On this episode of The Fred Minnick Show, chef and author Derek Wolf brings the fire – the cooking fire, that is. He and Fred dive into Derek’s new book, “Over the Fire Cooking,” sip bourbon and enjoy some lively conversation. Along the way, they hit on topics like pairing whiskey to grilled meats, being a grilling god, cooking on an open fire and types of woods best for attaining “clean smoke.” Grab some grilled meat and a bourbon and join them.
06:44 Maker’s Mark Private Selection USO Warrior Spirit (6:44)
27: 27 Nashville Barrel Co. Small Batch Rye (27: 27)
39:47 Elijah Craig Barrel Proof A121 (39:47)
Fred and Derek dig into a variety of topics:
The Maker’s Mark private barrel pick opens up the show with a discussion of oak and aging techniques employed by the distillery.
They talk about the similarities of tasting bourbon versus tasting food. Wolf compares high-proof whiskey and getting adventurous when seasoning food. (He recommends cinnamon on steak to accentuate peppery spice.)
Fred asks Derek what he would grill to go with the Maker’s Mark, and he immediately goes to lots of garlic and peppercorn steak.
Derek talks about his joy of testing the boundaries of flavor pairings.
Wolf talks about his shift from Corporate America (he worked at an accounting firm in Nashville) to becoming an open-fire cook. He is quick to point out that he has no formal culinary training. “You don’t have to be a chef to do this,” he says.
Derek calls himself “the Ron Swanson of social media,” calling out the beloved if gruff Parks & Recreation TV character.
Fred calls Derek a “grilling god,” while Derek himself claims only to be “a pyro and a meathead.”
The Nashville Barrel Rye conjures apple and cinnamon notes, according to Derek, and Fred notes it is unlike most MGP ryes.
Fred has Derek list his five favorite seasonings per protein. Take notes on this one, folks. Don’t sleep on the smoked tequila salt.
Derek then talks about the best woods to use for open-fire cooking. Much like with bourbon, white oak is a go-to, he says. He also notes red oak and white oak, while hickory can be “overpowering” and mesquite can be overly smoky. The goal? Clean smoke.
They go back to do side-by-side tastings of the three whiskeys in their flights, and Derek chooses Elijah Craig as his favorite of the session. Fred concurs.
They then talk about the art of tasting and identifying specific flavors in various spirits.
Derek tells the story of arguing with his wife’s grandmother about how to cook steak. Awkward but funny. And the payoff is that Nana was right and Derek was right as well, thanks to how cooking techniques have evolved over the decades.
Interested in getting into open-fire cooking? Derek Wolf has some tips for you.
“You can tell a lot about a person by how they season their steak when no one’s looking. Whether they’re just doing straight salt and just classic/traditional, they can’t do anything else, all the way to being adventurous with their flavor profiles.” -Derek Wolf, on comparing tasting bourbon to tasting food