CategoryCooking With Mike

Grilled Steak Shootout

[NOTE: This is a sponsored post from STOK Grills.]

Grilled steak. As iconic Americana goes, that’s right about at the top with Norman Rockwell’s Thanksgiving feast. And like so many shared cultural foods, if you ask ten people the best way to grill a steak, you’ll get twelve surefire answers. I wanted to set up a little side-by-side shootout for myself, to decide a) what works best for me, and b) whether I could finally grill a steak without overcooking it.

Steak Contestants - Spoon & KnifeThe contenders are bone-in strip steaks each clocking in right around 16 ounces. I don’t mess around with steak.

I wanted to try three methods:
• Grilling lid closed, single flip.
• Grilling lid open, single flip.
• Grilling lid open, constant flip.

While getting to know the grill again, I’ve found that foods cook more evenly with the lid closed. This makes me a bit twitchy as a cook. I firmly believe that when you put heat to food, for the most part you leave it alone – I don’t stand there and poke and prod food in the pan. However, I do have use of all my senses – sight, smell, sound, touch, and when appropriate taste – to know how food is cooking. Is it cooking faster than usual? Unevenly? Ready to toss, turn, or flip? Cooking times are at best approximate – if I tell you to grill a steak for two minutes, I don’t mean precisely-to-the-second, because there are so many variables to consider.

Steak Oiled For Grill - Spoon & Knife

Oiled and salted for the grill.

Cooking with the lid down is like the scene in Star Wars when Luke Skywalker practices lightsaber use against a floating drone with the helmet’s blast shield down. It’s blindfolded cooking. You can kind of hear the food cooking, and you can generally smell it, but you can’t see it without opening up the grill, and doing that drops the surrounding temperature.

Still, it’s hard to argue with results, and in all the recipe testing I’ve done, I’m getting better results with the lid closed. All the instruction books say to do that (that I’ve seen, not just from STOK), and why argue with a manufacturer?

Open Grill Side By Side - Spoon & Knife

Open Grill methods, Side by Side

For the grill open test, I had two techniques to consider. One school of thought is to only touch the steak once (three times if you twist it for diamond grill marks), and otherwise? Leave. It. Alone. I generally follow this kind of rule on the cooktop.

The other technique is a constant flip. By flipping every 20-30 seconds, you’re in effect pulsing the direct heat hitting the steak, the argument being that the steak will cook more evenly (less of a band of grey overcooked steak around the center). I haven’t tried this before, although I certainly get the arguments.

STEAK MASTER RECIPE:
One steak (I like strip, ribeye, or sirloin; try for 1″ to 1-1/2″ thick)
Salt
Oil

Just before putting on a hot grill, season the steak with salt and brush a thin film of oil on.
Grill steak. On a hot grill, this is roughly 3:30 per side for medium rare, but that really depends on many factors – use an instant read thermometer to be certain.

Steak Results - Spoon & Knife

Clockwise from top left/top: open/single flip, open/continuous flip, closed/single flip.

The results? Better grill marks are observed on the closed lid steak. The constant flip did cook more evenly to the edges, and seared more evenly – no time to develop grill marks. The open lid single flip had the largest gray band of overdone meat around the outside. And flavor? All three were fantastic, although Christine and I tended to prefer the closed-lid steak (and I’ll work on my timing to keep from overcooking).

Of course, it never hurts to finish the grilled steak with a little lemon brown butter, alongside some grilled broccoli… but those are another post.

Seen in this post:

Grilled Steak

Ingredients

  • One 16 oz. strip steak, about 1" thick

Instructions

  1. Dry the outside of the steak and preheat the grill.
  2. Salt the steak and brush on a thin layer of oil
  3. Place steak on grill and close cover. Cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Rotate steak 45 degrees (diamond hash marks) and cook for 1 minute 30 seconds more.
  5. Flip steak and repeat.
  6. Let steak rest at least 10 minutes before cutting and eating.

Notes

NOTE: Cooking times are very approximate. Judge for yourself or, better, use an instant read thermometer.

http://spoonandknife.com/grilled-steak-shootout/

There’s burgers and there’s BURGERS…

[NOTE: This is a sponsored post from STOK Grills.]

It’s slightly cliché, but burgers seem as good a place as any to start with a grill. Straightforward, unfussy, simple is often better. Plus, it gave me a chance to do some side-by-side comparison of using the grill vs. the griddle for a better sear.

