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How the Pros Grill at Home

Chefs share their hot tips for summer cooking.

Morou Ouattara owns Farrah Olivia in Alexandria (600 Franklin St.), and once competed on the Food Network's "Iron Chef America." Omar Morales is a chef and kitchen manager for The Original Steakhouse & Sports Theatre in Ashburn (43145 Broadland Center), a popular destination for meat and sports fans.

Both cook professionally; but when it's dinner time for family and friends, both are known to take their work home.

Chefs Morou and Morales are like millions of other Americans during the summer, managing sizzling steaks and smoky chicken on outdoor barbecues. Both offered some sage advice on the proper way to grill a good meal.

FOR MOROU, that begins with prep time. "While the grill is getting hot, make sure you have everything chopped and diced — all the prep done," he said. "Having a piece of meat on the grill and running back and trying to get something, you may overcook it."

Morales said that before the grilling starts, it's important to choose the right grill. "Make sure they have a heavy duty grill," he said. "A gas propane grill instead of charcoal, depending on whether or not they're smoking. If they're just having a cookout, make sure it's the right temperature."

Morou said the temperature should be at a medium heat. "I think slow grilling is better than just charring the outside," he said. "A lot of people make it so hot that it will make a mark in two or three minutes, but it takes longer to cook the meat."

He favors indirect heat, which increases smoky flavor and won't burn the steak.

As far as what to grill, Morales said a typical skirt steak would do; although if there are more than eight people at the dinner, "a cheaper steak is better."

He said there is one very important thing to remember when grilling multiple meat: "Remember that steak and chicken don't mix together. People tend to get sick sometimes when they use the same utensils when they handle the meat or the chicken."

His advice is to cook the chicken first, pop it into an oven at around 100-120 degrees, and then grill the steak.

"You can't cook the meat and then wait for the chicken," he said.

Is it strange for a "celebrity" chef like Morou to cook at home after crafting gourmet dishes at his Farrah Olivia Restaurant? "It's not strange, but it's different," he said. "You're used to the power of the restaurant, having hundreds of spices around you. At home, you don't have people to help, either."