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July 25, 2017 11:55 AM

Taylor Kinney‘s love for grilling developed in order to fill a void from his childhood.

“Momma was never much of a cook. We always thought chicken was supposed to be dried up and cold, and scratched our heads at friends who didn’t have a favorite dipping sauce for fish sticks. Ha! Sorry, Mom!” the actor tells Architectural Digest of growing up in Pennsylvania with his two brothers, Adam and Trent. “So as we came of age, we started grilling more and more.”

The Chicago Fire star and Lady Gaga‘s ex-fiancé began by experimenting with different marinades for his favorite cuts of meat like flank steak and filets of beef. “Soon my brothers started in on it, and we would have contests [about] who could make the best marinade,” he says. “We could have a hell of a cooking show.”

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Though Kinney continues to toy around with sauces to this day, his flank steak recipe with honey, soy sauce, olive oil, and spices is still a go-to. He tends to stick with the same barbecue tools as well.

“I’ve bought several grills over the years, depending on the situation, but I generally stick with Weber for grilling and the Big Green Egg for smoking,” he says. “We love the Egg. It’s well built and consistent. And you can never beat a simple charcoal grill for burgers and dogs. Charcoal grilling brings out so much flavor and is very underrated.”

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Barbecuing for Kinney is all about providing, he says, and mimicking what his family when they were younger—but maybe a little more delicious.

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“Now when we grill and get together, it’s usually in big groups of friends and family. Good times with lots of laughs,” he says. “Cooking in general brings people together. We lived in separate parts of the country for quite a long time, so when we were all home for birthdays or holidays, the one thing you could count on us doing was lighting up the grill.”

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