Waco chef offers grilling tips and tricks ahead of holiday weekend

This weekend is the unofficial start of summer, and if you’re breaking out the grill for the first time in a while, a local chef has some safety reminders.

Justin Turner is a chef instructor at Texas State Technical College, and he said any time he’s grilling, he always likes to have long tongs and an oven mitt handy. Turner said the items help protect him from the heat and any fire from the grill, which is a main safety concern.

Turner suggests having a small fire extinguisher or something like baking soda on hand to be able to put out any fires. He said it is not safe to use water on a grease fire, since that will only cause the fire to get worse.

However, Turner said there are some things people can do to help prevent the risk of fires in the first place. Turner said it’s important to keep your grill clean.

“They do get dirty, they do accumulate grease from all the meats and hamburgers and hot dogs we cook on our grill,” Turner said. “So you just want to make sure all that grease, all that built up grease is removed so we don’t start a grease fire.”

Even if your grill is clean, Turner said there are other ways a fire can start. If you are cooking an especially fatty food, or one marinated in oil, Turner sadi that can cause fires as well.

“Any time you’re dealing with a fattier food, that grease can drip down into the fire which can cause flare-ups, which will increase the risk of a fire,” Turner said.

If you’re planning to get out and grill this weekend, or this summer, Turner said it’s best to use a really hot grill. That way, the food is cooked properly and it won’t stick. Turner adds that’s also what gives the food a good grilled flavor.

While hamburgers and hot dogs may be the first thing you think to grill, there are lots of other options. Turner said a few options include a grilled Caesar salad, a watermelon salad and even some octopus, and he shared some recipes with KWTX.

Grilled Watermelon and Heirloom Tomato Salad

Yields: 4-6 servings


· 8 oz baby arugula

· 8 large heirloom tomatoes, cut into ¼- to ½-inch-thick slices

· ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

· ¼ cup finely diced shallot

· ¼ cup Champagne vinegar

· 1 large lemon, zested and juiced

· ½ teaspoon kosher salt

· ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

· 1 small seedless watermelon, cut into ½-inch-thick slices and rind removed

· 4 ounces crumbled goat cheese

· 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

· Balsamic reduction


1. In a medium bowl, whisk together ½ cup oil, shallot, vinegar, lemon zest and juice, grapefruit juice, salt, and pepper. Set aside.

2. Grill watermelon, turning once, until charred, 2 minutes per side. Cut into bite-size pieces.

3. Arrange arugula on a large serving plate. Top with watermelon, tomatoes and goat cheese. Drizzle with dressing. Top with mint and drizzle with balsamic reduction.

Grilled Caesar Salad

Yields: 6-8 Servings


· ¼ cup mayonnaise

· 2 tablespoons lemon juice

· 1 tablespoon anchovy paste

· 1 teaspoon dijon mustard

· ½ teaspoon minced garlic

· ½ teaspoon kosher salt plus more for seasoning

· 1/4 teaspoon black pepper plus more for seasoning

· ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more for brushing

· ¼ cup Parmesan cheese finely grated, plus more for garnish

· 2 hearts romaine

· 1 cup croutons


1. In a medium bowl whisk together mayonnaise, lemon juice, anchovy paste, mustard, garlic, salt, and pepper.

2. Slowly whisk in olive oil until a thickened dressing is formed. Add the Parmesan cheese and whisk to combine.

3. Cut romaine lettuce heads in quarters lengthwise leaving the cores intact. This will yield eight sections. If the lettuce head is small, keep it in halves.

4. Brush olive oil on the cut sides of the lettuce. Lightly season with salt.

5. Preheat grill over medium-high heat (350 to 400ºF). Carefully grease the cooking grates with tongs using a paper towel dipped in oil.

6. Once the grates are hot, place the Romaine lettuce cut side down on the grill. Press the lettuce down so it creates direct contact with hot grates. Cook until lightly charred, 1 to 2 minutes.

7. Flip to the other cut side and grill 1 to 2 additional minutes.

8. Transfer grilled lettuce to serving plates.

9. Drizzle with Caesar dressing and top with freshly cracked black pepper, Parmesan cheese, and croutons.

Grilled Octopus

Yield: 4-6 Servings


· 3½ pounds octopus, head and beak removed


· 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

· ½ lemon

· ½ tablespoon minced fresh parsley

· 1 pinch salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


1. Fill a large pot 1/2 full with water and bring to a boil over high heat.

2. Submerge entire octopus in the boiling water. Bring water back to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until octopus is fork-tender, 45 to 60 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for 30 minutes.

3. Remove head and separate tentacles with a knife

4. Preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat and lightly oil the grate.

5. Grill octopus until charred on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side.

6. Remove from heat, slice into pieces, and place on a serving platter. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, squeeze lemon over top, sprinkle with parsley, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.