Friday, January 1, 2010

Hot Tubbed Steaks & Cast Iron Grates

Happy Blogiversary!
Today is the one year anniversary of Nibble Me This.

To celebrate I'm going to do a "Cast Iron Chef" theme this week focusing on cooking with cast iron. Grates, dutch ovens, bread molds, and skillets. Today, I'm looking at cast iron grill grates.

Hot Tubbed Ribeyes with Gorgonzola Butter
Gorgonzola butter
Source: Southern Living

2 heads of garlic, top 3/4 inch cut off to expose cloves
(we used just one head)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/3 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (about 2 ounces)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
(we used about 1 T of dried basil)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place garlic on piece of foil; drizzle with olive oil. Enclose garlic in foil. Bake until garlic is very soft, about 1 hour. Cool. Squeeze garlic cloves out from papery skins into medium bowl; mash garlic with fork. Mix in butter, cheese, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer Gorgonzola butter to sheet of plastic wrap. Using plastic wrap as aid, form butter into 1 1/4-inch-diameter log, wrapping plastic tightly around butter. Chill until firm. (Can be made 2 days ahead; keep chilled.) Cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds.

The "hot tub" part isn't as much of a recipe as it is a process that I have read about on the Big Green Egg forum, a wonderful source of live fire cooking information. There are basically 4 methods of grilling steaks that I'm familiar with:
  • straight grilling - what most folks do, cooking a steak over a high heat (500-600f) from start to finish
  • TREX Method - searing steak over high temps (750f) for 90 seconds a side, rest 20 minutes, finish roasting at 400f.
  • Finney Reverse sear method - roasting steak over a lower temp (200f) until it hits close to your desired internal temp for doneness, rest and then searing at a high temp (750f)
  • Hot Tub Method
This is the first time I tried the Hot Tub method. The basic process is to kind of "sous vide" your steak to an internal temp of about 100f and the finishing it with a high temp sear. The theoretic reasons behind doing it this way are:
  1. Food Safety - You hear people say "let your steak come to room temperature" but to actually do that requires keeping your meet in the danger zone for bacterial growth (40f-140f) for a significant period of time. Water conducts heat way faster than air so this cuts the opportunity for food borne pathogens.
  2. Even cooking - Since this bringing the temperature of the whole steak to about 100f when you start grilling, you are starting with a smaller difference between external and internal temps and should end up with a more evenly cooked steak.
The original version actually has you placing your steaks (vacuum sealed or in a ziploc bag) in an actual hot tub for 1 hour.

I don't have a hot tub and the neighbors would think I was weird if I used theirs, so I used a large stock pot over the lowest heat, carefully monitoring the water temperature keeping it between 100-105f. I put the steaks in for 1 hour.
The sticks were a rig I made to keep the steaks off of the bottom of the pot suspended in hot water. I thought I was going to have to keep the water hot by using the burners. Not necessary, I only had to fire them up once or twice to keep the temp up.

I like to add a little bit of oak chips just before grilling my steaks. I know they won't take much smoke flavor but they'll get some.

Season them with a rub (I used my Cajun Beef Rub), throw them on a hot cast iron grill grate over a searing hot fire (600f) for 90 seconds a side for rare/medium rare.

For pretty grill marks, I break that time up into four 45 second periods, turning to get the crisscross pattern.

Let them rest on a plate for 10 minutes, top with gorgonzola butter and serve. Tonight we served with black eyed peas and collard greens since it is New Years Day, a tradition in the south.

Our thoughts? The gorgonzola compound butter was a mouthful of flavor. It would be good not only on grilled steaks but also on bread, potatoes, or just about anything. We loved it.

The steaks were as good as any other methods we've done. They were very evenly cooked through and tender. But they weren't any better than the other methods we use, so it wasn't worth babysitting the steaks in the pot trying to keep the temp at 105f. If I had a real hot tub, then I'd definitely do it again for the novelty & not having to fuss with the stove top.

Craycourt Cast Iron Grill Grates
A lot of folks here and on the Egg forum have noticed my cast iron grate.

It was sent to me to try out from the great folks at Craycourt and I have to say I am very impressed with the design, quality, and performance of these modular cast iron grates. Yes, I got it for free but I would feel the same way if I had paid the full $70 for it. It's worth more than that.

They can be used on the large Big Green Egg or any 18.5" or 22.5" round grills like a Weber. Someone on the Egg forum mentioned that it was too bad that they weren't available in the XL Big Green Egg size but my source tells me that Craycourt is looking into producing that.

The grate thing (pun intended) about any cast iron grate for grilling is the even heat distribution, durability, and ability to provide gorgeous sear marks. In the "Tender Is The Loin" episode of Good Eats, Alton Brown notes that no other cooking utensil can soak up and redistribute heat like cast iron. Why do you think Grandma used that trusted cast iron skillet everyday?

But there are several advantages that I have found the Craycourt grates have over standard cast iron grates. The first and least important is, just looks so cool, doesn't it? It looks like art.

The second and very functional advantage is the ability to remove individual portions instead of the entire grate. This facilitates adding coal or wood to your grill during a cook. It also makes it easier to clean since you're only cleaning only the parts that you used.

The third and most unique feature of these grates is the modular components. You can remove the grate and insert other units like cast iron griddles, pizza stones, and chicken holders. I haven't seen ANY other grill grate like that, cast iron or otherwise.

I love that option. I can grill steaks at the same time I am cooking scallops on a griddle section for surf and turf. Or ham and eggs. get the point.

After using it dozens of times for a month, I am adding the Craycourt cast iron grate to my "Endorsed" page and would personally recommend it for any serious grilling enthusiasts. It is one of the best accessories I have ever gotten for my Big Green Egg or any grill for that matter.

So tell me:
1) How old is your blog?
2) What's your favorite steak?'
3) What's the oddest thing you've done in a hot tub other than cooking?

(yeah, maybe we should all plead the fifth on #3 )