Donatella’s Guide to Grilling


I have lived in New York City forever, so I never thought I would fall in love with grilling. When I got married and we purchased our lake house, outdoor cooking became an integral part of my life. At first I let my husband do the grilling, but being a chef and (dare I say) slightly controlling in the kitchen, I slowly took over and fell in love! Here are my top tips for grilling.

Charcoal or Gas?
This question always sparks the great grilling debate, but as a busy working mom, I love the convenience, ease and clean up of a gas grill. The grill I use at home is a Lynx. It’s made in America and is “mom friendly and dad ready.” What more could I ask for?

blogDonatellaGrill_02Remember the Holy Grilling Trilogy: extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper
Often in life – and in cooking – less is more, and the Grilling Trilogy is the epitome of that philosophy. I love using freshly ground pepper and a variety of high quality salts from all around the world. They add flavor and color that really enhances the grilling experience. As for extra virgin olive oil, what can I say? The ones from Italy are the best!

Keep an eye on the temperature
An instant-read thermometer is your best grilling friend. Use it to check the internal temperature of your meat. Grilling is much more of an art than a science, and cooking times will vary slightly based on many factors, including wind, thickness of food, starting temperature of food (refrigerator cold vs. room temperature), grill preheating time, and temperature of the fire. But don’t worry; the more you do it, the more you will get the hang of it!

Build a better burger
For each burger, take about six ounces of beef and pack it gently into a patty. Using your thumb, make a well in the center of the patty to keep your burger from forming into a football. Be sure you have a minimum 20% percent fat content to prevent a dry burger. Let a crust form, then flip the burger. And remember, your spatula is for flipping, not for flattening.


Donatella’s Italian Summer Burger

2 lbs. mixed beef brisket, skirt steak and sirloin steak (20% fat)
4 slices fresh mozzarella
1 sliced tomato
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper
King’s Hawaiian Sweet Hamburger Buns

Heat grill to medium-high heat.

Form meat into four 1-inch thick patties. Season generously with coarsely ground salt and pepper.

Lightly coat tomatoes and arugula with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.

blogDonatellaGrill_08bArrange patties on the grill and cover. Cook over moderately high heat for 3–4 minutes. Flip the patties and cook covered for 2 minutes longer. Top patties with mozzarella and cook for 1 minute covered until cheese melts lightly.

Brush King’s Hawaiian Sweet Hamburger Buns with extra virgin olive oil and grill for 20 seconds on each side. Place patties on bun and top with arugula and tomatoes.

Pay attention to your bun!
My go-to choice for buns is King’s Hawaiian. It’s a chef’s favorite because it’s made with real butter. I think the taste and the texture of buns are best when they are lightly toasted. To toast, simply split the bun open, brush lightly with olive oil, place it cut side down on the grill, and toast until light golden brown, about 10–20 seconds.

Go to the dogs
For a unique grilled hot dog, try my recipe for a bacon-wrapped hot dog!


Bacon-wrapped Hot Dog

4 hot dogs
4 slices center-cut bacon
Toppings of your choice; mustard, ketchup, relish
King’s Hawaiian Sweet Hot Dog Buns

Heat grill to medium-high heat. Wrap each hot dog in a strip of bacon, and secure with a toothpick. Place on the grill and cook until bacon is fully cooked and hot dog is warm inside, rotating the hot dog often so bacon cooks evenly.

Nestle hot dog in a King’s Hawaiian Sweet Hot Dog Bun, and top with mustard, ketchup and relish.

Pair your burger or hot dog with a sangria!
The perfect accompaniment while preparing and eating burgers and hot dogs on a hot summer day is my husband Allan’s white sangria. For a little fun, go exotic with star fruit!


White Sangria

3 bottles white wine (Chile or Spain)
9 oz. decent brandy (VSOP)
6 oz. triple sec
6 oz. simple sugar
9 oz. peach purée
3 cups pineapple juice
3 cups orange juice
Slices of star fruit, green apple, kiwi and a handful of grapes

Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher. Refrigerate overnight. Enjoy!


Follow more of Donatella’s grilling adventures on Instagram @donatellaarpaia.

Donatella Arpaia

Donatella Arpaia is a chef, restaurateur, entrepreneur, and mother. She has built an empire of successful restaurants drawing on the skills, passion, methods, and love for food she learned from her family.

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