Jim Johnson is a living BBQ legend who won 78 grand championsships in competitive BBQ. After his retirement he now travels the world as a KCBS international grill instructor giving hundrets of bbq classes around the globe. We asked him a few question about his grilling style and what he thinks about the Otto Grill!
Where is your ideal setting to grill and chill?
I have two places! One is at home; I live on 5 wooded acres filled with deer, turkey and plenty of wildlife. Can’t ask for a better setting to grill and have an adult beverage. My second favorite place is in a classroom, teaching people about flavors, spices and sauces that compliment foods. The excitement of people learning new tips and tricks to improve their grilling expertise!
Where is your favorite city/ location that you have travelled to in general?
I have been fortunate enough to have traveled to 30 different countries so it is hard to pick a specific one as they are all special. I have taught in a castle in Italy more than a 1, ooo years old. I have cooked overlooking one of the most beautiful and cleanest lakes in Switzerland. I was fortunate enough to teach in Australia, Amsterdam, Ireland, Costa Rica, Slovenia and the list goes on and on. I am very fortunate to be able to do what I do! Very humbling experience!
Favorite grilling experience or audience?
That changes as each class is special. From beginners learning tips from starting a fire to maintaining temperature, to how rubs affect the flavor outcome of some very tough cuts of meats to how to enhance the flavor with simple sauces.
Where did your grilling passion start?
I started cooking on the competitive circuit 30 years ago.
What brings you joy through your grilling endeavors?
I was fortunate enough to win 78 Grand Chanpionships but the most fulfillment is giving back, whether cooking for fundraisers for a great cause to teaching people the art of bbq and grilling! The excitement in their eyes when you see them taking in what you are teaching and seeing them nod their heads in approval once they get to sample what they cooked!
What is your favorite cut of meat to grill and why?
I love a good rib eye. It has a perfect amount of marbling, so they are always juicy and tender.
Do you have a favorite combination of food or spices?
When I am grilling a rib eye my perfect seasoning is 30% salt, 30%fresh ground pepper, 20% onion powder and 20% garlic powder.
When did you first discover the Otto Grill?
I first saw one while teaching in Europe. I sampled the food from it and thought, wow that is really cool. Fast forward 2 years and I reached out to Otto Grill. I bought a grill (at a discount) just to start playing with a quote griller!
What was your first thought/ feeling/ impression toward the grill?
Quite honestly my first impression is this is really cool but an overpriced gimmick cooker!!! Boy was I ever wrong, after receiving one and cooking anything I could dream up on it, I soon found out that the quality and build of the Otto Grill was well worth the value. I just ask people to evaluate this equipment with an open mind. Check out the fit and finish and quality of this grill before asking about the price. You will quickly find the value is there! I DID!
In your opinions, what demographic/ who would really enjoy grilling on the Otto Grill?
A person that makes decisions based on quality, finish, and long term investment. Stainless steel construction, heavy duty, polished finishes. Quite substantial! Someone who enjoys entertaining and wants to have the best of the best when cooking for family and friends.
How would you describe the Otto Grill to a person who has never seen one before?
A small version of a New York steakhouse, only in your own backyard! It is a broiler, which means it cooks from the top down, putting a very nice char on the steak you are cooking! Plus you can do pizzas in your own private oven! A small compact open face broiler that is perfect for every outdoor kitchen, regardless of the number of smokers and grills one may have in their outdoor kitchen.
What is your secret seasoning when grilling steak?
Recipe above, salt I like either sea salt or kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, onion powder ground fine, garlic powder ground fine.
What is the best advice you could give a beginner griller?
The Otto Grill will reach 1,500 degrees F. That is great, but as a beginner, starts grilling at a medium temperature, not the hottest. By lowering the temperature to medium you have less chance of ruining a good piece of meat or someone’s dinner. Remember it will only take one or two extra minutes to cook it to perfection! You will be amazed at how soon you will be cranking up the temperature and cooking to perfection.
Rare, medium rare or well done?
Or does it depend on the steak and/or dish? It depends, a great steak should never be cooked past medium, but I love playing and experimenting with how to maximize flavors at different temperatures.
Can you give us some of your grill tips when handling chicken or fish?
Yes when I do fish, one of our problems is that fish sticks to the grate. Simple remedy is to cut a lemon in thin slices, lay the slices on the grate, then put the fish on top of the lemon slices. Adds flavor to fish and it won’t stick to the grate! Easy little tip. Looking forward to passing on tips and tricks!
What is your biggest goal or dream to accomplish in the grilling industry/world? (Or are you just living the dream?)
I pinch myself every day, I can’t believe that I get to travel the world teaching people something I am so passionate about. I am the luckiest and most fortunate person in bbq-grilling world!
Do you have any general rules about grilling?
Don’t be afraid to think out of the box. Don’t get in to big of a hurry, and don’t be afraid to experiment with flavor profiles.
Any general tips or know-how that you hope your audience takes with them?
Start with quality equipment and you can turn the toughest cuts of meats and turn them into a truly gourmet experience. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Remember at the end of the day you are the one that needs to be satisfied with the results!