Know how to BBQ A Steak To Perfection!
To kick off lets explore one of the most widely cooked cuts on the BBQ. Seemingly easy to prepare a simple steak can be one of the biggest challenges newbies face as they develop their BBQ skills. The truth is if you can master a simple steak (TO ORDER! – as everyone likes their steaks served to taste) and you will immediately impress.
To keep it simple lets break this into two easily digestible stages (pun intended)
Stage 1 – Preparation
At the core there are to sub categories within preparation, these being the preparation of the BBQ and steak itself…
a) BBQ Preparation
The first step is simple yet critical, no matter what type of BBQ your using make sure you have it hot, and by hot I mean H.O.T – A simple indicator is that the steak must sizzles when it’s placed on the hot plate or Grill, heat is essential in ensuring you are locking in all of those tasty juices and not sweating or stewing the meat. Which raises a highly disputed point – Hot Plate or Grill? – Personally I prefer the grill but there are many reasons why you may wish or need to utilise the hot plate (I will address many of these in a future Boss L.A.B – where I will discuss the pros and cons of cooking on a Hot Plate Vs a Grill.
When I started out all I ever did was cook on the hotplate as it seemed easier, to me it was logical as I often used rubs and marinades on my steaks so the hot plate simply made more sense, the truth is however that to be the boss of my bbq I needed to understand and use both surfaces dependent on what I was trying to achieve… (I will cover this in detail within a future Boss L.A.B entry).
b) Meat Preparation
The most critical element in preparing TO BBQ a Steak is your meat is to ensure you have it at room temperature prior to introduction to the grill. In general terms this means you will need to remove the meat from the fridge and allow to stand for an appropriate amount of time for it to warm up (usually 30 minutes).
Why? To ensure your meat is cooked evenly. For example, if you were to throw a cold dense steak on the hotplate or grill you run the very real risk of drying out its exterior surface before you’ve given the internal meat a chance to cook through.
I should also advise that if for any reason you are unable to rest the meat prior to cooking then as a last resort you can reduce the heat of the bbq, this will allow the meat to cook a little more gradually thus reducing the potential of it dry out.
ARE YOU A BBQ STEAK SINNER!!!
NEVER TAKE A PIECE OF FROZEN MEAT OUT OF THE FREEZER AND DEFROST IN THE MICROWAVE!!!
Whilst it’s generally accepted that you can use a microwave to defrost meat it should only be used as a absolute last resort. Microwaves by design are built to cook from within (i.e. opposite to what we are trying to achieve on the BBQ), they also heat unevenly which presents additional concerns. If you are at the point of last resort and are using the microwave do the following to reduce the levels of your sins.
1) Turn the meat frequently to ensure that they thaw more evenly
2) Separate the meat as soon as possible (assuming you placed a slab of steaks frozen together)
3) Single Layers of meat will Thaw more evenly
4) Interrupt the defrost cycle on your microwave and allow the meat to stand for 5 minutes so the meats individual temperatures can equalize (turn meat frequently)
I will explore all of the defrost methods in a future Boss L.A.B Entry and link here.
Stage 2 – BBQ A STEAK
Kick the tyres and light the fires, its time to throw some meat on the BBQ. Personal preferences should always dive how you serve up your steaks, you or your guests might like your meat mooing or perhaps the site of blood might make you squeamish. To cremate or not to cremate is that question? No, there are actually 6 Degrees to which you can serve up a steak. These stages are as follows
1 Blue Rare
3. Medium Rare
5. Medium Well
6. Well Done
Note: I cover this off in more detail in my steak blog “6 degrees of desecration”
Whatever your preference there are some tried and tested methods to determine the stage at which you will need to take your steak off the bbq (Note: We will exclude Blu Rare from this discussion).
Here are a few of the most popular methods
Unless your a Jedi dont use the Force!
I’m serious! many people simply use the force, estimating the time and assesses the outward appearance of the steak to determine its cooking time. I myself used this prior to becoming the Boss of my BBQ, I would never recommend this technique now however as you are essentially taking a punt on the outcome, sure it may work from time to time but if someone asked for a medium steak and you deliver it rare or god forbid well done then your perceived as ‘Darth Vader’ using the dark side. Seriously to be the Boss of the BBQ you need to understand one fundamental, meat is always different and no two cuts are the same.
You don’t need to be a Jedi to understand that there are multiple factors effecting your cooking time.
• The thickness of the cut
• The dimensions of the cut
• The specific variations of cuts (T-Bone Vs Rump for example)
• The ratio of Fat and Bone to meat
• BBQ Type – Gas V’s Bricks V’s Fire (Check this)
• If using Gas
– The speed at which the gas is flowing
– Bottle Vs Mains Gas (Natural Gas V’s LPG
– If using LPG – the gas flow can vary depending on how full the bottle is)
• The surface your cooking on (Hot Plate Vs Grill)
– if using a hotplate what’s it made of and how thick is it (Steel etc.)
• Are you cooking with the hood up or down
• How hot the was the surface at the point you started
• How many times you flip the meat (this point is discussed in detail in…)
• Ambient temperatures (hot day’s verses cold day’s)
• Altitude at which your cooking
One thing is for sure, unless you are a qualified Jedi with actual powers using the force will ultimately end in disappointment.
A better way to go is to focus on more tried and tested methods. Here are two of the most widely accepted methods which will ensure you can accurately determine the extent to which the steak is cooked and ‘nail it’ every time.
Firstly – ‘The Touch up’
This is the most widely used as its easily applied. However beware, this can be a little difficult to master as it is all about perception and as with everything in life everyone’s perception is different, what feels ‘soft’ or ‘Hard’ to me may be different to you .
You should familiarise yourself with the skin plasticity test on your hand (you can check that out in my other blog)
As a general guide however, here is how to apply the touch me up method
1. Rare = Steak should be very soft on the touch
2. Medium Rare = Steak should feel soft to the touch
3. Medium = Steak should offer resistance to the touch.
4. Medium to Well Done = Steak should be firm to the touched.
5. Well Done = Steak should be very firm to the touch.
Secondly – ‘Stick Me’
A more precise method for checking how your steak is progressing is to use a thermometer. Not as freestyle as the touch me up method this method applies a more scientific approach ensuring that the steak is always cooked to a precise internal temperature grade.
As a guide here are the ranges for you.
1. Rare = Steak is Red and relatively cool on the inside 43 – 48°C (109°F – 118°F)
2. Medium Rare = Steak is Red and warm on the inside 48 – 54°C (118°F – 129°F)
3. Medium = Steak is Pink and hot on the inside 54 – 60°C (129°F – 140°F)
4. Medium Well Done = Slightly pink and hot on the inside 60 -65°C (140°F – 149°F)
5. Well Done = Cooked throughout 65 – 71°C (149°F – 160°F)