To get the best advice on how to cook on a grill, why wouldn’t you go to a guy who goes by the name Meathead? Meathead Goldwyn is the founder of AmazingRibs.com and his new book is called: “Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling.”
The book doesn’t just outline the best steps for a perfect steak, it also explains the science behind what needs to happen to get your meat cooked just right.
Kai Ryssdal spoke with Meathead about some invaluable grilling tools, why you should grill fish using mayonnaise (yes, really) and how he’s seen the market for grilling products change over the years.
On tools you need to grill:
Thermometers are absolutely the single most important tool you can use — a digital meat thermometer, you can get a really good one, there’s a brand called ThermoPop for $30 bucks and they read almost instantly those old dial thermometers are not accurate and they take forever to give you a reading and if you want a steak medium rare, that’s 130-135 degrees. You can’t tell by color, you can’t tell by poking it and food safety is big issue — digital food thermometer will make your food taste better and safer, absolutely the number one most important tool.
On why you should use mayonnaise next time you grill fish:
It actually doesn’t add much to the flavor at all. Mayonnaise is a mixture of egg and oil. Actually, I learned it from a chef at a fish restaurant. It helps release the meat from the grill. And that’s the biggest problem with fish: it sticks. And if you give a light coat of mayonnaise, it won’t flavor it drastically, but it will release easier.
On how grilling in America has changed over the years:
There’s one really noticeable change. Weber does market research — they’re the only ones that have really useful market research that I could find. And I’ve been noticing it and they put a number on it: In 2004, 14 percent of the people who were doing the grilling were female. It’s up to 27 percent now. So, you know, it’s always been a guy thing. And my theory is that women let us have that space, it’s just like ‘let us humor him,’ but they let us have it.
A recipe from “The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling“
Big Thick Steakhouse Steaks
Big Thick Steakhouse Steaks
Makes 2 to 4 servings
Takes2 hours to dry brine and about 45 minutes to cook
2 ribeye steaks, each about 11/2 inches thick
Coarsely ground black pepper
1. Prep. Trim most of the external fat from the steaks. Melting fat can cause flare-ups that deposit soot on the meat and burn the surface. Dry brine (see page 000) 1 to 2 hours before cooking. Pepper the surface of the meat to your taste and press it in. You can do this anytime. No need to take the meat out and let it come to room temperature.
2. Fire up. Set up the grill for two-zone cooking and shoot for about 225°F in the indirect zone.
3. Cook. Put the meat on the grill in the indirect zone. After about 15 minutes, start checking the interior temperature with a rapid-read thermometer. Check every 5 to 10 minutes in more than one location. At this low temperature, the exterior color should not go much beyond tan; if you add wood it might get a ruddy glow. Flip it if one side is cooking faster than another.
4. After about 30 minutes, the temperature in the deepest part of the meat will probably hit 110°F. Open the lid and leave it open.
5. Now that the interior is getting close to target, you will sear to it to get the entire surface dark. You want the surface to get scorching hot so it will brown quickly without transferring heat to the center. By cooking hot and fast with the lid off and flipping often, the heat works mostly on the surface of the underside and doesn’t have time to migrate deep into the meat. When you flip the heat bleeds off into the air and doesn’t overcook the meat.
On a charcoal grill: Bunch the coals together or add new fully lit hot coals so you have a pile of concentrated energy. If necessary you can take the meat off the grill to add more coals and wait for them to get hot.
On a kamado: Remove the deflector plate or move it to the direct side if you have a Divide & Conquer. Open the lower vent all the way and get the coals good and hot. Use a hair-dryer in the bottom vent to stoke the fire if needed. Lower the cooking grate as close to the coals as possible.
On a gas grill: If you have a sear burner, heat it up. If not, remove the meat and set it aside on a plate for a few minutes while you get the grill ready to sear. You might be able to remove the grates and lower them to sit right on top of the flavor bars or deflectors that protect the burners. The closer you get to the heat source, the better. Close the lid and turn all burners on high.
On a pellet smoker: Since most pellet smokers are all indirect heat all the time, you will need to preheat a heavy pan, perhaps cast iron. Take the meat off, crank up the heat all the way, and put your heavy pan on the grill and get it rip snortin’ hot.
6. Now we sear. Pat the meat dry and put it on the hottest part of the grill as close to the heat source as possible. Keep the lid open and turn the meat often.
All our effort is on one surface at a time. Stand by your grill! Things will move quickly because the meat’s surface is already close to 212°F, and you need to be ready to react. If you have charcoal about 1 inch below the meat, each side can be done in as little as 3 minutes. You want the surface evenly dark, with no grill marks. If a little of the edge fat blackens, that’s okay, but don’t blacken the muscle fibers.
7. When the meat hits 130°F (or your favorite temperature), get it off the flame and to the table while it is still sizzling! Err on the side of undercooking, since you can always put a steak back on the grill.
8. Serve. Don’t let the meat rest and cool off and lose its crust (see page 000). Some prime steakhouses, like Peter Luger in Brooklyn, slice it across the grain, and then reassemble the whole thing on the platter. This is also a nice approach if you have huge steaks that are too big for one to a person, but the juices will soften the crust.
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