Outdoor Flame-grilling Tips with Greg Piner

Outdoor Flame-grilling Tips with Greg Piner

Nothing says 'summertime' quite like flame-grilling in the great outdoors. And no one knows outdoor cooking quite like No.7 Balmac Head Chef Greg Piner.

A few years ago, Greg worked with Escea on the development of our EK Outdoor Fireplace Kitchen. His extensive knowledge, experience and passion for flame-grilling helped guide our team to develop an outdoor fireplace that doubled as a professional cooking appliance –  with all the sophistication you would find in the kitchen, in the great outdoors.

Escea EK1550 Outdoor Fireplace Kitchen.

It's Greg's ethos that intially drew us to him, and him to us. "There’s nothing like cooking in the outdoors," says Greg. "Something about getting out in nature is primal. It takes people away from their day-to-day and gets them back to the basics and the things that matter – family, friends, and simple, delicious food."  

For Greg, cooking outdoors is all about the conversations you can have outside, that you can’t have in an inside kitchen.  "It’s all about igniting the senses that trigger memories – and the memories that turn into stories shared around flames. Add a few ales, and that’s when the stories come out,” says Greg. “And you'll find that when you’re around a fire, people are like moths, they gravitate to the flames,” he adds.

However a lot has changed since we last caught up with Greg. More and more people are turning their focus to their homes, extending their living spaces and dabbling in a bit of outdoor cooking.

So, we reached out to Greg again to find out what he loves about cooking outdoors – and of course his top tips and must-haves for an alfresco summer.  

No.7 Balmac is widely regarded as one of Dunedin’s best not-so-secret neighbourhood restaurants, located in Maori Hill since 2009.

Gregs tips and advice

1. Before you take to the grill

Have your 'must-haves' on hand:

  • Long tongs – this is important, you want to flame-grill the meat – not your hands.
  • Seasoning – oil, salt, freshly cracked pepper, and your favourite seasoning mix. Greg’s go-to is Dunedin-based company Egg & Spoon who produces Wild Fennel gourmet spice mixes.
  • Fresh herbs – always use fresh ingredients wherever possible.

“When you’re cooking outdoors – the herb garden is your pantry and you’ve got all of these amazing flavours at arm’s reach” – Greg 

The restaurant has an extensive 'outdoor pantry' brimming with fruits, vegetables, herbs, edible flowers and even honeybees.  

2. When the grill is fired up

  • 'Drive the grill' – Greg explains this means using your hands to search for hot spots so you know where the meat will cook faster or slower. Also be aware that marbled meat will cook faster, as fat conducts heat.
  • Salt your meat right before you throw it on the grill (any earlier and it will dry the meat out), and always season from a height for full coverage. Consciously use more salt than you think you need as you will lose some of it on the grill.
  • Don’t flame the meat. Avoid having flames rise up too high as the carbon that builds up around the meat will impair the flavour. 
  • Don’t feel you need to constantly flip your meat. Once on each side is enough– stand back and enjoy the moment. You’ll know the meat is cooked when the juices run clear.

“You’d rather be standing back here saying ‘mate, remember that time…’, and meanwhile the meat is just fine where it is”  - Greg

This flame-grilled sole is artfully garnished with fresh herbs and flowers sourced entirely from the No.7 Balmac herb garden.

3. After the flame-grilling is done

  • Don’t be afraid to get creative and express yourself. When it comes to plating, be meticulous – but also be a kid. You can throw on anything you like – just know when to stop.
  • Add colour to your plate using micro-herbs and flowers – you’d be surprised what’s hiding in your herb garden that is not only a colourful addition to your plate, but entirely edible and full of flavour.

No.7 Balmac Restaurant Manager Carly Goud and Head Chef Greg Piner enjoying some sun in the restaurant garden.

For more flame-grilling tips and recipes from Greg, head to our journal. To find out more about the Escea EK Series Outdoor Fireplace Kitchen, click here.

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