Tuesday, June 21, 2011

You can't beat my meat.

Progress has definitely been made in my quest. Within the last week and a half I’ve grilled two steaks, a rib eye and a T-bone. While grilling the rib eye I placed my coals in the center of the grill, something I don’t usually do. See, I’ve become a fan of two tiered grilling, a zone on one side of the grill with coals piled high for direct heat and a second zone in the center of the grill for indirect heat where the coals from the first zone have tumbled down much like pebbles in a pile. This allows one to sear and still leaves quite a large bit of the grill’s surface area for indirect heat and warming of already cooked food. Someone cooking for a number of people or a variety of foods will appreciate this. Since I was cooking one steak, I didn’t really care about two tiered/zone cooking. I had quite a good pile of coals going and I fanned the flames (er, blew on the coals until blue in the face) to increase the temperature.

Using some fat trimmed from the side of the steak I prepared the grates for a room temperature, salt and peppered steak. That last sentence will raise red flags in some minds. First, I don’t think using an oiled paper towel would have been a bright idea with such a hot fire. Secondly, oiling the meat also seems silly when working with such high temperatures. In my opinion these two things just invite flare-ups and fires. I’ve also read that there are some who do not season steaks with salt until the meat is on the grill. Their idea is that salt will draw water out of the meat and make it more difficult for a nice seared and crusty exterior to form. I disagree. There is so little water and I was grilling at such high temperatures that any water should evaporate quickly without interfering with the Maillard Reaction (what forms the brown tasty crust). Grilling at lower temperatures with water on the surface may be a problem, but not when using a really hot grill.

I was able to achieve a wonderful brown sear on both sides. I was able to overcome my frequent flipping foible. However, I was unable to get over my concern for underdone meat. I left it on just a bit too long and ended up with a steak just on the wrong side of medium rare. I had no problems thoroughly enjoying it. The dogs did not get as much as they hoped, I’m sure.

My second attempt was a high-stakes steak. I had company over. It was time to impress. I halved and sliced two onions for sweating over low heat with plenty of butter while we prepped our steak and the rather good looking company made a wonderful pico de gaillo. Earlier that night we purchased a nice thick T-bone steak. I set the grill up with the extraordinarily hot coals in the center and used some fat trimmed from the steak to season the grate just as before. Plopped it on the grill, waited a few minutes, flipped it over, waited a few minutes flipped it back over to add some nice hash marks and on to the plate. We let it rest for a good while as I grilled off some squash, prepped with salt, pepper, and olive oil, and some thick sliced eggplant marinated in Soy Vay’s teriyaki sauce. The result is shown in the photo at the top. The steak was red in the center (looks a little more red in the photo than it was). Perfect. I now have rights to claim the ability to grill steak.

Not to worry. There are quite a few avenues of exploration left open here. As I mentioned in my last post I'd like to explore the use of compound butters, olive oil and other substances for basting while cooking on the grill. I'd also like to explore how to best cook a standard supermarket steak (1" or thinner), and how to cook a perfect steak indoors.

Photo Credit: My dining companion, @Ldeblieux

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Post Secret

I have a secret. Something I’ve only admitted to a select number of people. I, Josh Who Grills It All, can’t grill a steak. Somehow my father, the recently reformed vegetarian of more than fifteen years, can. Even when he wasn’t going to eat it, he turned out some great grilled steaks. I have always envied him for that. This summer be it resolved that I will finally learn to grill a great steak.

I have a problem, several really. I want to flip too often. This means my steaks cannot sear properly or develop that wonderful and tasty browned exterior. I find that I am uncomfortable with the idea of serving steaks underdone. I leave them on the grill for far too long. This means that I produce well done steak. I want a nice rare or medium rare steak.

There are two ways to fix my problems. First, I can go to a store that sells thick steaks. Cuts about an inch and half thick. According to the reading I’ve done this means I should be able to leave the steak over high heat for a few minutes a side. Enough time to develop a nice browned and seared crust and leave the inside of the steak uncooked enough for a few minutes to cook in lower heat. Secondly, I can learn to poke my meat. I know, I know, too much information. Seriously, though if you gently prod your steak you can gauge how done it is by the firmness of the steak. Pretend like you’re going to smack your head. Stop, just before you move your elbow. Those of you who have a hard time with instructions, pull your hand back from your forehead. Now with your other hand’s index finger prod the muscle just below your thumb. I’m told that with your open palm relaxed that the resistance that muscle has to your finger is what a person should look for in a rare steak. As you move your thumb next to your index finger that muscle tightens up and that resistance is about equal to medium rare. Move your thumb into your palm and the resistance at that point is too done for my taste. So with these tools I should be able to produce lip smackingly delicious portions of bovine. We shall see.

Several blog posts to follow could include; My Compounded Interest in Butter, The Hotter It Gets, The More Hot It Gets!, EVOO-pops And How I Learned to Love Rachel Ray, How Bloodied Do You Want That Steak, Does Benadryl Prevent A Bad Malliard Reaction?, Ruth’s Chris Can’t Be a Proper Noun, Can it?, Does Doe’s Do It Right? Sous Vide Gore Vidal, and My Victory.