then you can only grill directly. And if the area is still small, you can't pull it to the side and let it pull a bit. Sausage, chops, small steaks, of course that's all possible, a little chicken breast. But such beautiful, really elaborate things like a whole chicken or something like that – unfortunately that doesn't work. [00:05:03] Lenne Kaffka You don't necessarily have to become a grill professional, but maybe it is enough to avoid a few beginner mistakes. If I go jogging here in Hamburg's Stadtpark, for example, I always run through deep smoke. What are people doing wrong? [00:05:16] Oliver Sievers Either they can’t manage to light the grill properly. Most often the lighter that smokes. These liquid lighters usually smoke very strongly. If you normally have a reasonable kindling chimney, i.e. a tube with holes with a handle on it – you can put the coal in there – underneath a reasonable kindling, then the coal usually burns through very smoke-free. And the second mistake: people make the oil take marinated things. Mostly it is traffic light meat from the supermarket, ready marinated in yellow, green and red. The fat drips directly into the embers, and the fat burns in the embers and whirls up ashes, and then of course it also smokes. [00:05:51] Lenne Kaffka And is such a kindling chimney something for on the go? [00:05:52] Oliver Sievers Yes, there are also foldable kindling chimneys that you can take with you in a small bag. Works very well. [00:05:58] Lenne Kaffka On the way you usually grill with small charcoal grills. And there is often waving, blowing, and some of them get their bellows out. What really helps best apart from a kindling fireplace? [00:06:09] Oliver Sievers Yes, you have to make sure that the coal gets enough air. This doesn't usually work with the cheap grills, because the bowl underneath, where the coal is in, is closed and has no holes. What helps well is a small, additional grate that you put in before and the coal on it. This is how you ensure that you automatically have a little more air. [00:06:26] Lenne Kaffka You have just mentioned the kindling aid – what would you recommend and what would you advise against? [00:06:32] Oliver Sievers I like to use wood wool for lighting, bundles are so small. They are tied with wax, and they work wonderfully – they are very light, burn for a relatively long time and also ensure that the coal can glow well. [00:06:44] Lenne Kaffka And probably never use liquid lighters, right? [00:06:47] Oliver Sievers' liquid grill lighter usually doesn't, no. [00:06:50] Lenne Kaffka When the coal finally glows, I know it most of the time, then everyone opens their packs and throws the sausages on the grill or the tofu sausages. When is the right time to put the food on the grill? [00:07:00] Oliver Sievers If you grill directly, the coal should already have burned through, of course. If you grill indirectly now, if you have a grill with a lid, and you only put the meat in the indirect area, then a temperature of about 100 degrees or so is enough. Because then the coal is steamed out, so it doesn't give off any more odorous substances, and then you can also grill indirectly. For many things in American barbecues or things, a low temperature is very pleasant for me beforehand. So I want the meat to go through at a very low temperature to the core temperature. And at the end it is grilled on both sides. [00:07:34] Lenne Kaffka You are already throwing yourself around with a little more professional terms. Direct grilling, indirect grilling – can you briefly explain the difference again for people who are really beginners? [00:07:42] Oliver Sievers So direct grilling means that I have my meat or my grill drawer, which can also be vegetables or fruit directly above the heat wave. This can be a gas burner or the coal or, of course, an electric loop for an electric grill. And with indirect grilling, put the things away from the heat, almost not directly over the embers or over the burner and ensure that it gets an indirect heat, which of course takes a bit longer, but is mostly very good for the cooking result. [00:08:09] Lenne Kaffka Now I often know that if you grill in a larger group, there are vegetarians, vegans and meat eaters. It is often like this: the steaks and sausages are packed in the middle, and then the vegetarian, vegan food comes along. Does that make sense at all? Or should you rather use two grills? [00:08:25] Oliver Sievers Yes, many vegetarians don't like their vegetables from a grill with meat on them. That's why I have a second grill with me when I'm on the go and also grill for vegetarians. It's that simple. [00:08:37] Lenne Kaffka Does it make any sense to always put the meat in the middle? Probably some meat has to be on the edge, right? That