Summer, the end of the year, beaches, new beginnings, holidays, spending time with loved ones winding down after a hard years slog. Or if you work in a hospitality establishment it’s hotter, busier, lonelier, nastier; everything that has worked perfectly all year will break, reliable staff will suddenly not show up to work, your friends will go on amazing holidays and YOU WILL WORK! While the outside world revels in the sun and freedom of a new year, we the walking wounded, will continue to cook your meals, wash your dishes, brew your coffee, and smile at you as we indeed wish the earth would open up and consume your ungrateful carcass whole.
It would serve you well to keep this in mind as you work up the unjustified, self righteous fury to verbally attack your friendly serving person over the life and death matter that your coffee has now taken a full 5 minutes to produce! Or the horrific injustice of having to wait 15 minutes for a table because you arrived at 12.30 on a friday afternoon, and are obviously FAR more important than the other 150 people who arrived at the same time and expect to get their meals in immaculate condition, in under 10 minutes, and not have to pay more than $12.50 for the whole experience. Be very aware that this is possibly the hardest time of the year for us patron slaves, and you are quite possibly one shitty remark over a half chewed mouthful of whatever-the-fuck, from suffering a serving fork in the eye.
Now, like I said, during this period of remarkable stress, and supreme aggravation, shit goes wrong with terrifying frequency. However on this one occasion one chefs shitty summer nightmare just so happened to fall in this chefs favour! It just so happens that across the road from our establishment lies a particularly fine purveyor of exceptionally good craft beers and quality 70’s music. Needless to say that a fair chunk of my spare time (and pay cheque!) is spent at the Catfish Bar on Gertrude Street. Within these hallowed, malty halls lies the Red Sparrow. Slinging Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches, chilly cheese fries and monster onion rings, chef Sammy’s dirty treats perfectly complement the discerning (and perhaps over-indulgent) craft beer connoisseur. On this particular occasion of yuletide misfortune, our friend Sam came into work one morning to find that the door to his meat locker had been left ajar all night. As any good chef would do in this circumstance, rather than risk serving potentially toxic meat to his loyal customers, Sam took it on the chin and disposed of roughly 15kg of beef scotch fillet. And when I say dispose of, I mean he gave it to his friends. Bad luck for Sam, good luck for Scott! When presented with a whole (FREE!) scotch fillet there is only one moral thing to do with it; BBQ the fucken thing whole and invite a bunch of people around to get drunk and help you eat it. So that is what we did. Xmas came early for this hungry chef this year. Bon Appetite
Setting up your charcoal BBQ
The 1st time I tried to use my new charcoal BBQ over a year ago now, I took the “she’ll be ‘right” approach to it. I mean, I’m a chef, how hard could it be. The human race has been cooking over fire since our evolution took that oh-so crucial turn some 2,000,000 years ago. Light fire. Cook meat. Simple. Not Simple! Try as I might the coals wouldn’t catch, I couldn’t control the temperature, I didn’t really achieve that nice smoky flavour that is the point of cooking with charcoal. Despite all of this I managed to turn in a well edible effort but I was far from happy with my attempt. In chef language, adequate = SHIT!
Thankfully, the one true god (Google) showed me the light in my time of suffering and need. I read countless forums and blogs about BBQ and meat smokers, and after wading through a surging tide of shit I came across my island of knowledge and salvation. Shunning the superstitious, and the dispelling the myths behind outdoor cooking with cold hard science and loads of practical experience, this website changed my life.
Firstly, clean the shit out of your BBQ. Don’t believe this crap about not cleaning your BBQ enhances the flavour, the only thing its likely to enhance is your chances of food poisoning! I don’t have a charcoal chimney so I just start my coals off on the BBQ with a good fire! I start with some newspaper followed by some cardboard. Next smaller twigs and branches followed by a few more substantial bits of wood. Lastly position you coals on top and some fire lighters in and amongst your pile. Next light that bitch up! Your BBQ will have vents on the bottom. These are used to control the air flow to the fire, and as fire requires oxygen, this is essentially your temperature control knob (though much more fiddly). Open the vents to allow more air in, the flame will burn harder and you will get more heat. Close them and you starve the fire of fuel and it will cool down some. Each BBQ is a different beast, and the best piece of advice I can give is to (after you have done a little research) cook with it often, until you figure your particular beast out. Unfortunately this means you will have to eat a lot of BBQ; but persevere, practice makes perfect!
