Before we get to the cooking itself, do you have tips on preparing your meat?
I believe that there's no right or wrong way to prepare. Some people are going to tell you to bring your steak to room temperature so when you cook on both sides you won't overcook it and the centre of the steak will be warm, and you’ll have a nice crust. Conversely, if your steak is too cold, you’ll burn the outside of it and the centre will be blue.
Photo credit: Wonho Frank Lee
What about setting up the grill. How do you go about it?
Personally, I usually have several grills going. But I’ll set up a little fire and I’ll break down my coals. I use logs versus charcoal. I get them going and I let them burn down and create fresh oak charcoal. So, I make my own coals. I stay away from flames, and I make sure I have a good distance between the coal bed and the steak. My steaks are usually about an inch or inch and a half thick and I let them sit for about an hour. The temperature underneath the steaks is probably around 300° Fahrenheit. You want to have clean heat with the coals so there are no embers and no flames. This makes it consistent.
How do you know when your steaks are done? Do you use a thermometer?
Sometimes I use a thermometer, but I can just tell how cooked it is at this point by looking at it. You can use the finger test if you want. You open your palm and relax your hand. Press down on the flesh part below your thumb. That feeling in your hand is the same as a raw steak. Now, put the tip of your index finger to the tip of your thumb – making an ‘okay’ symbol – and touch that fleshy part under the thumb. The feel of that is rare. With each finger the feel will be a little more done until you end with your pinky against your thumb which will feel like well done.
Do you season your meats before you cook?
It depends on the cut, the size of the cut, and really what you're looking to achieve. But if I'm doing a 24 or 32-ounce steak, I will let it sit out a little bit and just give it a nice salting. I’ll also use pepper if I'm not cooking on a flat surface because the pepper can burn. If I’m on a flat surface, I’ll use the pepper to finish both sides. And you can let that steak sit for half an hour, or ten minutes, or overnight depending on the technique. But I prefer about 30 minutes with a bit of salt.
Photo credit: Wonho Frank Lee
What do you think about resting your steaks before cutting into them?
If I’m cooking inside on a cast-iron pan or something, I’ll rest the steaks on a cooling rack after I cook them. The theory behind resting is that you let the meat and the proteins relax so they’ll absorb all the moisture. You know, when you cook and smoke your brisket, you lose half of it – it’s all water weight. And as it tenses up, it just squeezes all this moisture out. You want it to relax, absorb the moisture that’s in it and you can see it. If I slice into the steak, you can tell if it was rested or not because the steak will be cleaner – it won’t bleed out all over your plate.
Last thing, when you’re cutting your steak, why do you cut against the grain?
The meat has these fibres, and if you cut along the grain, it can be chewy. Not too long ago, I was at a friend’s house, and he had a brisket. Everyone was eating it and loved it. But when I arrived, I took the same brisket, rotated it by five degrees and sliced the same meat. Everyone there thought I brought a separate brisket because the texture was completely different. When you cut against the grain, you’re cutting the fibres and it becomes softer and it’s easier to break down. That’s a small thing that can make all the difference.