would be a reason for two barbecues. [00:08:43] Oliver Sievers Of course, depending on what kind of meat I have or what I want to have, I need intense heat and indirect heat, which is relatively low, to get a reasonable cooking result. Because a lot of things that I only grill over strong, direct heat get relatively dry inside. The point is hard to hit because the heat is very intense. It is difficult then. Most people who grill too hot can't do it well enough. Then you always have these burned spots, which people always find "very crispy". But mostly there is not much left of a juicy meat. [00:09:13] Lenne Kaffka You just said something about a hundred degrees. With my oven it is really easy for me to find out what the oven is now called. How do I get that out on my grill, when there are 100 degrees, if I don't have a built-in thermometer now? [00:09:23] Oliver Sievers Yes, then you have to look a bit, that's a lot of experience. But just above the embers, directly above the heat, I usually have 300 – 400 degrees Celsius. If I put things next to it, I have much less heat right away. That works very well if I now only have a grill, without a blanket. If I have a grill with a lid, then you should definitely have a thermometer or the air vents down and down very far. Or if I have a gas grill, just make a burner at the lowest level. You can help yourself with such things. Yes, of course people say that the coal is hot enough if you can't hold your hand over it for more than three seconds. [00:09:56] Lenne Kaffka But is a dangerous test … [00:09:57] Oliver Sievers Of course, and everyone feels different. This is not a test that I would prefer. [00:10:03] Lenne Kaffka For me it is now somehow in the park that something always sticks to the rust. Why is that? How can I prevent this? [00:10:11] Of course, Oliver Sievers' prevention becomes a bit difficult for some. Of course, it helps if you clean the grate thoroughly beforehand. The cleaner the grate is, the less it sticks to it. And if you oil the things a little beforehand, very thinly – not so that it drips down, but really only so that the surface is wetted. And that's usually the case with meat: you put it on the grill, then it starts to stick, but it also comes off by itself. This means that if the proteins on the surface are caramelized, it will automatically detach from the rust. And then you can actually take it off very easily. The meat actually tells you when it needs to be turned. [00:10:45] Lenne Kaffka Okay, that means, when in doubt, you are too impatient. [00:10:47] Oliver Sievers This is the case with most people anyway. [00:10:49] Lenne Kaffka Most of the time we are talking about the charcoal grill, which is still the most popular grill in Germany. But more and more people are now using gas or electric grills. What kind of grill do you actually use for your dishes? [00:11:01] Oliver Sievers I prefer to use a charcoal grill because it is the most charming for me. You turn on coal, you wait until everything is ready, you can have a beer in peace – everything's nice. A gas grill also works perfectly, of course, like a stove. You start, ten minutes later you can grill, it is very easy to control, even for beginners. And if you don't have a special affinity to light coal, you can of course use a gas grill perfectly. I have some myself. Electric grills should already have a certain output, otherwise it is simply not fun. [00:11:31] Lenne Kaffka When it comes to electric grills, it is often criticized that the typical grill aroma is missing. Do you see it that way too? [00:11:36] Oliver Sievers No, if you have a grill that has a lot of power – well, I've recently had one that has made it above 300 degrees – I can also get a steak that nobody notices that it's not coal. [00:11:45] Lenne Kaffka Do you get that smoky taste without charcoal? [00:11:48] Oliver Sievers Yes, it works perfectly. What most people recognize as the charcoal taste is the ashes that lie on the food to be grilled when the beer or fat drips in there. [00:11:59] Lenne Kaffka How big does a grill actually have to be? Most of the time it is like this: You eat with four to six people or something. How big should it be? There is really everything from small grills to huge appliances. What would you recommend? [00:12:12] Oliver Sievers The bigger the grill, the better it is. The more I can control, the more I can vary. I can add a lot more, of course. A grill can never be too big. There can only be too little on it, I say. [00:12:23] Lenne Kaffka You said now that you like charcoal grills. Gas and electric grills are considered to be environmentally friendly because they do not release as much CO2 and generate less harmful vapors. What do you pay attention to to grill in an environmentally friendly