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Quick BBQ Tips for Tough Cuts from Chef Victor Aravena

Quick BBQ Tips for Tough Cuts from Chef Victor Aravena

Victor Aravena is a talented chef working for Stew Leonards, a Disney-like, foodie’s haven that one could get lost in if hungry. He is also a grilling master and has shares some summer grilling tips that he swears by to make cheaper, tough cuts delicious. Plus, check out his tried and true cola marinade or rib rub.

Quick BBQ Tips for Tough Cuts from Chef Victor Aravena

Don’t be afraid to try out a cheaper cut.

Cheaper cuts of meat do take a little bit more time and finesse than the more common cuts, but are not impossible if you have patience with them. They tend to be tough, so cooking low and slow or marinating them to break down the tough muscle is key. Check out these tips for more ideas:

Tip 1: Indirect Heat

If you have a gas grill use the burners to the left or right and put the meat on the opposite side; with a charcoal grill, just push the hot coals to one side and place the meat on the other. This will allow for a slower cooking temperature, which will help render down some of the collagen that cheaper cuts of meat tend to have. Just close the lid and it will create an oven like effect, just like slow-roasting.

If you’re in a big rush you can bake things in your oven for a few hours at a low temp, about 150 degreed Fahrenheit, before your guests arrive. Then, when you’re about ready to eat, throw the meat on the grill for a quick sear and some delicious smokey taste, add an optional glazing of sauce and you will be good to go. I generally use this technique with bone-in cuts only, like ribs.

Tip 2: Marinating

There are a lot of ingredients that you can use to help tenderize your cuts of meat. Colas helps break down the collagen and make meat tender and juicy. Dr. Pepper is a great addition to marinades that will give you some great flavor in your steaks, as are citrus-based marinades. Also try acidic dairies like Greek yogurt or buttermilk. Simple citrus marinades work well too.

Tip 3: Choosing a Cut

Here are my favorite inexpensive cuts of meat that work well on a grill:

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  • Lamb breast (a nice garlic, olive oil, oregano, and mint marinade tastes great)
  • Ranchers steak (also called blade steak)
  • Flat iron steak
  • Chicken thighs and drumsticks
  • Pork shoulder (ask the butcher or yourself cut it into 1 inch pieces, it’s more manageable for the grill)

Once again, the secret to all of these on the grill is low, slow and indirect heat!

Chuck Steak Marinade
Author: Chef Victor Aravena
The cola in this recipe helps to tenderize the meat before cooking.
  • 12 oz pepsi
  • 12 oz A1 steak sauce
  • 12 oz sweet baby rays BBQ sauce
  • ½ cup montreal steak seasoning
  1. Mix it all up and marinate meat for at least 3 hours. I use this with chuck steak and its phenomenal.
  2. Cook low and slow!


Voodoo Magic Beef Rib Spice Blend
Author: Chef Victor Aravena
Here is a great rub that works well with ribs that are par-cooked in the oven and then grilled.
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cinnamon
  • Brown sugar
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Rubbed sage
  • Nutmeg
  • Cumin
  • Cayenne
  • Dried mustard
  1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl according to your taste preference. Rub the ribs with a little bit of olive oil and cover with the dry rub. Put in a 140 degree oven for 2-3 hours and finish on a medium high heat grill until ribs register 135 degrees at the bone.


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