July 6, 2011

Zac Brown and Dusty Hamlin with grill

This summer, the makers of Kingsford® charcoal are teaming with the two-time Grammy® award winning Zac Brown Band to bring the Grilling.com community a ton of food, music and fun.  Today we’re catching up with Zac Brown and Southern Ground Executive Chef, Rusty Hamlin, to get additional insight into all things grilling.  And after the interview be sure to check here for details on how to win a chance to get up close and personal with the band!


Zac, where did your love for food come from?

ZAC: My family gathered together, and that’s how we had fellowship with each other. We were always around food. If you came over to my house, my dad would be in the kitchen serving while everyone was getting seated and settled in the other room. It’s in my genes, it’s in my blood.

Zac, are you a self-taught cook?

ZAC: My grandmother on my mom’s side was a canner; she canned peaches, peach butter, apple butter, homemade fried pies. And my granddad on my dad’s side canned figs, homemade bread, and chow chow, which is kind of like a cabbage relish.  So I have been taught through my family my whole life.

Zac, you’re obviously very passionate about music and food. You find any commonalities between creating great sound and great tastes?  Maybe a desire to make people feel good through your art forms?

ZAC: Yes, with music you get to entertain fans and make them feel a certain way, but if you add the food at the same time, it’s something that nobody has ever done before.  We’re trying to create a great sensory experience where fans get to have our food and have a drink at our shows, once you get that connection, nothing can take that away.

Where did your Georgia Clay Rub come from?

ZAC:  A late night at my restaurant after the restaurant had closed down, I was sitting around with my buddies, and someone said, “Hey make me something to eat, make me a steak.”    I had just made a homemade blackening rub for some fish that night so I pulled that out and cut a piece of filet and some sweet potato and put it on the grill. It came out when it was done, it’s like trial by fire, I let it rest a minute, and then I ate it, and I was like “What is that”?

RUSTY: Actually, I went to your restaurant a week later, and you had made a big batch of it over there, and I was like…”What is that”? And when I did the steak, I cut it off and let it rest for a minute, and when I did, it was perfect rare, medium rare. And then that real good crispy crust on the outside, that’s one of my favorite things about it.  From my point of view, the flavors work because you got the senses in it.  You have the herbs, sweetness, spiciness, then you have the texture of the crust on the outside, and when you add the char, it just brings it.

I’m sure you know your way around a grill having grown up in the south.  Any early memories come to mind when you think about friends, family and outdoor cooking?

ZAC: I grew up all my life around Kingsford Charcoal. We always had a couple bags of charcoal and a Weber grill on the back porch. That blue bag has been everywhere for my whole life, from home, to camping, to hunting. It’s the go to.

RUSTY: Some friends and I went camping for 10 years in a row and I would always bring some charcoal and whole tenderloin or some steaks. We had Kingsford there all the time. I was the only one who didn’t bring bunny bread, bunny white bread, and peanut butter.

ZAC:  If you can take an opportunity to do it, then you have the ability to really focus on what it takes to do it when you are camping.  And for me, I don’t like sitting around too long; I have to be doing something.  The challenge of campfire cooking is that you are using a primitive kind of tool, a campfire, a bed of charcoal.  You have to nestle them around a bit, get the steam going on.

Zac, do you have any specialty on the grill?

ZAC: One of my favorite things to do when you have low heat like this, from charcoal, is to use some type of sweet component in it.  This time we are using peach preserve and we mixed it in with our homemade BBQ sauce.  This always creates a little caramelization; the peach will make a crust on the outside of the chicken.

Zac, any tips you can share with us about grilling?

ZAC: You don’t want to char it up too much. One thing I like to do is take a whole chicken, wrap it in a little aluminum foil, let it sit on a grill to steam it up and tenderize it. Then add your sauce to it.

Zac, anything else you’d like to share with the Grilling.com nation?

ZAC:  Grillers secret #1, keep the meat moist. So every time you flip it over, if it looks like it’s thirsty, and it looks dry, the meat on the inside is going to be dry, it’s pulling the moisture out. The more times that you flip it, the juices rotate and flow from one side of the meat to the other side. Keep the side that is facing up always wet, water in a spray bottle, or apple juice ads moisture and sweetness.  I like to turn them over 4 or five times to keep it going like a rotisserie, keep the juices going back and forth.

- Clint Cantwell, Grilling.com Guest Editor

Related Topics: Rusty Hamlin | Southern Ground | Zac Brown | Zac Brown Band | Zbb

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