Max The Meat Guy's Top Tips For Your Labor Day Barbecue - Exclusive Interview

If you're (a) always looking out for the latest and greatest food content on your favorite social feeds and (b) consider yourself a carnivore even the slightest bit, then you probably know Max Greb, aka Max the Meat Guy. If not, though, here's a quick rundown.

With a background in finance, Greb decided to start a jerky company in the mid-2010s. After several years of hard work ... it didn't happen. Life circumstances got in the way and he put that particular dream on hold, but in 2020, he started making videos and developed the persona of "Max the Meat Guy" — a project that's proved wildly successful and garnered a huge following. Fans watch Greb cook, grill, brine, and bake some seriously impressive cuts of meat, from the oversized to the over-the-top to the just plain unique and unusual. Now, he's back to the jerky business, but still making plenty of meat-centric content as he's grown his expertise and following.

Mashed caught up with Greb recently to talk about his plans for the long Labor Day weekend, his tips for your Labor Day weekend, and general all-around tricks for your next meat-based adventure.

A no-fail plan for Labor Day

What are your personal plans for Labor Day, and what do you plan on cooking or grilling?

I'm going to be keeping it very simple. For me, it's all about steak. I'll be grilling up a massive tomahawk for my friends and family, maybe some burgers and dogs as well — but we're keeping it simple. I'm going to have some fun and hang out.

A lot of people have friends and family over for Labor Day weekend; they're feeding a crowd. What are your best tips when you're grilling and need to feed a lot of people?

Burgers are the go-to. You can never go wrong with burgers and dogs. It is a little bit simpler, but I like to keep grilling simple in general.

If you are making burgers, my number one tip is to avoid seasoning too early. A lot of people like to season their burgers ahead of time and mix up the meat into a really dense patty, and that's going to lead to a dense, firm, and chewy texture. For me, it's all about ... forming the patties as gently as possible and seasoning [them] right before cooking. When it comes to seasoning, my absolute favorite when it comes to burgers is McCormick Grill Mates Cracked Pepper & Garlic. You get that black pepper flavor as well as that garlic in there.

People tend to overcomplicate grilling, but if you stick to a few simple concepts, it doesn't have to be complicated. One big tip is to not let your equipment hold you back. Some of the best steaks and food I've ever grilled are literally [grilled] right over a campfire, so you don't necessarily need the biggest grill. You don't necessarily need the most expensive grill. Work with what you have, and you will have incredible success.

Another one is to dry brine. All that is [is] seasoning your meat the day before cooking. This leads to huge benefits in terms of crust development and in terms of moisture retention. When it comes to dry brining, my absolute favorite seasoning is McCormick Grill Mates Coarse Black Pepper & Flake Salt — it's a simple seasoning, but it hits all the notes.

Then ... flip frequently. There's this misconception that you should only flip one time, but if you're cooking a steak or a chicken breast, feel free to flip frequently. It's going to lead to more even cooking.

For someone who's pretty new to grilling, would you tell them to stick with those burgers and dogs?

It's a good place to start, but don't let inexperience hold you back from experimenting. Stick with burgers and dogs, but also supplement it with something more exciting. A good steak is always a go-to.

Any time you're buying a steak, my number one tip is to look for great marbling. You can find great deals at most supermarkets, but most importantly, look for steaks that have that intramuscular fat. It's going to look like those little white flecks within the red meat. Find yourself a good steak with good marbling.

Keep it simple: Season it simply, with coarse black pepper and flake salt. Grill Mates, once again, is my favorite seasoning when it comes to steak. Yes — supplement those burgers and dogs with something like a steak.

How to impress whether you're cooking inside or out

On the flip side of that, for people who are experienced, is there anything that you would recommend they cook this Labor Day if they want to impress their guests?

Typically, when people make ribs, it's only pork ribs; it's baby backs or St. Louis-style. I'd encourage people to look into a beef rib, either the beef back ribs or, ideally, beef plate ribs. You might've seen those larger dino rib-type things out there — that is always a winner. They're super forgiving because they're so fatty, so you cook them low and slow like you would a brisket.

They develop incredible bark depending on what seasoning you use. I'd recommend something that's salt, pepper, and garlic-based — something like the Coarse Black Pepper & Flake Salt from Grill Mates. This is a seasoning that does incredibly well with direct heat grilling, but it also performs incredibly well with low and slow barbecue, specifically on something like a short rib. It is a complete crowd-pleaser, and it's stunning on the dinner table.

