by Steve Johnson
Grilling is much more than just another method of cooking food. Grilling is an institution that borders on religion in many parts of the world. There is a deep primal attraction to cooking over an open flame that just doesn’t exist when cooking on a flat top or in an oven.
There are many types of grill. Wood fire, Charcoal, Gas, Wood Pellet, Rotisserie, Pit Barrel and Smokers. We may even be missing one or two… The goal with all methods is the same – apply heat and flame to meat to cook it. While grilling is the most romantic form of cooking it is also the most inherently inconsistent method of cooking. The trouble is all the variables – from fuel type to environmental conditions, it’s just hard to get the same grill to cook exactly the same way twice – short of some very expensive grills that do exist. Wood pellet grills with advanced thermostat systems are probably at the front of the line in terms of consistency of temperature throughout the cooking process. Wood fire and charcoal – in most scenarios – are on the opposite end of the spectrum. While they can both deliver exceptional results when managed by experienced pit masters, generally speaking it’s tougher for the “average Joe or Sue” to cook consistently on wood or charcoal without significant experience and knowledge of the process and equipment.
No one – especially men – want to admit that we have anything to learn about grilling. Most would claim that it is something given to us in our genetics. That is true around the Nebraska Star Beef office. There have been some things learned the hard way in the cooking room over the years. While some of these things will probably seem pretty obvious to seasoned grill masters and BBQ Guru’s, we’re just average folks that have taken on an honest interest in grilling food.
It is very important to have the right equipment. Once the right equipment has been obtained, it is critical for the user to become an expert with that equipment.
The item on the top of the list of necessary grilling equipment is a humble one. The single most important tool for preparing premium beef is a quality digital thermometer. Internal temperature is the only way to KNOW exactly what is going on inside a steak, roast or burger. There are various other ways that people will check for doneness, but none are as accurate or consistent as a digital thermometer.
Number two on our list of equipment to cook consistently awesome steaks is a good set of tongs (and a good spatula for burgers). A good set of tongs will have long handles and wide hands that aren’t too sharp. They should be large and strong enough to pick up a 3 or 4 pound roast at a minimum. Ideally, tongs should be robust enough to manipulate a brisket.
The third item is a good platter for seasoning, transporting and resting the steaks and burgers. There is a fair amount of consideration that goes into selecting a good steak serving platter, but one that is big enough to season a few steaks efficiently and decent thermal conductivity to help arrest the cooking process as soon as the steaks come off the grill. Food will continue to cook as long as the surface of the food is hotter than the inside of the food. The rate at which it cooks diminishes greatly once it has come off the heat source, but what the food is rested on will have an impact on how it finishes up. Many prefer a cutting board type platter for this purpose. Cutting boards work great, but it is important to make sure they have a juice groove because as the meat rests, some of the juice will find its way out onto the platter.
Rounding out this list is a good set of steak knives. Cutco is our choice for knives in general, but there are many other good knives on the market. Having a nice set of steak knives, and silverware in general, adds to the experience of grilling and eating quality meat. Having good knives means that even the most tender steak, like Nebraska Star Beef Filet Mignon, will cut easily without smashing and deforming. Trying to cut steak will a dull knife or other implement can be a frustrating experience that takes away from the meal.