Skip navigation
Lettuce Entertain You Home page
Enjoying the BBQ overhead shot of steak and corn salad

Your Grilling Out Guide

Lettuce chefs' expert tips

Want to learn to grill like an expert? Our Lettuce chefs are here to show you how! Three of our top Chicago-based culinary pros—Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab Executive Chef Justin Diglia, Aba and Ema Chef Partner CJ Jacobson and RPM Restaurants Chef Bob Broskey offer tips for taking your backyard barbecue to the next level. From shareable drinks and snacks for cocktail hour on the patio to perfectly prepared lobster and steak, here’s Lettuce’s ultimate guide to grilling out all summer long.

Special for Father’s Day and Summer 2024: Order an RPM Steak Grill Kit—everything you need to make an incredible steak dinner at home!grilled steak and lobster on the grill

Grilling 101

To start, a few general grilling tips from our pros:

1 – Keep it clean. Chef Diglia says, “Maintaining a clean grill will result in a higher quality product. Debris left in grill will continue to char and could add off-flavors to your food. Heat will also maintain more consistently if you’re working with a clean grill.” To clean, pre-heat your grill to the highest temperature and clean grill grates with a grill brush.

2 – Bring the heat. “Grilling is a direct, high heat cooking technique so the most important thing is to be able to get a grill hot,” Diglia says. Chef CJ agrees: “In my opinion, there are no bad steaks to cook on the grill as long as the grill can get really hot and the cook knows a little something about grilling.”

Diglia adds, “You wouldn’t cook with your oven door open, and similarly, don’t grill with the top open. Keeping the grill closed helps control and regulate the heat.”

3 – Be safe! When grilling, Chef Broskey recommends relying on meat thermometer whenever possible to ensure everything is cooked to perfection. “For a perfect medium-rare, aim for 125°F in the center of a filet.”

Beef on grill

Now that we’ve covered some basics, let’s get grilling!

Get the Party Started

Make a Mezze

Chef CJ recommends kicking things off with a simple spread of shareable snacks. Tapas, wings, and dips and hummus with bread or crudite—mezze, as they’re known at Mediterranean favorites Aba and Ema—are the perfect way to kick off your patio party.

Appetizer spread at Summer BBQ

Avocado & Sweet Pea Dip with Crudite (Inspired by Ema)
For the full recipe, click here.

A women's hand holding a deviled egg.

Deviled Eggs by Cafe-Ba-Ba-Reeba!
Get the full recipe.

Oakville chicken wings

Wood-Grilled Chicken Wings by The Oakville Grill & Cellar
Click here for the full recipe.

Crowd-Pleasing Pitcher Cocktails

Along with your starters, bring out a pitcher of a batched up summery specialty cocktail or sangria for all to share while you get the grill going.

Aba Picnic Basket Cocktail

Picnic Basket with bourbon, lemon, passion fruit, strawberry, watermelon (Inspired by Aba)
For the full recipe, click here.

Blackberry and Rosemary Sangria (Inspired by Big Bowl)
For the full recipe, click here.

Shell-ebrate with Grilled Oysters

Oysters elevate every occasion (see Shaw’s Crab House’s tips for hosting the perfect raw bar!) but a summer shindig is the perfect time to throw them on the grill. Chef Diglia offers these 5 easy tips:

1 – Run oysters under ice cold water to remove excess debris. A vegetable brush can also assist in this process.

2 – While using an oyster knife, pop open oysters and detach oyster meat from the shell. Reserve in refrigeration until ready to be grilled.

Chef Justin shucking oysters

3 – When you’re ready to cook, place ½ tsp. of garlic butter on each oyster.

4 – Using the hottest part of the grill, place the oysters shell down on grill grate. Once the butter starts to melt, drizzle each oyster with white wine and close the lid to the grill.

oysters on the grill

5 – Grill oysters for approximately 3-5 minutes, finish with fresh chopped parsley, garnish with lemons and serve!

