Monday, April 4, 2016

Reverse Seared Tri-Tip and GrillGrates for the Mini-Max

I about fell over in shock last week when I was strolling through my local grocer and they had a case full of tri-tip.  Big tri-tips.  Of course I bought one.  This isn't a recipe post but here's what I did with this tri-tip that inadvertently wandered East of the Mississippi.

BGE tri-tip, BGE tri tip, Big Green Egg tri-tip, Big Green Egg tritip, Kamado tri tip
Beef tri-tip reverse seared on a kamado style grill.  That means we slow roast it for even cooking and then blast it with searing heat close to the coals.

I was exaggerating there a bit, but 10 years ago, I almost NEVER could find beef tri-tip in Knoxville.  This is because this was a regional specialty with it's epicenter in Santa Maria, California in the 1950's (Field Guide to Meat pg 66).  According to Green, as recently as 2005, many meat packers still sent all of their tri-tips to the California region and as a result, it was not always easy to find in other parts of the country.  But like with all regional BBQ, several factors (more mobile society, popularity of food television, and Internet) have spread these specialties across the continent and suppliers are starting to respond to the more globalized demand.  

Traditionally, tri-tip were seasoned simply with salt and pepper - maybe garlic and a few other seasonings.  Then they are cooked over coals from red oak on a Santa Maria style grill - meaning it has a food grate that can be raised or lowered over the wood coal.

Example of a Santa Maria style grill by Norcal Ovenworks.  You control the direct heat on the food by raising and lowering the food grates.  Picture courtesy of Norcal Ovenworks.
I don't have a Santa Maria grill.  If you have a charcoal grill with a charcoal tray that moves up and down like the Char-Broil 780 Charcoal Grill, you can start off with the tray lowered and then bring it close to the coals to finish off.   

Today I was using a kamado grill using the reverse sear technique.  This lets me get the tri-tip a perfect medium rare from one edge to the other and then sear it to get the Malliard browning in the crust.  

raised direct, indirect, GrillGrates, Mini-Max GrillGrates
Instead of using a plate setter for the indirect piece, I used GrillGrates as the indirect piece with a homemade raised grate over that.

GrillGrates kamado grill, GrillGrates mini-max
Side view of the raised grid.  This is also useful without the GrillGrates for "raised direct" cooking when you want the food to have less radiant heat from the coals and more heat above reflecting off of the ceramic dome.

You can buy various raised grids that are very good.  But the cheapest and easiest is making your own.  The Naked Whiz has great instructions for making your own.  Here I used 3" bolts which seemed to fit perfectly in the BGE Mini-Max.

Trimming beef tri-tip, beef tri tip for grill, prep tri-tip
My tri-tip was YUUUUGE!  They are typically 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 pounds but this weighed in at 3.5 lbs.  A lot of that was because it was untrimmed.  I pulled off the fat cap, trimmed the silverskin, and cleaned them up a bit.

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My dry rub was simple - 1 teaspoon each of kosher salt, season salt, and black pepper.  One half teaspoon each of dried parsley, dried oregano, and granulated garlic.

Big Green Egg controller
Using a controller for just an hour cook????  Yes!!!!!  First, I just found out that the Flame Boss comes with an adapter for the Mini-Max so I had to play with it.  But more importantly, using a controller for the reverse sear gives you a kick ass advantage when it's time to bump the heat up.  That forced air gets your kamado from low/slow to "holy BLEEP that's hot!" in a flash.  I can't believe I've never thought about that before now. DUH! 

best smoker controller, best kamado controller,
For those of you that don't know, a controller is a small computer controller (typically a PID) that has a temp probe in the cooker and a fan attached to a grill vent.  The computer keeps checking to see if your grill/smoker is at the temperature you want.  If not, it turns the fan on, stoking the fire and raising the temp.  There's a lot more to it than that but that's the short version.  Our BBQ team chose the Flame Boss 200 for our competitions but there are several other good units out there too.

