While doing their part to maintain social distance, home cooks everywhere are honing their skills in the kitchen. Feast consulted with some of St. Louis' finest chefs and business owners for their best advice on how to make easy, wholesome meals using simple pantry staples. Find out how to make the most of your groceries in this Q&A series, which outlines some pro tips for creating nutritious and comforting from-scratch meals, snacks and more.
Jim Grindstaff is the owner of Grindstaff Rub Co. and Jack Nolen’s, a smashed burger concept that debuted last December in Soulard. The neighborhood bar and grill is currently offering carryout via online ordering at jacknolens.com, limited dine-in and outdoor dining on a large socially distanced patio. Grindstaff Rub Co. products are available at area retailers as well as at grindstaffrubs.com.
What are some unique essential ingredients in your home kitchen that you always like to keep on hand? Do you have a secret weapon spice? Being the owner of Grindstaff Rub Co., I always use my own spices when cooking at home. Three Kings is my favorite rub/seasoning that I have. That spice combo can liven up any meal, whether quick and easy or a long cook on the smoker. Three Kings got its name because salt, pepper and garlic are the three kings of cooking for me. That’s the base of the rub. It’s a great blend of bright and vibrant savory spices including dehydrated onion and lemon solids. Three Kings is the only thing we season our burgers with at Jack Nolen’s. It can be used in tacos, pasta, side dishes, barbecue, burgers, pizza, seafood, biscuits and gravy and so on.
Grindstaff Rub Co. All Purpose Rub is another one of my favorites. We use this rub to season the rim of our Bloody Marys and pickle shots at Jack Nolen’s. It’s a great mix of smoky, sweet and savory with a small kick. Some ingredients include sugar, salt, brown sugar, chile pepper, garlic, onion and celery seed.
When you’re cooking at home, what are your go-to comfort dishes to make? Spending time with my wife and three kids at home is a good time. I really enjoy barbecue and beer. These together have created some of the best times and ideas over the years. There’s nothing more comfortable than firing up the old school Weber kettle, smelling the charcoal, drinking a Busch Light and listening to the kids scream. I really enjoy smoking large cuts of meat. Brisket, ribs and pork butt are my favorites. They give you enough time to have six to 12 beers, listen to some tunes and reflect on life.
What’s some of your best advice for cooking with charcoal? It took me some time to really get a hold of grilling or smoking with charcoal. The best pointers I can give are as follows: Make sure you have good charcoal, not one that has lighter fluid already in the briquettes or the cheapest bag you can find. My favorite in this area is Rockwood Charcoal. It’s lump style and comes in chunks from Missouri hardwood trees.
Purchase a charcoal chimney, load it up and set a wax charcoal starter or tumbleweed fire starter underneath it. Let the charcoal get hot, until you see some flame coming out of the top. Wear a leather or barbecue-style hot glove and dump the coals on one side of your grill. This is called indirect grilling. My go-to charcoal grill is a Weber Kettle for grilling and a Weber Smokey Mountain for smoking big meats.
Make sure the bottom vents are wide open to start. Put your lid on the grill and open the top vent. Once your coals are to your desired temp, close the bottom vent to less than half. Now that you have your coals to one side (indirect) you can move your food items back and forth over the hot side and warm side. This gives you the ability to control what your food looks like and getting your food to the proper temp without scorching the outside. Having a meat thermometer is a great tool for a novice as well. No one wants a raw chicken wing! Sit back and relax and flip your food every now and then – grilling is fun.
What are some of your favorite components or sides cooks can make at home to take their burgers and sandwiches to the next level? I’m a huge sauce/condiment fan. I think having an arsenal of bottles or jars can make any burger or sandwich explode with flavor. My favorite is Kickin’ Carolina Sauce, another one of my products. There’s just something about a sweet and savory mustard sauce that gets your socks moving up and down! Green bean casserole and cold salads like potato salad and dill pickle pasta also complete my paper plate life.
Can you share a recipe for a snack or meal idea that incorporates some the ideas you’ve discussed? Absolutely, let's roll with the dill pickle pasta salad. I just started making this and it’s been a hit with my family.