Once you have your fire going you want your coal to turn grey on the outside (blow on the embers at the base of the fire to supercharge the heat and speed up the process), once this happens you are in business! Pile your hot coals on top of 5-6 fresh coals so that the heats continues to be constant. I like to use to use the “two zone, indirect cooking method”. Simply put, you move the hot coals to one side of the BBQ, and on the other side you put a pan of hot water. The cooking grate is placed over the coals and the water pan, and the meat is cooked (for the most part) over the water pan.
This does a couple of important things. Firstly the water evens out the temperature in your BBQ, but its also creates humidity. This means your meat will be juicier, and we all love a juicy piece of meat! I also use the “reverse sear method”. Common practice is to sear your meat over a high heat to “seal in the juices”, which is a load of shit! Instead I cook the meat gently away from the fierce direct heat until the inside is just below the desired temperature. I then move it to the direct flame to brown the outside and get that good BBQ flavour happening without over cooking the inside.
Another misconception is that thermometers are cheating! FUCK THAT! All the top restaurants use thermometers, especially when it come to larger chunks of animal. This way you can insure perfection and consistency. In slow cooking a really large piece of meat such as a brisket, temperature probes are essential to the cooking process. Do ourself a favour and go get a good, digital temperature probe. For steaks the general rule on temperature is:
Rare = 42 – 49ºc
Medium rare = 50 -55ºc
Medium well done = 56 – 61ºc
Anything above is well done and fucked, if this is your steak preference I hope you fucken die!
Every piece of meat you cook will be different, even if they are exactly the same weight and cut. As you can see there is not a lot of room for error. With a larger cut of meat I would generally cook it to about 10ºc below the target heat, take it off and rest it. As we are heating it from the outside it will take a wee while for the heat to diffuse all the way into the centre. As you rest the meat, leave your temperature probe in and watch as the heat creeps up that final 10ºc all on its own. Many a nervous night was spent watching probes in resting steaks, begging the gods that it wouldn’t hit that 55ºc mark as the clamour of service raged on around me.
- 300-500g sirloin
- 200g butter
- 3 cloves garlic chopped
- 2 sprigs of rosemary
Once you have your BBQ set up with the two zone indirect cooking method, you want to try to get your BBQ to sit at around 180ºc using the vents on the bottom, the exhaust vent on the lid, and monitoring the heat with a thermometer. Once you have this sorted (this is where the practice part comes in), rub the sirloin with oil and season heavily with salt and pepper. Next break the rosemary over the steak and rub it in. This is a very simple recipe but the star of the show here is the steak and that oh so important BBQ, smoke flavour. I like to chuck a couple of pieces of hickory or cherry wood that has been soaked in water on to the coals. Slap that cow on the grill above your water pan and close the lid. I like to close the lid vent to trap as much of that smokey goodness in with your meat as possible. Give this a good 30 mins undisturbed, but keep and eye on the temperature. Meanwhile melt your butter with your garlic. Open the lid and add 3 more coals, another lump of wood and lather that butter on the meat. Repeat this process until the internal temperature reaches 12ºc below your desired temperature. Move the meat directly over the hot coals and sear until dark brown. Move to a resting tray and allow the heat to come up to your desired temperature. DO NOT cut into the steak until it has rested for at least 10-15 minutes, carving meat before it has rested is a sin!
Smoked Potato Salad
- 400g desiree potatoes unpeeled and chopped
- ½ cup of mayonnaise
- 2 shallots finely chopped
- 1 Tblsp ketchup
- 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
- 2 sprigs of flat leaf parsley
At about the same time you are throwing that steak on the BBQ, toss your potatoes in oil and salt and put them in the smokey hell you have created. Place them closer to the fire that the steak but still away from the direct heat. This is great way to make double use of your BBQ (we generally try to cook as much as possible over the coals to make use of the energy we are burning). Turn the potatoes every time you check on your steak (so every 30 mins or so) and they should be cooked around the same time. Next cool the potatoes a for around 10minutes and then mix in the rest of the ingredients.
Carve your meat across the grain (the shorter the muscle fibres, the easier it is to chew, the more tender your meat seems to be) once it has rested, season the sliced face of the meat with some good salt, and serve with some quality mustard, horseradish cream, gherkins and pickled onions. Slop some of your warm, smoked potato salad on the platter and you are ready to boogie. Eat it!