Friday, May 28, 2010

Season of the Steak! Barbecue Secrets!

Summer's here - time to fire up the grill. But first, learn how to make friends with the flame.

Tossing a steak on the barbecue is easy, but making it really sizzle - and taste perfect - is not. From choosing your cuts wisely to grilling them properly, the experts help you ensure that your dinner doesn't go-up in flames.

Making The Grade
Most steaks that you find at the grocery store are labelled with one of four grades: prime, triple A, double A or A. These grades primarily represent the fat content or "marbling" of the steak. Essentially, prime cuts have the most marbling and A have the least. A higher grade also means a higher price tag. Beef in Canada does not have to be graded - it's a voluntary process that the producer pays for. So, if you spot a steak that's not stamped with a grade but that still has a nice amount of marbling, it could be just as good as its graded counterpart.

Mario Fiorucci, co-founder of The Healthy Butcher in Toronto, chooses to ignore grades and instead focuses on how the animal was raised and what it was fed, saying that feed options can change the taste and texture of the beef.

Age Matters
Aging breaks down the enzymes in the meat, resulting in a more tender and flavourful product. "It makes a huge difference," says Fiorucci. Dry aging involves the beef in a temperature and humidity-controlled environment for 14 days or more. As the beef hangs, a lot of moisture is lost. The result is an intense beef flavour. Wet aging occurs in vacuum-sealed bags where the meat doesn't lose as much moisture. "The enzyme action is still happening, resulting in a fair amount of tenderizing, but the flavour just isn't as concentrated," says Fiorucci.

A Cut Above
Rib-eye, striploin and tenderloin are touted as the most tender cuts of beef and the best for grilling. They also happen to be the most expensive. If you're budget conscious, Fiorucci recommends trying out less common cuts like tri-tip, skirt steak and blade steak. They might not be as tender, but if cooked properly they will be far more flavourful. For Fiorucci it's better to get the best-quality meat and save money on the cut. His personal favourite? A boneless blade steak, seasoned simply with salt and pepper, and cooked to a perfect medium rare.

Steak Secrets
Grilling your steak perfectly may be tricky, but it's easy to develop a good technique. First, give your barbecue a good scrub. Removing greasy buildup will help reduce the amount of flareups that can occur when you're getting down to business.

To Matt Dunigan, ex-CFLer and host of Road Grill on Food Network Canada, steak is a serious business. He recommends starting with a clean, well-oiled grill and leave your steak out at room temperature for at least a half hour before grilling. Then, pat the meat dry, apply your seasoning and grill it over high heat. "After two to three minutes, turn it 90 degrees clockwise. This will give you those beautiful hatch marks that you see in restaurants," says Dunnigan. "Follow the same steps for the other side. About six minutes per side, depending on thickness, will give you a beautiful medium-rare piece of meat. "When it comes to testing doneness, Dunigan shares a little trick: "Fold your thumb inwards across the palm of your hand. Use the fingers of your other hand to feel the inside part of the 'ball' of your thumb. A medium-rare steak will feel the same way." And his biggest no-no? Moving your steak too much. "Leave it alone and quit touching it. Let the grill do its thing."

Source: CAA Magazine Summer 2010
By: Veronica Vandenende