Tuesday, April 30, 2013

How to Grill a Steak and Other Meat (Video)

This video is dedicated to my husband Jason.  Thank you for buying me my first All-Clad pan, my first Japanese knife, and my first serious video camera.  "To a bad dancer, the floor is always crooked," says a Russian proverb.  I live by this principle, always choosing to work on my skills over upgrading my equipment.  Thanks for making me realize when I reach the point of diminishing returns and simply need a better tool.  This video was shot with my new Canon Rebel T3i.  Just like the L'Oreal commercial.  "It's expensive, but you're worth it!"

YouTube Link: How to Grill a Steak and Other Meat

Frequently Asked Question about grilling meat

What cuts of meat work for grilling?
  • Beef: tenderloin, rib-eye, T-bone, porterhouse, skirt steak, hanger steak, sirloin, flank steak, flat iron steak
  • Pork: tenderloin, rib chops, loin chops, sirloin chops
  • Lamb: whole rack of lamb (or cut into rib chops), loin chops (aka lamb porterhouse), top round (top part of the leg)
  • Veal: rib chops, loin chops, sirloin chops
What about marinades?
I am anti-marinades with most cooking methods, but on the grill they do serve a purpose (as long as they are made wisely). They can help the meat brown, and they fuse with the meat during cooking giving it a more complex flavor. A successful marinade has 3 basic components:
  • Oil -- it helps the meat brown and prevents it from sticking. It also helps other flavors penetrate the meat since most herb and spice flavors are oil soluble.  Oils I like to use in marinades are olive, safflower, and grape seed. 
  • Sweet ingredient -- sugar speeds up browning, which is invaluable for thin pieces of meat. Sweet ingredients I like to use are soy sauce (I like Tamari), and pomegranate molasses (it's very reduced pomegranate juice; you can buy it at Whole Foods).  Use these ingredients in very small quantities since they tend to burn.
  • Emulsifiers -- they help the wet ingredients stay suspended in oil. I like to use Dijon mustard and garlic mashed to a paste. Both are also huge flavor boosters. Minced garlic doesn't work as emulsifier and tends to burn on the grill, so make sure you turn it into a paste before adding. Once you got the basics, you can add pretty much any herbs and spices, but remember that less is more. 
Keep in mind that the only ingredient that penetrates the meat deeply is salt.  I am a strong believer of salting a day ahead, but the marinade itself can go on your meat right before cooking.

Why do I need a thermometer?  Some guy on YouTube showed me how to test for doneness by touching the meat and comparing it to my thumb or nose.
That would be a wonderful way for testing doneness when grilling your thumb or nose.  Touch a raw tenderloin and a raw NY strip.  They feel different, don't they?  So why would they feel the same at medium-rare, and why on earth would they feel like your thumb or nose?  It's true that many restaurant line cooks test meat by touching it.  That's because they grill about a hundred perfectly portioned steaks of the same type every night.  It's true that the more done the meat, the tougher it gets, but unless you grill hundreds of steaks you won't be able to get your touch calibrated.  Even for line cooks, it takes months of practice before they are good at it.  The method is so unreliable that most good restaurants don't use it.  They either sous-vide, or use C-vap ovens, or use a metal cake tester needle to determine internal temperature of their meat.

What thermometer do you use?
I use a Thermapen, but you can buy a basic digital thermometer at Target for about $15.

How do you modify this technique for a charcoal grill?
Set up a charcoal grill for direct and indirect cooking by putting all your charcoal under half of the grill grate.  There is no need for the foil trick I show you in the video.  Charcoal can get hot enough without it.  Start your steak over the charcoal side following the flipping procedure in the video and then move it to the other side away from charcoal.  You might also want to close the vents once your steak is brown.  No oxygen means no flames means cooler grill.  

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