Burgers At Rest - Spoon & Knife

Burgers at rest.

KEEP IT SIMPLE BURGERS:
6 oz. beef chuck, freshly ground
(that’s it)

Grind the meat with a coarse die in the grinder.
Form into patties using a biscuit cutter or other form.
Let the patties rest on a tray in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes.

Heat the grill on high for 5-10 minutes. Brush grates with oil.
Salt and brush/drizzle a thin film of oil on the top of the patties. Place on the grill oil side down and salt the other side.
Close the grill cover and check the burger after two minutes; the goal is to see juices start to seep or pool on the top of the patty.
Flip the patty and cook until desired doneness (an instant read thermometer is your friend here).

That’s it – straightforward and fast. One thing to note; compared to cooking these on a pan or griddle on the stovetop, these cooked a bit more evenly and didn’t have as much juices pooled on top for the flip. Keeping the grill cover closed creates something of an oven effect – it’s far from a sealed container, but it definitely holds heat in and affects cooking. The burgers cooked more evenly and with better grill marks when closed, so I still prefer that method.

Burgers On Grill - Spoon & Knife

Burgers on the grill.

I also cooked a burger on the griddle; on a stove, a flat hot metal surface helps with even all-over sear. I didn’t get so much the same effect on the grill griddle insert, something I want to try out a few more times. Cooking burgers over the grill grates has the advantage of a larger surface (more meat!).

However, the griddle was perfect for the elevated form of a burger: the bacon-wrapped juicy lucy.

Making Burger Patties - Spoon & Knife

Making burger patties

BACON-WRAPPED JUICY LUCY (CHEESE STUFFED BURGER):
Two 4 oz. beef chuck patties, formed as above
Two slices of American cheese (Use whatever cheese you prefer, but I’m a sucker for gooey American on a burger. Call me old-fashioned.)
Three slices of thick-cut bacon

When forming the bottom patty, press down in the center to create a small indentation or well. Fold the corners of the cheese in to the center, and place the cheese on the bottom patty, leaving a margin of beef around to help seal. Place or form the second patty on top of the first, remove the mold, and double-check that a good seal has formed – nothing quite as deflating as a cheese blowout on the grill.

After resting, wrap the patty in the bacon strips. There’s not a precise science to this, but I try to cover as evenly as possible (i.e. don’t have all the ends meet in the center) and keep all the ends on the same side of the burger (so, a “seam side” and a “flat side”).

Preheat the griddle side of the grill over medium heat. Place the burger bacon-seam-side down to start, and cook until juices are seen on the top or the bacon browns well on the seam side. Flip and continue cooking until done.

This burger needs to cook more gently than the simple recipe – this is a larger burger, with cheese at the core, which needs to cook and melt before the bacon exterior burns. On the Quattro, that meant a hot side grill for the simple burgers and a medium side griddle for the juicy lucy – both can cook at the same time.

Bacon wrapped Juicy Lucy - Spoon & Knife

Bacon wrapped Juicy Lucy

You know, this whole grilling thing? I could get the hang of it.

Items shown in this post:

Bacon-wrapped cheese stuffed burgers

Ingredients

  • Two 4 oz. beef chuck patties, formed as above
  • Two slices of American cheese (Use whatever cheese you prefer, but I'm a sucker for gooey American on a burger. Call me old-fashioned.)
  • Three slices of thick-cut bacon

Instructions

  1. When forming the bottom patty, press down in the center to create a small indentation or well. Fold the corners of the cheese in to the center, and place the cheese on the bottom patty, leaving a margin of beef around to help seal. Place or form the second patty on top of the first, remove the mold, and double-check that a good seal has formed - nothing quite as deflating as a cheese blowout on the grill.
  2. After resting, wrap the patty in the bacon strips. There's not a precise science to this, but I try to cover as evenly as possible (i.e. don't have all the ends meet in the center) and keep all the ends on the same side of the burger (so, a "seam side" and a "flat side").
  3. Preheat the griddle side of the grill over medium heat. Place the burger bacon-seam-side down to start, and cook until juices are seen on the top or the bacon browns well on the seam side. Flip and continue cooking until done.
http://spoonandknife.com/theres-burgers-and-theres-burgers/

STOK’d about grilling

[NOTE: This is a sponsored post from STOK Grills.]

