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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Steak to my heart!

Is there anything better than the smell of a good steak searing and smoking away? There are very few smells that can melt my heart, and steak has this mystical hold over mine.
I am a strong believer in the philosophy that the meat should speak for itself. What I mean by this is no BBQ, steak, or marinade sauces need apply when enjoying a good steak. Even a heavy rub can ruin or cover the gory that is the god given natural flavor of the meat! (sorry for all those veggies that read, this one is gonna be brutal for you)
Man has been smoking meat over open flames for hundreds of thousands of years, and I think we really have not been able to fulfill our carnal desire for better than the combination of meat, flame, and smoke. The years and evolution of flavoring our meat with sauce, and spices does well to satisfy that urge somewhat but the fulfillment of desire by this age old combination has yet to be toppled.
That being said, lets get to the three main ingredients, MEAT, FLAME, AND SMOKE;
I will speak of beef in this blog, but many of these same methods and ideology, can be applied to most meats and game, including Pork, Fish steaks, wild game, elk, moose, deer, bear, and all the likes of meats that can be identified as steaks that lend well to a good searing and smoke.
There are many different types of steaks that come from the bovine, and many have sworn a blood oath to one or the other claiming that theirs is the best for the grill. I will share with you my opinion, and why. It is my opinion and I suggest going out and trying many different cuts and see what your mouth and belly declare is the best.
My choice for the best steak on the grill is the grass fed Ribeye steak bone in. It is also known as the Delmonico Steak.
First lets start at the actually cut and marbling before I get on my soap box. The ribeye comes from between rib 6 and 12 and is a cut well known for lacy marbling as well as white cap fat.
Look for a steak that is well marbled with small streaks of fat that is laced between the muscle fiber. This fat renders into a liquid keeping the meat moist and flavorful. It also keeps the fibers of the meat separated into a looser bound steak making it more tender and in turn easier to eat. This cut also tends to have larger pockets of fat known as white caps. This type of fat usually does not entirely render or melt into the meat but does provide flavor just as would the bone if attached. Many do not like having to cut around big hunks of fat in the middle of their steak but I find these fat caps usually help to make a fork tender steak and removing the fat easily with the fork is worth the flavor pay off.
Now I step onto my soapbox….the organized industrialized meat products that we find in many grocery stores rarely if any resemble the way meat tasted, or was raised and ate what it used too 100 years, less than that 50 years ago. The natural state and diet of a meat animals has drastically changed in that time to consist of feedlot, over-drugged, corn only fed, and frankly abused and mistreated animals in my opinion. Bovine are natural grazers. They are naturally made to forage and thrive on grasses and wild grains. Much of the flavor comes from an animals terroir and affects on its fat contents and flavor are drastically changes if the diet changes, especially and adversely, if that diet consists of an un-intended and un-natural diet. I am also a believer that the stress in an animals life also adversely affect the end product. The most flavorful and most health benefitting beef products I have tasted have been from grass fed, non stressed animals. The marbling is incredible and more yellow in color, and renders much more easily with much less white cap fat. It is worth the extra cost knowing your animal will taste better living a healthier, more environmentally sound, and less stressed sustainable life.
The flame I feel should also have a less processed flavor to it. If you use cheap chemical filled, lighter fluid soaked charcoal, guess what that steak will taste like? Yep, like you dipped it in a gas can. I like to use natural wood lump charcoal started in a chimney starter without the use of any type of fuel excellerant except newspaper. It light relatively quickly and evenly to red embers, and lump burn a little hotter than briquettes. Smoke would come from water soaked wood chips placed on the hot embers to smolder and smoke. Different breed of trees provide different flavored smoke. I am a fan of mesquite for a more bold peppery smoke that lends itself well to southwestern flavors and also Applewood and Hickory for a more silky almost sweet and savory flavor traditionally used in slow and low BBQ. You can mix it up or try different variations of the many types of wood and soaking liquid, like rum, whiskey, and wines added to the water.
To create those restaurant style sear marks point one tip of the steak in the direction of the front corner of your grill and once seared  make a quarter turn to face the opposing front corner, flip and repeat. Also depending on the thickness of your steak you may want to create a indirect heat area on your grill or a safety zone where you can move the steak in case of a flare up or to finish cooking to your desired doneness. and NEVER, I REPEAT NEVER CUT INTO YOUR STEAK TO CHECK FOR DONENESS!!!!, Always check the doneness of your steak by touching the center of the steak to check for firmness. The firmer the more done and cooked it is.
Make sure you allow your steak to rest  for a time on the plate off the grill. when fibers in meat are hot they tighten up and squeeze all the juices and moisture out. Allowing your steaks to rest, allows those fibers to loosen and in the interim suck up some of juices lost on the plate, making for a more moist and tender steak. There are many cuts of steaks and many ways to prepare them, if you would like to know more or have a question feel free to comment below for recipes and side ideas or if you need help finding a meat purveyor in your area, let me know. The only dumb question is the one that is never asked. Now get out there and make your family and friends proud!

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