way? [00:12:35] Oliver Sievers Yes, I have coal that consists of coconuts, that is, coconut shells, which is even organic certified. And that's basically made from a waste product. Because it comes from India and where they are peeled to get the coconut pulp, the shells usually just lie around and usually rot. It is a social project that ensures that the villages can earn some money there. So they put a reactor down there, then the whole coconut shells burn up and are then delivered, and then you can grill with them in a relatively environmentally neutral way. [00:13:10] Lenne Kaffka Does that mean there are already good alternatives to charcoal, to classic ones? [00:13:14] Oliver Sievers Yes, definitely. There are many good things to take. In the very cheap, from the gas station or from the hardware store, of course it is not the case, there can also be good tropical wood. But if you inform yourself a little and look a little bit at what is written on it, you get very good coal, which you can take with a clear conscience, which is also free of pollutants and free of tropical woods and can be used without hesitation. [00:13:34] Lenne Kaffka Traditionally there is always a lot of grilling with aluminum foil or with aluminum trays. Are there any good alternatives for wrapping or as a shell alternative? [00:13:43] Oliver Sievers Yes, wrapping in aluminum foil is no longer an option these days because acidic or salty foods could dissolve the aluminum foil. That’s true. And that means you have this stuff in your food, you don't want that anymore. Instead of aluminum trays, I use stainless steel trays with holes or something. There are grill baskets, that's what it's called. It also works wonderfully. You can throw them in the dishwasher and everything is good. [00:14:05] Lenne Kaffka Of course it would also be worthwhile to rethink the grilled food. But for most people in Germany, I would say, steaks, ribs, sausages are still among the highlights. But then it may not be the best choice to always go for cheap goods. What do you pay attention to when buying meat? [00:14:19] Oliver Sievers Of course, the most important thing about meat is quality. Only as good as a steak before can it become afterwards. Of course, this also applies to the sausage or the fish or whatever. I make sure that they are good keeping methods. For me, practically nothing comes from factory farming. I make sure that if I know someone who does a good job, it may be regional. And then you just have to ask your conscience: Such a pork that only costs 3.99 euros per kilo – the keeping methods can't be that special, that's just the way it is. Good quality meat simply takes longer to produce because the animals live longer. They get special food, they are handled better, they also have more space. And you can eat such a chop or steak without hesitation. [00:15:02] Lenne Kaffka You have just mentioned that. When I watch my friends, I can do it like this: they just pop on the grate and then wait until it turns brown or almost black. What is the best way to find out the cooking point? [00:15:12] Oliver Sievers Of course there is either a lot of experience or a sausage that is usually good after five or six minutes above normal heat – maybe eight minutes, depending on the situation what you have for the grill. I always use a thermometer to measure core temperature. I can't do it any other way because I'm grilling at championships. And you definitely have to be on point, of course. And that's something I do at home too. You can get such a thermometer from just 15 euros. They ensure that you always get a perfect result. [00:15:39] Lenne Kaffka The German Nutrition Society recommends eating a maximum of 300 to 600 grams of meat per week. So maybe not only vegetarians and vegans should think about what else you can throw on the grill. How is vegetables best grilled? [00:15:54] Oliver Sievers I also like to grill vegetables, of course, that tastes great. And I don't just like to eat meat either. And then you take a nice vegetable, for example green asparagus, which is one of my favorite grilled vegetables. You don't need to peel it big, oil it a little – salt, pepper over it and then roll it lightly over the heat, two or three minutes, then it's a little brown on the outside and then you can take it down. What also works very well are stuffed peppers or grilled potatoes. This is all very easy, take a little to one side, not too much aggressive heat from below and then they become nice and soft, nice and tender. Really tasty, you can season it nicely. [00:16:28] Lenne Kaffka Somehow you have to take care to cut that in a certain way. Or does it have to be pre-cooked? [00:16:32] Oliver Sievers The problem is, of course, if the things are cut very small they will