Mini-Max reverse sear tri-tip
I didn't use any wood other than the lump coal.  I'd like to say that I at least got oak lump...but I just use what I had on hand.  I ran the kamado at 225°f at the upper grate level for right at 1 hour.  I pulled the tri-tip off when it hit an internal temp of 126°f.  The plan is for it to coast up about 5-7°f while resting, putting it in the medium-rare range.  
A Word About Reverse Searing
That's one thing I see that a lot of people seem to miss about the reverse sear.  As originally developed by Chris Finney, the reverse sear meant for the meat to rest after the roast until it's internal temperature has finished rising and actual begins to fall.  Most people I see are slow roasting the meat and then searing just as soon as they can get the grill temp north of 500°f.   I think the resting until the internal temp begins to fall is an important part of the process and produces superior results.  

asparagus, GrillGrates
I threw some asparagus (toss in oil, salt, garlic, pepper) on to cook while I seared the tri-tip.

grilling tips, barbecue beef tri tip, kamado beef tri-tip
I used Adam Perry Lang's "board dressing" concept and drizzled the cutting board with reduced balsamic, quality olive oil, some herbs, Hawaiian black salt, garlic and pepper. 

grill dome tri-tip, kamado joe tri-tip, vision tri-tip
The board dressing mixes with the meat juices as you slice and....oh muh gawd! The reason that I have no plated pictures is because we stood at the cutting board and ate it, dredging it through all of that flavor.  It was that good.

On an Instagram pic of the raised grid set up, a follower asked 

"Ok I see you have a cast Iron grate and a top grill. What is the middle thing called and where did you get it. We have a large Egg and just purchased this one curious"

That is a set of GrillGrates.  They are an aftermarket product for just about any grill you can buy that does a lot of things:
  1. prevent flare ups, 
  2. creates amazing grill marks,
  3. provide more even heat distribution, and
  4. converts more of the grill's energy to infrared heat.
I saw someone refer to them as a "fad" two weeks ago in a Facebook group.  Well, that "fad" has been going on for over 5 years and keeps growing.  I've been to a few SCA steak cook-offs in the past year and the vast majority of these competition teams are using GrillGrates regardless of the grill they are using.  The proof is in the results.

I think they are a nice accessory for a large kamado grill but for the Mini-Max, I think it's almost a necessity with the coals being so close to the grill grates.  Either that or using a raised grid to add some distance, my sister likes using a Woo rig for that.  

Big Green Egg accessories, Grill Dome  accessories, Primo accessories, Kamado Joe accessories, kamado  accessories
The GrillGrates in my Mini-Max. They make them for just about any grill.

Several folks noticed the different shape and asked about it.  For the BGE Mini-Max, most of them use this model of GrillGrates which is for the Cobb Grill and is the one that appears on the kamado page.  .

Big Green Egg accessories, kamado accessories,
I wasn't sure, so I contacted owner Brad Barrett, and he recommended that I get the set for the Smokey Joe.  I think either works fine, just whichever is your preference.  I really like the fit of mine.  The biggest difference is with these fitting snugly, they don't move around when you are trying to scrub them on the grill.
GrillGrates kamado accessory, best sear marks, how to get great grill marks
Side view of the GrillGrates.  Yes, it looks like a heat sink if you are into computers, stereos, or other electrical components.  It kind of functions that way too.

kamado grilling, kamado accessories, Green Egg accessories,
Here you can see the GrillGrates after being seasoned.  I grilled a taco seasoned chicken breast (350°f x 4 min a side) and then sliced it up.  We put it on two burritos with lettuce, tomato, sour cream, cheese, taco sauce, and avocado ranch dressing.

You can also flip the GrillGrates for a griddle, although, I prefer just using one of my cast iron inserts or a skillet for that.
So that is what GrillGrates are for those that didn't know - a set of high performance grill grates that stop flare ups, give great sear marks, and converts heat from coals to infrared heat (for a great article on grilling thermodynamics, check in with AmazingRibs). They can fit just about any grill because the company will cut them to custom lengths.

[Standard FTC Disclosure]  GrillGrates and Flame Boss are equipment sponsors for Nibble Me This but we would not use these if we didn't like them.  We use them because they work.