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Get grilling: Off the clock with Dale Mullings


Dale Mullings, Assistant Dean
Students & International Initiatives, UTM


Dale has been with the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) for 11 years.


When Tara Herriot, a communications coordinator with Student Housing & Residence Life at UTM, nominated her colleague Dale Mullings for an Off the Clock profile, she told us that he barbeques the best food on something called a Big Green Egg®. “The food is so mouth watering, it’s ridiculous,” she said.

Since this is prime grilling season, we wasted no time acting on Herriot’s suggestion. Below, Mullings tells us why he enjoys barbequing, explains the Big Green Egg® and shares a few grilling tips and recipes.

Dale Mullings' barbecue grill

What do you do off the clock?

I’m an avid runner, cyclist, mountain biker, and I’ve been a Big Brother in my community now for four years. But most importantly, I’m a husband and father of two, and I really enjoy barbequing.

Our son and daughter have a rare metabolic genetic disorder called phenylketonuria (or PKU for short). It’s an important piece of the puzzle, because my creativity when barbequing relates to their needs.

Simply put, PKU requires a strict diet because their bodies lack the ability to metabolize protein. If a strict diet of limiting protein is not followed, it can lead to intellectual disabilities, or other medical issues.

In our case, this means meat, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts and legumes are off limits in most cases for our kids. As they grow, we have to create meals centered on fruits & vegetables, not protein. That said, my wife and I require protein in our diets, so we develop our weekly meals with three or four high protein meals for us, but always with a fruit or vegetable side that we share as a family.

As someone who loves food, PKU has made me reconsider the importance of protein as the centerpiece of all our meals and challenged me to be more creative. I love barbeque. I barbeque meats regularly, but PKU also challenges me to think of new ways to barbeque, using fruits and vegetables.

How did you first become interested in barbequing?

When a friend introduced us to Big Green Egg® (BGE), I fell in love with the versatility: low temperatures for smoking and high temperatures searing all in one unit. And, as fate would have it, our BGE was delivered on the day our first child was born.

Dale Mullings' seared rib steaksWhat is the Big Green Egg®?

The Big Green Egg® is a green, egg-shaped charcoal barbeque, similar to the Kamado [Grill] originating from Japan. The BGE uses air vents on the bottom to take in fresh air, which then flows through the barbeque chamber and out the vented top. By adjusting the intake and vented top, you can achieve sustained temperatures up to 750 degrees Fahrenheit, or as low as 150 degrees.

With a new family on the way, we also appreciated that [due to the ceramic fire box] you could cook with high temperatures without the exterior of the BGE getting too hot to touch, which is great for curious kids who may want to touch it (that’s how I sold my wife).

Do you have a favourite BBQ chef?

I connect most with Barton Seaver, a chef who focuses on sustainable cooking, with an emphasis on using seasonable vegetables. I appreciate his cooking books because they tell a story and break the convention that protein should be the centerpiece.

My favourite book would have to be Where There’s Smoke: Simple, Sustainable, Delicious Grilling by Barton Seaver.

Gas or charcoal?

One-hundred per cent natural lumped charcoal, and never briquettes.

I think some people have an aversion to charcoal barbeques, because there is a perception that it is time consuming to prepare and dirty compared to propane. But the reality is, I light my BGE with only newspaper and charcoal, and it’s ready to for cooking within 10 minutes, similar to propane.

Whatever charcoal is not used in the cooking can be saved and cleanup is easy. I also appreciate the control you have with charcoal — the ability to a adjust temperatures simply with airflow. I feel more connected to the outcome, the infusion of smoke as a flavour, and enjoy the experience. That’s likely why I also drive a standard transmission car.

Dale Mullings' banana coconut French toastWhat are the most common mistakes people make when grilling?

Preparation:
Preparing your food in advance. For example, cutting your vegetables and seasoning or marinating meats in advance allows you to monitor your foods, time the meal, and provide you with the opportunity to enjoy the experience.

Direct vs. Indirect Heat:
I’ve never had a better steak than one I grill at home — not even at a high-end steak restaurant. This is because I’ve learned to sear my steaks at a high temperature, sealing in the juices, and then finish them off at a low temperature for a consistent and flavorful meal.

That said, not everything should be cooked on direct heat, and I didn’t learn that until I started cooking with my BGE. Chicken breast, pizza and even some vegetables (such as tomatoes) are best cooked indirectly. Cooking indirectly also limits carcinogens that can develop when cooking meats directly at high heats.

Patience:
I’m always excited to eat what I’ve made right away, but some foods, particularly beef, are more enjoyable when they have a few minutes to breathe and retract juices. Allowing time for foods to absorb the natural smoke flavours from charcoal, such as grilling a spaghetti squash directly over low heat for an hour or longer, can also make for unique and flavorful meals. Learning about which foods are best served right away, and which should wait, goes a long way in planning what goes on the grill when, and when to start eating for the best experience.

Care to share a few grilling secrets or a favourite recipe?

There is definite value in allowing some meats to rest at room temperature before cooking, such as beef. This reduces the chance of burning and allows the meat to cook evenly, rather than searing the outside and waiting for the cold internal temperature to rise over a flame to reach a desired temperature.


Recipes


Cedar Planked Parmesan Roasted Potatoes

Works well as both a centerpiece with a side salad, or side to protein.

What you need:
Russet Potatoes (3 to 4 potatoes cut into wedges)
Olive Oil (1 tbsp)
Parmesan Cheese (1 tbsp)
Fresh Chopped Parsley (1 tbsp)
Sea Salt (pinch)
Cedar Grilling Plank

Directions:

  1. Presoak the cedar plan for two to six hours submerged in warm water
  2. Pat dry the cedar plank and coat it in olive oil
  3. Preheat your barbeque to 400 degrees for 10 minutes
  4. In a frying pan (ideally over the barbeque, but not required), sauté the potato wedges in olive oil for 15 minutes
  5. Stir in parmesan cheese, parsley and sea salt, then remove from heat
  6. Place the coated wedges on the cedar plank, place the plank on the grill and cook over direct heat for 50 minutes with the lid closed
  7. Remove from the barbeque, plate and serve!

Grilled Rosemary Maple Lemonade

Dale Mullings' grilled rosemary maple lemonade A hit in the summer at our house, and so easy to make.

What you need:
Whole lemons (4 to 6 lemons)
Maple syrup (roughly 1/2 cup)
Rosemary (2 springs)
Water (enough to fill your pitcher)
Ice (lots)

Directions:
Place the lemons directly on the embers of your charcoal after a cook, allowing them to char on all sides for about five to seven minutes or until soft.

Remove the lemons safely with tongs or barbeque gloves, and set aside.

Lightly toast the rosemary over the embers for 1 minute, and remove.

When the lemons have cooled, cut in half and squeeze by hand into the pitcher adding a few lemon halves to capture the charcoal taste.

Add your maple syrup and rosemary.

Fill the pitcher with ice and to the top with water.

Stir, and enjoy!

Want to see more of Mullings’ barbeque creations? Follow him on Instagram.