fall through the grate. Therefore: If you make a vegetable skewer, large pieces on it. A whole mushroom, cut off a thick slice of zucchini, then it doesn’t easily fall off the grate or into the embers and stays nice and crunchy inside, while it is nicely cooked on the outside. [00:16:50] Lenne Kaffka I haven't eaten meat myself for years and I have to honestly say that most vegetarians are not much more creative than meat eaters when grilling. Instead of steak or bratwurst there is grill cheese or veggie sausage. What would you say Now what is a really creative vegetarian grill dish that would make everyone happy? [00:17:06] Oliver Sievers I just like to take a big potato that has already been pre-cooked and I will hollow it out. Then a little vegetable comes in, nice spices, olives, feta, cheese over it. Then it goes indirectly into the grill for a few minutes, for 20 minutes, and then the cheese melts nicely afterwards. This is a really great variant, which is really a complete dish and not just a side dish. Because for me it is important that even the vegetarians or vegans who are there get something sensible to eat from the grill. As a world champion you also have to be able to do that. [00:17:34] Oliver Sievers And for the vegans you leave out the feta. [00:17:37] Oliver Sievers Yes, of course. For the vegans, I always have an extra cast iron pan, where the things are behind that there is just no contact with anything else. [00:17:45] Lenne Kaffka Okay. No matter whether with meat, fish or vegetables – how do you do it best with seasoning? Always after grilling? Do the spices burn? [00:17:52] Oliver Sievers It depends on what you do. You can spice things up beforehand. This is always the case with the marinated things that you buy so ready. It's not a problem if you know what you're doing. The difficulty is only when you have a very high temperature, then the spices burn relatively quickly. But there is nothing wrong with seasoning things beforehand. I would do that for many things beforehand, normally. [00:18:12] Lenne Kaffka What is important for you with a good marinade? [00:18:14] Oliver Sievers I often stick to the American barbecue. You take a lot of dry spice mixes, Rubs are called things. So speak, only dry spices, which then come on the meat or on the vegetables. Then you wait two or three minutes, then this is attracted by the moisture in the meat and vegetables. If it doesn't fall down again, you just grill it like that, and then you have no problem that oil falls from the marinade onto the embers and then starts to smoke. [00:18:38] Lenne Kaffka And you don't have to put it in for hours? [00:18:40] Oliver Sievers No, no, you can put it in for 5 minutes and then you can put it on the grill. [00:18:43] Lenne Kaffka You are already talking about oil. If you use oil now, which fats do you use? [00:18:47] Oliver Sievers Yes, things like rapeseed oil or peanut oil are very suitable. [00:18:50] Lenne Kaffka Because the heat is more stable, right? [00:18:52] Oliver Sievers Yes, exactly. But you shouldn't give yourself any illusions there either, because heat-resistant only means up to maybe 180 or 200 degrees. And when I have a grill that is very hot, it’s 400 degrees or 500 degrees. Even the best oil is of no use. You should make sure that it is not an oil that has a lot of solids, such as olive oils or something that is very cloudy. They have a lot of solids, they burn very quickly. But any good quality refined oil usually works very well. They all burn at 400 degrees. [00:19:23] Lenne Kaffka You are not only a grill world champion, you have also published two grill books. And one of them is called "men at the grill". Didn't gender segregation of this kind somehow fall out of time? [00:19:32] Oliver Sievers Yes, of course you're basically right. But we also saw it ironically. Of course, it is also quite suitable for women. You play a little with the cliché because there is a lot of meat in it. But it is actually very well received, even by women, people like it. The dishes are also not difficult to imitate – mostly a bit more impressive, because such a five kilo piece of meat is something special. [00:19:51] Lenne Kaffka And for me there would be no main course because I am waiting for your women's book. [00:19:54] Oliver Sievers Yes, my next book has nothing to do with women, it is not barbecuing for women, but it should definitely move in the somewhat healthier direction. [00:20:05] Lenne Kaffka Do not we men often make barbecuing such an unnecessary science? So partly use the dubious tricks to always deglaze the grilled food with beer. At least that's how I know it when I'm lapping around the park. [00:20:16] Oliver Sievers So first of all you are a pitmaster, that's the name of the guy who grills, of