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