Monday, December 11, 2006

New Grill: After the first week

The new grill is a week old, and I thought I'd jot down some impressions after a week.

Since we had this grill, we've cooked:
- Burgers. About 25 of those cheap mass-produced hamburgers you buy frozen at Sam's Club or Costco
- Steaks. 9 or 12 thick ribeyes. I cooked them with a dry rub and really high temps.
- Kebobs. A few chicken and vegetable kebobs.
- Pork loin. One pork loin cut in half, supposedly at 325F
- Chooks. Two chickens, supposedly at 250F or so.

That's a decent sample set of what I'd normally grill, so I think it's a fair test of the grill.

The burgers are burgers. There's not much to say about burgers, except that they help grease your cooking grates. They tasted fine, but what's not to taste fine? It's not like there's a lot you can do to affect the outcome of burgers, short of cooking them to smoking bits of char a la Roger Fox.

The steaks worked great. I cooked them like I cook most steaks: really hot. And this grill gets hot. The steaks were seared in less than a minute per side.

Let's discuss steak for a minute, shall we? A lot of people are realizing the best way to cook tender meat (like steak) is fast and hot. I'm not sure people really understand everything involved, though. Here's my technique, and I really like the results. First, I make a mixture of equal parts salt, black pepper, and white sugar. Say 1/2 cup of each. Then I throw in some garlic powder and paprika. Not much, maybe 1/4 cup or less of each. I rub that into the steaks very generously, less than one hour before cooking. If you leave them more than 45 minutes or an hour with rub on them, the salt will dry them out.

Second, I get the grill hot. For an idea just how hot, you might want to consider this: on my last two grills, I had charcoal actually touching the cooking grates. So the food grates are about the same temperature as the charcoal I'm cooking over. In fact, one of the best features of my new grill is, the crank to raise/lower the charcoal will actually lift the charcoal to where it lifts the cooking grates off the grill!

Third, I cook the steaks hot and fast. Don't let people tell you to only turn a steak once. Turn it as much as it needs: it's better to turn it too many times and get a good steak than to turn it only once and have it unevenly cooked. If they sear quickly, I pull them to a cooler part of the grill, or even lower the charcoal to cool the whole grill. I let the steaks cook to the desired done-ness in the moderate heat. If you do it right, you don't need to let the steaks cook at lower temperature very long.

The sugar burns off, leaving good caramelization and awesome grill marks. The salt and pepper enhance the meat flavour, but don't change it, as marinades and bastes tend to do.

Ok, back to the topic at hand. The grill.

This grill definitely cooks hot. That's not bad: it makes it more fuel-efficient. But it's hard for me to manage the temperature right now. That's just a matter of learning the grill, but it's always annoying to have a couple inferior projects until you figure it out. Just off the cuff, it looks like using 1/3 of the charcoal I expect is about right.

The built-in thermometer did not pass the test this weekend. Both my grill-surface thermometer and my pit thermometer measured it significantly hotter than the bult-in. "Significantly" means in the neighbourhood of 100F. I need to complain about that, I think.

We'll have to see how this works going forward. I think this grill is a real winner, but it may take some time to learn to control its temperature.

1 comment:

Gwen said...

HellO!!! Those steaks sound delicious. In fact, I've shunned all steaks since eating the ones you made while I was visiting. Seriously the best I've ever eaten!