Friday, July 23, 2010

A full progress report on the grill

So i just realized that I haven't issued a progress report on my balcony grill. I did publish a report on the Paella episode, but that is it.

Let me begin by saying that neither Bobby Flay nor Consumer Reports gave me the bum-steer. Both delivered critical information that has paid off extremely well so far. I am glad I took their advice.

What advice was that, specifically? Consumer Reports insisted on the Weber Genesis 320 and 310. I wanted the 320 and got the 310. This has worked out extremely well. The Genesis is what it is cracked up to be. It's incredibly well made. Weber has already replaced my warped grill with a new one, so customer service is good. This grill is big enough to take the largest Lodge Skillets and Paellas, as well as the largest (12 quart) Dutch Ovens from Lodge. You gotta love that.

I am going to go purchase a cast-iron griddle grill that fits my Weber today at lunch. I may make bacon, eggs and pancakes on the griddle tomorrow morning for breakfast. I may get a smoker box to go with it. You have to love the availability of high-quality accessories for the Weber Genesis. I intend to accessorize.

I have had good success removing the grills and placing the Dutch Oven directly down on the Flavorizor bars. I just made Penne Pasta, Marinara, and Meat Balls in that 12 quart Lodge last night. The results were fantastic. All heat was furnished by Weber.

Neither Bobby Flay nor Consumer Reports were particularly bullish on the subject of Infrared. They both seemed more than a little distant about the subject. Many seemed to regard the little Solaire Portable Infrared as the best deal and the best of the breed. I am very glad I paid attention.

I baptized my Solaire portable infrared grill on the 13th of July. My buddy Colin came over, and we grilled a pair of inexpensive $5 T-Bones from Albertson's. The results were pretty sensational.

The pep was pretty simple. Bobby Flay teaches that we should avoid marinades and prefer rubs. Marinades are over-rated, and they leave the meat too moist to caramelize well. You want that brown crust brought to you by the Maillard reaction. Marinades will interfer with with that crucial reaction.

Bobby Flay recommended a very simple rub: Fresh-ground pepper, Kosher Salt, and garlic powder. I am not usually a fan of Koshur salt, I prefer seasalt, but I understand why it is used in this application. The big jagged chunks of coarse salt stick in the flesh of the meat well. Also, it is gunpowder for the process. People don't seem to know this, but kosher salt crystals will explode and burn under high-heat. This helps form that good brown crust. Apply it liberally. You will not be eating it all. Most of it will explode and burn off.

Several authorities, including Flay, recommend putting a few drops of oil on that steak to help hold-fast the rub you have prepared. I took that advice. I used peanut oil because of it's high smoke-point.

The cooking was so easy it was trivial. I fired up the Solaire and let it heat for 5 minutes. I fired up the Weber, and began heating at full blast.

I dropped the first steak on the Solaire, and gave it 90 seconds before rotating it 90 degrees. You have to rotate 90 degrees if you want to get those perfect diamond shaped grill marks. I gave it 90 more seconds and then flipped the steak. I gave it 90 seconds, and rotated 90 degrees. I gave that 90 seconds, and then moved the steak to the Weber to finish.

Total cook time on the Solaire was about 6.5 minutes. The Temperature of the Weber was just about 400 degrees. I threw the second T-bone on the Solaire and repeated the process. When the second was ready to move to the Weber, I removed the first steak and gave it to Colin.

Colin said his steak was medium-well done as he began to cut it pieces (with a Kyocera Revolution 4 inch utility knife). It had a thin band of pink in the middle. The rest was medium to well. The steak had very nice diamond shaped grill marks on it. It was very juicy.

Total cook time was just about 12 minutes. Alton Brown would chastize us for not allowing the meat to rest for at least 3 minutes, but it was damn good anyway.

My steak was just about the same. I let it cook for a minute or two more, because I like mine pretty well done. I have to say, that was one of the most satisfying steaks I have ever eatten in my life. It was very, very good. It was bone-chewing, bone-sucking good.

I had a couple of false starts with the propane tanks. Sunday was a failure, and Monday was only a partial success. However, Tuesday was a complete slam-dunk. It was a victory at the home-run derby. The Solaire actually out-performed my expectations. The little Solaire actually out-performed the big Luxor I test drove at the Eninco shop. I expected similar results to the Luxor. It did a better job in creating more flavorful meat than the Luxor did. I can recommend this little Solaire without any qualifications. Buy it. Use it. Prosper with it.

So what have we learned?
  1. Rubs are better than marinades
  2. Kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper, granulated garlic powder, peanut oil.
  3. Kosher salt is the gun powder, apply it liberally.
  4. Infrared is great for searing
  5. High, high heat produces the Maillard reaction
  6. Finish in the Weber at a lower temperature with the lid closed.
  7. The Genesis is great because of it's extreme versatility. You can use skillets, Dutch ovens, griddles and grills with it. You have many options, and a lot of room.
At this point I have to dish out some props to Bobby Flay and Consumer Reports. I doubted both of you several times. Ultimately, I decided to roll with your advice, and it paid big dividends. I am a pretty happy camper right now. The outdoor kitchen on the balcony is now fully-functional. I love it.