This is a difficult one for me to admit. But as they say, naming your problem is the first step in overcoming it. Here goes:

Hi. My name’s Mike. I love to cook, but I can’t grill.

Whew. Yes, it’s true; I’ve grown far more comfortable in front of an oven and the burners of a cooktop than I am standing over a grill. Through years of practice, I get how they work – how to manage heat, timing, and ingredients to (much more often than not – nobody’s perfect) create the food I have in mind.

Grills? That’s a whole different story. I seemed to need triple the charcoal I should have in order to build a fire with any heat, and no matter how I tried, any meat I cooked was cooked through to well-done far sooner than I got any appreciable sear. Grill marks? Forget about it.

And so, my kettle charcoal grill has sat abandoned on the back patio, surviving a house move, eventually rusting the vents open on the bottom. (I have an idea to fill it with potting soil and turn it into an herb planter. Christine and I are still discussing whether this is a good idea.)

However, all this is beginning to change. We met the marketing team behind STOK Grills at the recent Dad 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, and things started to click for me. A gas grill with substantial burners that should be able to generate significant heat. An insert system to swap out grill grates for other platforms like a griddle, vegetable tray, pizza stone, or cast iron pot – and inserts that felt more substantial than gimmicky. Maybe this could help cure me.

Learning to grill - Spoon & Knife

Meet the new grill.

 

We’re happy now to kick off something new for Spoon & Knife – a series of posts sponsored by STOK Grills. We’ve partnered with them to see what I can come up with using their products. I’ve been getting to know the grill over the last couple of weeks, testing out recipes and techniques, trying to bring the Spoon & Knife meatatarian style outdoors.

Before getting to the food posts, a few words about the grill itself. I’m using the STOK Quattro, a four burner model with two insert slots – basically, their largest gas grill. Assembly was straightforward enough, although more involved than I expected. Having never owned a gas grill, somehow in my head this amounted to “drive to your nearest hardware store, pick out a grill, put it in your truck, and go home and cook”. Instead, the delivery folks showed up with a large, quite heavy box on the front doorstep. I ended up unboxing in the front room of the house and carrying the grill parts out to the back patio one-at-a-time. Whoever did the packaging for this grill should win awards; well protected, many grill parts were sized exactly to fit inside each other, like some sort of culinary matryoshka. With a bit of work, though, I had a new grill ready to go in the side yard.

Overall, I’m impressed – it heats quickly, has the oomph to sear and leave grill marks, and is pretty easy to clean up. I haven’t owned other gas grills for comparison, but it’s a good size and sturdy enough for what I’ve thrown at it so far.

Thanks again to the folks at STOK for the opportunity to do this. On to the food…

Schmaltz Recipe – Cooking with Mike…

Making Schmaltz - Trust me, you want to do this!

Schmaltz. You may not have ever heard of it before – I know I hadn’t. But it turns out, you want to know what schmaltz is, because it is amazing! I learned to appreciate schmaltz thanks to Michael Ruhlman’s Single, The Book of Schmaltz, available on the iPad in the iTunes store.

Schmaltz by Ruhlman on the iPad

What is schmaltz? Schmaltz is rendered chicken fat, cooked with onion for flavor, that is used in many traditional Jewish dishes. For many centuries, cooking with animal fats was the norm, such as butter from cows and lard from pigs. Since the Jewish religion forbids eating anything porcine, they relied on poultry fat (schmaltz) for their cooking, and this characterizes the traditional Jewish cuisine. It isn’t limited to traditional Jewish dishes though – there are many amazing things you can do with schmaltz.

There is also a bonus to making schmaltz! Not only do you get schmaltz (the fat), but you are also left with the browned skin and onions, called gribenes – a delicious byproduct that you can use in a number of ways.

Mike is all about utilization cooking; when he breaks down a chicken to make chicken breasts for one meal, the legs for another, the bones are saved for making stock, and the fat & skin go in to the freezer (in a plastic container that he adds to when he has more) to make schmaltz. There is no waste when cooking food.

Don’t want to save up the skin & fat? Ask your butcher or the farmer who you get your chickens from if they will save it for you. Ruhlman also suggests that you can use the skin from packaged chicken thighs, and then use the skinless thighs for other things.

Random things I learned while we made this? The process of making schmaltz is a wet rendering process – you add water when you do it. According to some of the sources I’ve read since, wet rendering needs less monitoring and is more delicate on the fat.

