Saturday, April 18, 2015

A beginner's guide to charcoal grilling a steak...with Schwartz's Montreal Steak Spice & Grilled Salami

Today, as we head into BBQ season, we will be taking a look at the basic technique of charcoal BBQing actually rather easy treat for special events that many find very intimidating. We will also be looking at the very impressive results one can get by tossing salami, summer sausage, pepperoni or meats of this type on the grill.

There is always a debate between charcoal and propane or gas barbequing . Many, rather mistakenly in my opinion, see charcoal barbequing as somehow "difficult" or very time consuming, which, as we will demonstrate here, is simply not true.

Flavour wise, however, there is no real debate. Charcoal barbequed food tastes better. Period. It gets a smoky taste that is not achievable with standard propane barbequing.

For this post we are going to set up the barbeque and grill some seasoned Rib Eyes and T-Bones.

I am using a Weber standard style BBQ. Webers are great BBQs. Very well made and quite inexpensive. A basic Weber model will run $120-150 (and only the worst propane BBqs are available for so low a price) and will last for years. The one that I own, which is a more "deluxe" model, with a side table and some other "extras" is more than that, but I got mine for $50 at a yard sale. To show how long and how quality an investment a Weber is, I had my first grill for over 8 years (and I gave it away, so it may still be going strong) and this "used" one I have had for 5 years.

A Charcoal Chimney!
The most common complaint people have is that they find charcoal hard to get burning. But with a simple and very cheap ($10-20) accessory (that is actually sometimes included with a new Weber), the Charcoal Chimney, it is really easy and quick to get it started. In addition it requires absolutely no stater fluid,  thereby avoiding that awful taste that can be imparted to the food we all remember and have encountered when charcoal is over-drenched in fluid by an inexperienced BBQer.

You place the chimney in the bottom of the BBQ, removing the grill rack itself of course, pour the charcoal in the top and stuff old newspaper underneath (the sections for this are separated). You lite the newspaper on fire and the flames will get the charcoal burning. This takes at most 5-10 minutes. When the charcoal is good and red hot, you simply use the handles to turn the chimney over and dump out the charcoal. It is that simple.

Within a few minutes of emptying the chimney, you are ready to go.

For this BBQ I used "chunk" charcoal. I prefer this to briquets for doing steak, as chunk charcoal burns very hot, very fast. (As we will relate in future posts, briquets are better for BBQing for a long time, as when doing a whole chicken or roast).

When cooking steak on the BBQ, I like to wait for the charcoal to be red hot. This technique will sear in the flavour and juiciness , and gives the steak a great texture.

I seasoned the steaks with Schwartz's Montreal Steak Spice from the famous deli in Montreal. They have a whole array of seasoning blends that you can buy at the deli or order online. They are all excellent. The steak spice is a terrific blend of salty and spicy (though very mildly so). If this is unavailable Club House Montreal Steak Spice is quite good, or season simply with salt and pepper or whatever else you like.

No matter what you are seasoning the steaks with, you should let them sit at room temperature for about half-an-hour after seasoning and prior to grilling.

I cook my steaks rare, though many people prefer steaks medium rare. A steak one inch thick will require only a very short cooking period once the charcoal is red hot. Half inch grocery store cuts even less. I do about two-three minutes a side, then turn the steaks 90 degrees on the grill and do them another minute a side to create those visually appealing cross-hatch grill marks.  (This is entirely optional).

The way to tell if your steak is how you like it depends on the "give". Never cut open or puncture a steak to gauge its "doneness". This will allow the juices out, which really hurts the steak. The more give there is on the steak when gently pressed with a spatula or tongs, the rarer it is. A lot of springiness means it is rare. A little more resistance and it is medium rare. Once the springiness or give is gone or almost gone, you are heading into medium and well done territory.

If this is your thing, fine. But it really does turn a delicious steak into shoe leather.

It is always worth noting that if you really think it is underdone for your taste after all is said and done, you can always toss it back on the grill. When you have overcooked a steak, there is no way to "undo" it. So err on the side of flavour and rare!

After the steaks are done, take them off and let them sit for a minimum of two minutes on a flat platter/plate, prior to serving. This is essential to maintaining juiciness.

For an extra a steak with some grilled shrimp!

Following these easy steps, especially with a little practice, will produce excellent BBQed steak every time. For this type of grilling, with no marinade, I suggest the fattier cuts of meat, like Rib Eye or T-Bone. I find a nice marbled cut of meat, with white lines of fat throughout, produces the best BBQ results.

As a side holiday idea that is a real crowd pleasing delight (kids love it), try BBQing pepperoni or salami "logs".

For this take a large size salami, summer sausage, or pepperoni (or other large size cured meat) of your choosing (and there are, of course, some very high end ones,  though for this blog we used a medium priced spicy salami and a dirt cheap No Name pepperoni. The kids will go crazy for the No Name brand me!)

Let sit out at room temperature for about a half hour. Cut the meat in half down the middle.

Place both sides on the grill a bit off to the side so the heat of the charcoal is a bit more indirect. You do not want the meat to burn as it will if you put it right above the center of the charcoal. Grill the meat for about 8 minutes a side or until your desired texture/crunch. Remember, these meats are already cooked, so the length on the grill is about creating a flavour, not cooking!

Slice into smaller pieces and serve.

This is an easy and really delicious treat. It entirely changes the texture of the meat, giving it a "crunch" that it is very satisfying, reduces its fattiness and adds new levels of smokiness. Your guests or family will love it.

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