Step Up Your Grill Game: Chef-Inspired Tips for Your Summer Cookout


A cookout is one of the best ways to bring people together in the summertime (other than going to The Rail, of course). When you want to stay home and enjoy your beautiful backyard, don’t waste your time searching Pinterest for the best grilling recipes to entertain your guests - we’ve got you covered! We pressed our Executive Chef, Mike Hawks, to give up all his best grilling tips for the summer so you can bring home a piece of our restaurant experience and cook your perfect #RailBurger – and more – on your own grill!  (No chefs were harmed in the making of this blog post.)


We started by giving you a behind-the-scenes look at Chef's top three grilling rules:

Rule #1: Start with a good cut of meat.

High-quality meat will naturally have the flavor you want. One thing that surprises a lot of our guests is that we only use salt and pepper to season our juicy, flavorful burgers.

Rule # 2: Always cook on an open flame (Gas or Charcoal).

An open flame brings out the flavor of the meat, one that can’t be duplicated by any seasoning.

Rule #3: Let meat rest for 3-5 minutes off the grill after cooking.

This allows juices to spread evenly through the meat so you don’t have a greasy mess on the plate.


Top Three Grilling Mistakes:

Next, we asked our chef to reveal some of the most common mistakes that people make when cooking at home. If you’re guilty of any of these, it’s time to change up your technique - you may be sabotaging your own cookout!

Mistake #1: Going back to our first rule, a good cut of meat will give you the flavor you want, so don’t feel the need to marinade all the time, as this can actually make meat tougher and overpower the meat’s natural flavors.

Do not season meat until you are ready to put it on the grill. Meat shouldn’t sit for very long, especially in salt, because sodium can pull the moisture out of the meat and make it tougher and dry.

Mistake #2: Avoid cooking on too high of heat, as this can cause meat to cook unevenly, overcooking the edges, but not cooking all the way throughout.

Be knowledgeable about the protein you’re cooking and the thickness, both of which determine the appropriate cook time. You could end up with a piece of meat that is hard and crispy on the outside and raw on the inside… and nobody wants that!

Mistake #3: Make sure to plan ahead, and have the rest of the dishes you’re serving ready to go when the grilling is done.

Don’t wait to start prepping the side dishes after the meat is already done. Meat continues to cook, and when it sits for too long, it can dry out and lose flavor. If there are sides that could be cooked and left waiting, do that, and if not, time them out with your meat or see if someone’s willing to give a hand.

Have everything you need laid out and ready to go because you don’t want to leave your grill unattended after you’ve started cooking. Have everything prepared, cut, chopped, etc. before you fire up the grill. Make sure you have enough propane in your tank before you start cooking as well – this one’s easy to forget about, and no one wants to deal with the hassle of running out during the cookout!


Top Three Hosting Tips:

Last, but certainly not least, grilling is more than food prep - it’s a party, so make sure you’re prepared for the hosting part too! Below are some essentials to remember for your next grilling excursion.


Host Tip #1: If you’re the one cooking, you need to have an ice-cold drink to keep you cool over that hot grill.

We suggest a cold, light, refreshing beer (in a coozie of course, because it needs to stay cold next to that flame). Chef’s suggestions include a crisp cider, sour or a citrusy IPA. If you’re not a beer person, a cool refreshing cocktail such as a margarita or mojito will definitely do the trick.

Host Tip #2: Keep your guests happy and entertained.

Starting off the cookout by offering some cold drinks and light snacks to munch on while waiting for the main course will get your guests in party mode and avoid any “hangriness” while waiting for the main course.

Every great cookout has good music as well. Chef’s Personal Pandora Recommendations include Bruno Mars and a mix of Sublime/90’s Music, and you can never go wrong with some 2000’s & Today.

Host Tip #3: Having a fun apron to wear while cooking is a must!

‘Kiss the Cook’ may be too cliché for some, so if you’re the chef of the group, go the extra mile and find a custom one to suit your personality!


While nothing compares to The Rail experience when it comes to local burgers, we hope these chef-inspired tips help you step up your grill game for a summer filled with the best (and most delicious) cookouts yet. You’re sure to be the hit of the neighborhood, but be prepared for a long reign as the King (or Queen) of the Grill!