If you want to learn more about making schmaltz and the many uses for it, I highly recommend Ruhlman’s book. (Actually, I highly recommend anything by Ruhlman.) He describes the steps in making schmaltz, and then has two dozen recipes that explore the various uses of schmaltz, including traditional recipes such as Classic Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls, Egg and Gribenes Spread, Potato Kugel, Knish, Kreplach, and contemporary recipes such as Vichyssoise with Gribenes and Chives (hmm… I’m thinking that some Cauliflower Leek soup might be enhanced with some gribenes too!), Four-Star Matzo Ball Soup, Schmaltz-roasted Potatoes with Onion and Rosemary (yes, please!), Chicken with Schmaltz Dumplings, Chicken Rillettes, and even Oatmeal Cookies with Dried Cherries.

Ruhlman’s goal (and ours too) is to help you create your own variations of schmaltz so that you can add it to your arsenal of cooking tools.

UPDATE: Be sure to visit Mike’s blog for the Cook’s Notes on Schmaltz.

Cutting up the frozen chicken skins and fat to prepare for rendering.

Cutting up the frozen chicken skins and fat to prepare for rendering.

Soon to be Schmaltz - all ready to put it on the stove for the wet rendering

Soon to be Schmaltz – all ready to put it on the stove for the wet rendering.

Starting the rendering process - look at the yummy goodness!

Starting the rendering process – look at the yummy goodness!

Rendering away - clear liquid

Rendering away – clear liquid

Onions added to make the Schmaltz

Onions added to make the Schmaltz

Schmaltz and gribenes ready to be strained

Schmaltz and gribenes – ready to be strained!

Gribenes - Chicken & Onion goodness to use on a variety of items

Gribenes – Chicken & Onion goodness to use on a variety of items.

Straining the Schmaltz from the Gribenes

Straining the Schmaltz from the Gribenes

Straining the Schmaltz for a second time for clarity

Straining the Schmaltz for a second time for clarity

The Schmaltz!

The Schmaltz!

Schmaltz Recipe – Cooking with Mike…

Ingredients

  • 1 pound chicken skin and fat (from about two chickens), finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • ½ C. water or as needed

Instructions

  1. Chop the skin and fat well, which is easiest when it is frozen or partially frozen. The finer the chop, the more efficiently it will render.
  2. Put the chicken skin in a medium saucepan (nonstick, if you have one) with just enough water to cover. On high heat, bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, and cook slowly to render fat. Stir occasionally. This will take anywhere from 90 minutes to several hours, depending on how much skin and fat you have and the heat of your burner. Stir to make sure it does not stick or burn.
  3. Do not let the fat get too hot and turn brown; you want a light, clear, clean schmaltz. Once the water and the moisture in the fat has cooked off, the fat temperature can rise above 212 F / 100 C and the browning can begin.
  4. When the chicken skin is golden brown and plenty of the fat has been rendered, add the chopped onions. Continue to cook until the skin and onions are well browned. Stir more frequently, as the protein will REALLY want to stick to the pot (some of that is unavoidable).
  5. Be careful not to overcook the fat; it should remain clear and yellow, not brown with an overly roasted flavor.
  6. The schmaltz is done when the fat is clear but not browned, the onion is cooked through and melted, and the chicken skin is dark golden brown. The gribenes should be crispy-chewy.
  7. Strain the schmaltz from the skin and onions through a fine mesh strainer. If you want very clear fat, line the strainer with a cheesecloth (or strain a second time as we did). Allow it to cool and then transfer to a container, cover, and store in the refrigerator for up to a week. It is volatile and will diminish in flavor if left too long in the fridge; freeze any that you will not be using in a day or two.
  8. To freeze: store in a container with plastic wrap pressed down on to the surface, cover with a lid or a second layer of plastic wrap, and then wrap in foil if you plan to store it for a long time; this will prevent other flavors from infiltrating the schmaltz, and the foil will keep light from damaging it. Another option is to freeze in 1½ cup mason jars with rubber seals.
  9. Save the gribenes (the onions and skin) as well. Dry excess fat on a paper towl and store covered in the fridge for up to a week; these bits are great as a snack, on salad, on scrambled eggs, et cetera. You can also freeze the gribenes if you would like.

Notes

http://spoonandknife.com/schmaltz-recipe-cooking-with-mike/

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