Are there any other biggest mistakes you see people making when they're barbecuing or grilling?

People tend to shy away from vegetables, either because they've had bad experiences with them or because they assume they have to be bland. I am literally called the Meat Guy, but I do enjoy a good vegetable if it's done right, and it's actually very simple to make vegetables not boring on the grill. All you have to do is combine balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and my personal favorite, the McCormick Grill Mates Garlic & Crushed Herbs, to give you those herbaceous notes. [It's a] super simple marinade, but it completely elevates your vegetables. Literally, marinade them for — ideally, a few hours, but if you need to, 10 to 15 minutes right before you throw them on the grill — and you'll transform a bland, soggy vegetable into something that is truly incredible.

Are there any other underrated items more people need to try grilling?

Along the lines of vegetables, lately, I've been doing smoked corn. Any time I'm grilling ribs or doing a bigger grill session, [I] throw some corn on there, fully in the husk. You'll get a little bit of the smoke flavor. They'll steam themselves. That is a really underrated side dish. Once they're done cooking, I like to throw on some butter, season them up with a little bit of coarse black pepper and flake salt. I love that one, and it's a great side dish.

After Labor Day, it's going to be getting too cold for some folks to grill. At that point, what are you looking forward to cooking indoors?

The beautiful thing about grilling is you can have just as much success indoors as you do outdoors. Whether it's ribs, briskets, steaks — you can make some incredible stuff inside.

The one thing you're missing when you cook inside is a little bit of smokiness, so in those situations, when I'm cooking indoors, I do like to add a rub that has a little bit more of that smoky punch. The McCormick Grill Mates Smoked Paprika & Onion has an incredible amount of texture, but it also has a little bit of a smoky undertone, which will give indoor ribs [and] indoor steaks that smokiness that you'd expect from an outdoor grilling session. So keep the flexibility open and be aware that you can still make great stuff inside.

The social media-worthy salmon you've got to try

On your various social channels, you often show yourself working with these oversized or larger cuts of meat that can be intimidating for the average home cook. For someone who wants to cook or grill something like that, what advice would you give them?

Get to know the market, and get to know your supermarket situation. Sometimes, you'll find great deals at a Whole Foods versus the Stop & Shop versus the Publix. Get to know the butchers and the meat sections of your various supermarkets in your area and keep an eye out for sales. That's a huge thing for me. Sometimes you can find incredible stuff at huge discounts. Especially as we get closer to the holidays, you'll find prime ribs that are literally 50 to 60 to 70% off because they're going through so many. Keep an eye open for sales, and if you do find something like a rib roast at a huge discount, be sure to pick that up. You can always throw it in your freezer.

You also have a lot of posts and videos that feature more unique or different prep or cooking methods, like your Clay Baked Chicken and the Steak Accordion. Have there been any recipes that you've done purely for social media, but you were surprised and impressed with how well they worked or how much you enjoyed them?

Social media is very different than real life in a lot of situations, but there is one recipe that comes to mind, and it's the smoked salmon cinnamon rolls that I did. There's a few different variations of them, but it's basically a huge side of salmon. I have this cream cheese filling. [I] roll them up, slice them so they look like these awesome cinnamon rolls, smoke them low and slow, glaze them with a miso maple glaze, top [them] with candied bacon — and they're truly incredible. They do require a bit of work, but they are quite delicious. That's the one that stands out for sure.

You relaunched your jerky brand. What has that journey been like, and why have you held this longstanding love for jerky, out of all of the foods you could have picked?

We launched MaxJerky three months ago, but it's been 10 full years of work getting to this point. It was initially a brand I was going to launch in China when I was living out there. That didn't work out. Covid happened, Mom got sick ... We were fortunately able to launch it here.

The most interesting thing about this journey is that the jerky company is what sparked my interest in cooking, and it's really the beginning of me getting in the kitchen. Without jerky, I wouldn't be where I am today. That long process of learning everything about the product — shelf stability, flavor, all those things — has been quite the journey, and I'm excited about it.

Was there anything else you wanted to share?

The partnership that I have with McCormick is going to be for the foreseeable future — the next year or two — and I'm super excited about it. We're going to be putting out a wide range of content, from educational stuff to tips and tricks. I've used McCormick products from day one, so it's a partnership that I'm ecstatic about and I'm excited to share more with my audience.

Keep an eye out for more from Max the Meat Guy on TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook.

This interview has been edited for clarity.