Grilled oysters from joe's

Grilled Steaks

Shopping for Steak

According to Chef Broskey, “If you’re a steak lover, RPM’s 8-oz. Creekstone Filet, sourced from the renowned Creekstone Farms and available in our grill kits, is a must-try. These filets are celebrated for their tenderness and lean cut, with just the right amount of marbling to make them incredibly flavorful.”RPM Steak Father's Day Grill Kit

Chef CJ of Aba agrees: “The best cuts of steak—those that can weather either a hot or not-hot-enough grill—are those that offer beautiful marbling. Steaks like a New York or Skirt steak offer marbling throughout and give home cooks great flavor.”

Raw steaks

Prep + Seasoning Tips

For the best results, all of our chefs recommend letting your steaks rest at room temperature before cooking. This step ensures even cooking and prevents the dreaded gray ring on the outside. Chef Broskey suggests taking the steaks out of the fridge at least an hour before you plan to cook, and Diglia says at least 20 minutes. When it comes to seasoning, keep it simple! Broskey suggests starting with coarse ground black pepper and RPM’s Steak Salt, a special blend Broskey developed with his team to enhance the natural flavors of the meat. Diglia also recommends brushing steaks with clarified butter.

seasoned steaks

Cooking

Using the hottest part of the grill, place steaks on grill racks. Cook steaks to desired temperature (using the aforementioned meat thermometer, at least 125°F in the center for medium-rare!).

Steaks on the grill

“Once a steak has proper char marks on each side, I like to move it to a cooler part of the grill to bring the center up to the temp I want,” Diglia says. When steaks are finished, all three chefs suggest brushing with butter, as well as garlic and herbs to your taste as desired, and allowing to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

To further chef-ify your grilling game, Chef CJ shares another pro tip: “I love adding a touch of smoked herb flavor to steaks. To do this, throw a couple sprigs of rosemary next to the steak on the grill. The rosemary will eventually catch fire. Once it catches fire, lift the steak with a pair of tongs and tap it on the smoldering rosemary. This adds beautiful rosemary ash to the steak for a touch of smoke.”

Grilled Lobster 

Luxuriously decadent, lobster tails will always impress your guests! Here’s how Chef Diglia approaches lobster tail on the grill:

1 – Split tails in half, separating the meat from the shell but keeping end tailpiece intact. This helps the lobster meat from sticking to the shell.

Chef Justin of Joe's cutting lobster in half

2 – Brush lobster meat with clarified butter and season with salt and pepper.

Chef Justin seasoning lobster tails

3 – Place lobsters meat side down on the grill.

Lobster on the grill

4 – Cook for approximately 5 minutes and then turn lobster shell side down on highest level grill rack.

lobsters on the grill

5 – Brush again with whole melted butter and finish cooking with the lid closed. This should take about 3-5 more minutes. Remove from grill and garnish with lemons.

finished lobster tail dish for bbq

Side Hustle

Fresh seasonal fruit and veggies make superstar sides for steak and seafood. Try one of these Lettuce favorites for your next summer party.

Full plate at the BBQ with Spicy Grilled Street Corn

Watermelon & Feta Salad (Inspired by Ema)
For the full recipe, click here.

Summer Bean Salad from Beatrix Market

Summer Bean Salad by Beatrix Market
For the full recipe, click here.

Charred Broccolini from Sushi-san

Charred Broccolini Goma-ae by Sushi-san
Click here for the full recipe.

Phoebe's Mac N Cheesy at Bub City

Mac ‘N’ Cheesy by Bub City
Click here to get the full recipe.

Don’t Forget Dessert

After all that juicy goodness off the grill, finish things off with something sweet!

Raspberry Pie at Shaw's Crab House

Raspberry Pie by Shaw’s Crab House
Click here for the full recipe.

Wildfire blueberry pie for summer grilling

Classic Blueberry Pie (Inspired by Wildfire)
For the full recipe, click here.

Looking for more tips to up your grilling game? Executive Chef Partner Joe Decker of Wildfire has you covered.

Keep Reading

drawn wine glass drawn wine glass green stars