course a special figure. You make sure that people at the party or at the party have something tasty to eat, that the family is strengthened properly. So you can put it in the foreground a bit, and he has to get his show stage calm. You should do that calmly. But deglazing meat or anything else with beer is of course something that you actually don't do anymore these days. This ensures that the coal extinguishes, so ashes are whirled up, which I then have on the food to be grilled. Also, I bring the temperature of the meat, or whatever I'm extinguishing, down a lot, and it makes it take me longer to grill. If you have to do that, you simply cannot handle the grill well enough. [00:20:57] Lenne Kaffka grilling is actually something wonderfully archaic. In theory, a fire, some kind of rust and something to eat is enough. How much professional equipment do you really need? [00:21:07] Oliver Sievers Basically, you hardly ever need any professional equipment. You should get a reasonable grill with a lid that is not too small, of course. But in principle you can actually do almost anything on it. The first thing I tell people is buy a core thermometer, you can get very nice ones for 10 – 25 euros. You make sure that the result just gets a lot better right from the start. And if you ensure that you don't mess up a steak, then it was worth it. Otherwise there is still a cast iron pan in which you can do nice things. Even small format things can be done nicely in there. Otherwise a reasonable pair of pliers, a pair of gloves – that's all you really need. [00:21:42] Lenne Kaffka After such a cozy barbecue evening, my grate is actually always sucked in. Is there any way to prevent this? [00:21:49] Oliver Sievers It is difficult to prevent, because whatever you put on it will make it dirty. What works very well for cleaning is that you raise the temperature very much in the grill. If you have a gas grill, it's easy. Otherwise, distribute the coal in the grill again nicely, make the ashes down a little and then put the grate on top of it at the lowest level. And then everything on the grate burns – that's what it's called pyrolysis – and then you can actually brush it off or clean it very easily afterwards. That actually works very well. [00:22:19] Lenne Kaffka And then it doesn't matter whether you do it in the evening or have a good night's sleep and go to work the next morning? [00:22:23] Oliver Sievers So, of course I would burn it out that evening. It is also very nice. It smokes a little nicer again. Then you caused a bit of a stir again. And then you can clean it the next day, because everything on it is basically ash and burnt materials. You can actually get it down very easily. [00:22:39] Lenne Kaffka Then maybe at the end tell me, why do you just like grilled food best? [00:22:44] Oliver Sievers grilled food tastes really good because you get a crispy crust on the outside. Man hat ein besonderes Erlebnis und das spielt einfach mit in der Qualität des Essens. Denn es gibt ja diese objektiven Sachen und die subjektiven Sachen. Objektiv: Das Fleisch ist zart und saftig und schmeckt. Subjektiv: Ich hatte ein cooles Erlebnis und deswegen schmeckt es noch besser. So wie der Wein im Urlaub auch immer besser schmeckt als zu Hause.[00:23:06] Lenne Kaffka Also das Drumherum schmeckt mit.[00:23:07] Oliver Sievers Das Drumherum schmeckt einfach im Kopf mit, ganz genau.[00:23:10] Lenne Kaffka Apropos Wein! Du sitzt ja vor einem riesigen Weinregal. Es muss ja nicht immer ein Bier sein zu Gegrilltem. Welcher Wein könnte denn passen?[00:23:18] Oliver Sievers Ja, wenn man Gemüse hat, dann würde ich so eine etwas schwererer Weißwein oder vielleicht ein leichter Rosé empfehlen. Aber wenn man Fleisch hat, dann Rotwein. Der kann auch schon kräftig sein, weil man ja viele Gewürze und vielleicht auch glasierte Soßen – Soßen, die man aufs Fleisch glasiert – dazu hat. Und dann muss der schon Power haben, sonst bringt der nichts. Der kann ruhig Tannine haben, aus dem Bric sein. Der muss halt schon ein bisschen kräftig sein.[00:23:42] Oliver Sievers Das war's mal wieder mit Smarter leben. Noch mehr praktische Tipps und Rezepte verrät Oliver Sievers in seinem Buch "Einfach genial grillen!". Der Link steht wie immer in den Shownotes zu dieser Episode. Und wir verabschieden uns in eine kurze Sommerpause. Die nächste Smarter leben – Folge gibt es dann ab Samstag, dem 29. August. Dann wie immer auf und überall, wo es Podcasts gibt – zum Beispiel bei Spotify oder Apple Podcasts. Bei Anregungen oder Themenvorschlägen einfach eine Mail schreiben an ein [email protected] Diesmal wurde ich unterstützt von Philipp Fackler und Yasemin Yüksel. Unsere Musik kommt von audioBOUTIQUE. Tschüss, bis Ende August.

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