SECRET INGREDIENT #1: CITRUS PEELS
Meat and fish get a subtle zing when you add dried citrus peels to the fire and slow-cook the foods over the resulting smoke, says chef Scott Anderson of Elements in Princeton, NJ: "The aroma is as great as the taste."
Try it: On a rack, dry orange, lemon or lime peels (scrape off as much soft pith as possible) for 2 to 3 days, then add them to glowing-hot charcoal before grilling meat, fish or veggies.
SECRET INGREDIENT #2: BOURBON-BARREL STAVES
Chef Sean Brock puts a new spin on wood-smoking at his restaurant Husk in Charleston, SC. He burns bourbon-barrel staves to smoke vegetables such as heirloom field peas. "You can smell and taste the bourbon in the food," he says.
Try it: To give chicken, sausage or steak added oomph, quickly pour a small amount of whiskey or bourbon directly onto smoldering embers.
SECRET INGREDIENT #3: HIMALAYAN SALT BLOCKS
"It started with brick- roasted chicken," says chef Drew Belline of No. 246 in Decatur, GA. "We thought we could get the same weight out of a salt block as a brick, but add way more flavor." It worked! To sear delicate shellfish, he uses salt blocks as flavorful sauté pans.
Try it: Preheat a salt block on an outdoor grill until hot. Quick-cook shellfish on top, or place the salt block over meat on the grate to sear it from above.
SECRET INGREDIENT #4: LOBSTER SHELLS
Nothing goes to waste at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, NY -- even lobster shells. Executive chef and co-owner Dan Barber heats spent shells until carbonized, then grills corn or, better yet, lobster on top. The shells impart a briny essence.
Try it: Place cooked lobster shells from the body, tail and large claws onto lit charcoal, then grill veggies or fish. (You can store shells in the freezer; let them come to room temperature before using.)
SECRET INGREDIENT #5: LAMB BONES
Animal-bone charcoal lends a savory flavor to meat, fish and veggies, says Craig Rogers, owner of Border Springs Farm in Patrick Springs, VA, who makes coals for chefs like Spike Mendelsohn of Washington, D.C.'s Good Stuff Eatery. "Each animal imparts its own flavor," Rogers says. Lamb bones give an earthier taste than standard charcoal. Try it: Leave this one to the pros. It requires extreme heat and special equipment.