Icarus, Ludwig Dürr, Prometheus, the cul-de-sac “grill king”. What do they all have in common? They all played with fire, and they all got burned. But Icarus and Prometheus are not real, and Ludwig Dürr was not actually on the Hindenburg when it went down, nor is he really to blame for it; however, this alleged fire-tamer and his crimes against meat have a direct impact to your life.
You know the type: middle-aged dad or post-collegiate frat bro, cargo shorts, brand new shiny grill, apron that says “Kiss the chef” or “check out my meat”. When it’s time to fire up the grill, he gives the guys the check-this-shit-out look, piles up enough charcoal to power the titanic, and rains down lighter fluid like R Kelly on a…well you get the point. A Viking funeral ensues, the grate goes on, meat goes on, and it’s a non-stop procession of flipping, flaring, smashing, and fire. Fire = cool, so more fire = more cool, right? No question, but I don’t want my steak tasting like “cool” I want it tasting “good”. For this, the key is control.
In an oven control is easy, you just turn the dial. In the gym, it’s just as easy, you have plates, they have numbers on them (if numbers are not your strongest suit, they even come in different sizes). But how do you measure fire? There’s no dial on a grill, and you can’t exactly turn off charcoal. The key here is to create two distinct zones: high heat for searing, and low heat for cooking.
One chimney of coals should do it (if you don’t have a chimney, get one).Once your chimney is nice and hot, dump it out on one side of the grill (if using a gas grill, just leave one half or one third off). I know, it sounds so simple, how did it take us 317 words to get here? And yet almost everyone does this wrong, resulting in overcooked, chewy, burnt tasting food that needs to be covered in sauces and condiments. Creating two zones allows you to properly cook all of your meat, searing it off over the high-heat area, then letting it cook at the appropriate rate in the cooler area until it is perfectly done and juicy. Flare-ups, while cool looking, are actually terrible for your food, not only do they burn the surface of the food, but all the fats that drip down and burn release chemicals that can be harmful, but certainly make your food taste burnt and bitter.
“But perfectly cooked food isn’t enough to impress people.” You say. “The people want a SHOW.” Well then be glad you read this far. Try this out for a spectacle. It’s called “clinching” and is guaranteed to make you look like the baddest motherfucker since Shaft, cooler than the other side of the pillow, a Houdini of the grill. It starts the same, one chimney of charcoal (lump, not briquettes), but spread out evenly over the bottom. Then, take that grate, and look at it, and throw it on the ground. Blow the ash off the charcoal, and throw the meat right on the goddamn coals. That’s right. Don’t listen to the cries of “wait, stop, NO!” You know better than them. You think you know paleo? What’s more paleo than meat on fire?
This works best on steaks around 1.5″-2” thick. You’ll want about 4 minutes per side depending on your preferred doneness (a little more or less per side depending on thickness and preferred doneness) then let it rest for at least 20 min. The key here is the direct contact to the heating element. This means no burnt flavor from flare-ups caused by dripping fat. The coals are so hot that the water on the surface of the meat vaporizes and forms a barrier, so the meat does not burn. The result is a steak with an unparalleled smoky crust, and about 30 min of added work while you pick peoples’ jaws up off the floor, and drown out calls of “have my babies”.
The “grill king” is dead; long live the grill king.