Chris Schlesinger

Chef Chris Schlesinger

Big, bold, kicked-up flavors and less work in the kitchen and at the grill makes The Big-Flavor Grill: No Marinade, No Hassle Recipes (Ten Speed Press) a real winner. These are just a few of mouth-watering benefits you’ll enjoy from the best-selling team of Chef Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby, executive editor of Cook’s Illustrated.


John Willoughby

Unlike most grilling cookbooks, The Big-Flavor Grill contains no marinades, which means you don’t have to prepare your meats and seafood hours ahead of time. The book concentrates on spice rubs that coat foods just before they go over the coals with marinade-like ingredients—including citrus, hoisin sauce, fish sauce, ginger, basil, and fresh chilies—that result in savory, complex dishes that are fun and incredibly easy to make.

And what a collection of recipes they are. Ranging from steaks, chicken, ribs, and chops to shrimp, fish, and vegetables, Schlesinger and Willoughby provide a smorgasbord of mouth-watering meals and sides that blend the traditional, the exotic, and the effortless. In the mood for beef? Try a Grilled Skirt Steak with Bacon-Mushroom Relish, or Grilled Pineapple and Sweet-Sour Sauce. Dress up your grilled chicken thighs with Apricot-Chile Glaze and Minted Cous-Cous, or chunky Peach-Bourbon Barbecue Sauce and Hot and Sour Lime Slaw. Seafood lovers can feast on Fish Fillets with Thai-Style Sesame Vinaigrette, or a Tuna Steak with Korean-style Cucumber-Sprout Relish. And as the authors point out, vegetables love the grill, too, as evidenced by their rendition of Eggplant with Feta and Maras Pepper, or Corn with Basil and Parmesan.

GRILLED CHICKEN THIGHS with chunky peach-bourbon barbecue sauce and hot and sour lime slaw

Grilled chicken with chunky sauce and hot and sour lime slaw

We test-drove The Big-Flavor Grill by preparing Grilled Pork Chops with Hoison-Peanut Sauce, a delectable dish with Asian flavors that also [giveaway giveaway_id=1478 side=”right”] recalls the Southern tradition of pork and peanuts. The preparation couldn’t have been easier, but the dish still delivered a massive wallop of sweet and spicy flavor. (The sauce worked great over chicken drumsticks, as well.) For our feast, we also enjoyed Grilled Chicken Breasts with Maple-Soy Glaze and Peanut-Ginger Relish, which, thanks to a generous shot of Sriracha sauce, set our mouths ablaze with delight.

All in all, The Big-Flavor Grill delivers exactly what it promises—huge flavor at a fraction of the prep time of most grilling cook books. We give this one two tongs up!

Hoisin-Peanut Sauce for Grilled Pork Chops

Reprinted with permission from The Big-Flavor Grill, by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby, copyright 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House LLC.


While the fire heats up, combine in a large bowl and toss:

½ cup hoisin sauce

1/3 cup roughly chopped roasted peanuts

1 tablespoon minced ginger

½ cup rice wine vinegar or white wine vinegar

1/3 cup soy sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 to 2 tablespoons Sriracha or Tabasco, depending on your taste for heat

¼ cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro

Big Grill Flavor Grill cover

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Four 1-inch thick bone-in rib or center-cut loin pork chops, each about 10 to 12 ounces

3 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Rub the pork chops all over with the oil and sprinkle them generously with salt and pepper. Cook, turning just once, until done to your liking, about six to eight minutes per side for medium. To check for doneness, cut into the thickest portion of one of the chops and peek to see if the meat is done just slightly less that you want it to be when you eat it, since it will continue to cook a bit more after it comes off the fire. Take the pork chops off the grill, cover them loosely with foil, and let them rest for five minutes, then serve warm.


When the pork chops have finished their post-grill rest, put them on a platter and spoon just a thin layer of the sauce over each chop. Pass the rest of the sauce in a separate bowl.


Grill Daddy has laid out a real challenge this time: hoisin sauce is a tough flavor with which to pair a wine, and the addition of peanuts makes it even more difficult. Fortunately, though, The Big Chill has risen to the challenge. There are a number of wines, white and red, that will accompany this main course nicely.

If you like white, you can try the crisp, fresh flavor of a Sauvignon Blanc from either California or New Zealand. A Riesling from the German Mosel region also would work well—try an inexpensive QbA or a Kabinett. A Bordeaux Blanc, such as an Entre-Deaux-Mers or Côtes de Gascogne would also be a nice selection.

Red wine aficionados might enjoy a Syrah from the Northern Rhone. Try a Crozes-Hermitage or St. Joseph from California. Another good choice would be a Cru of Beaujolais, such a Fleurie, Julienas, or St. Amour. Finally, a Zinfandel from California would also complement this dish.

Here’s to a wonderful meal!


Photographs copyright 2014 by Ed Anderson

Cover Design by Toni Tajima; cover photographs by Ed Anderson