Steak Night – Kickin’ it Old School

9 Dec

Years ago, when Melissa and I were in law school, one night a week I designated as “Steak Night.” It was our take-off on the beef commercial “Steak Night in America.” I didn’t know a whole lot about grilling at the time, and had an unfortunate series of cheap grills, but somehow, I usually managed to cook a satisfying piece of meat.

Years have passed and I’ve cooked thousands of meals on my grills. The grills have improved and hopefully the quality of the meals has improved, too.  In school Steak Night was most often Friday night. Now, its most often Saturday night, but because of this week’s schedule, tonight was Steak Night.  The cuts selected from the Smitty’s Que Crew meat locker (aka, the freezer) were a rib-eye and a couple of chuck-eyes.

The rib-eye, of course, needs no introduction or explanation. The chuck-eye is not as well-known but is a slightly lower-rent version of the rib-eye, taken from the same muscle, but from “higher up” on the animal – in the chuck sub-primal rather than the loin. So, the chuck-eye has great flavoring, nice marbling and is quite tender, albeit a bit more chewy than its muscle-mate the rib-eye. We like chuck-eyes here because each steak is about a half-pound – just the right portion for most of Meredith and my meals (remember, Melissa is a vegetarian). Rumor has it that chuck-eyes generally are more affordable than rib-eyes, although around here, I think somebody clued in the meat departments of the local grocery stores. Chuck-eyes generally run about a dollar a pound less than rib-eyes, but occasionally, the Pig (Piggly Wiggly) will have chuck-eyes for $3.99/lb. When they do, I load up. I hit the steaks with some Worcestershire sauce and a healthy dusting of Weber’s Burgundy Beef rub (a nice, beefy rub that is finely ground and has ample flavor to compliment big cuts of beef).

So, meat selected, I had to decide what to cook on tonight. During the week, I lean toward one of the gas grills, but tonight I decided to go “old school” – real “old” school – and cook on my 1992 Model Weber Performer kettle grill. The Performer is the wheeled and tabled version of the ubiquitous (and wonderfully designed) Weber kettle grill. I got my first Weber kettle in 2004, after hearing a neighbor at the lake sing the praises of his Weber gas grill. I decided to go back to cooking on charcoal about that time and bought a basic Weber kettle grill and started learning to cook on it. There is a definite learning curve coming from gas to charcoal, but that’s a story for another day.

In any event, in 2008, I had started to get seriously interested in BBQ, smoking meats and grilling in ways other than dumping a large charcoal chimney of Kingsford in the grill and tossing some steaks on a grill grate directly on top of the coals and cook until several cuts into the meat told me the steaks were done. I had seen pictures on the Weber Virtual Bullet forum of RED Weber Kettle grills and thought they looked fantastic. Unfortunately, Weber wasn’t making the red kettle grill at that time and all of the “redheads” on the forum were in Chicago and California. Finally, I saw a RED Weber Performer on Craiglist and I made a quick call and a quick trip and was the PROUD owner of a RED Weber Performer. This is the old style performer – with the stainless steel table. I spent weeks collecting parts from Weber to put the grill into better shape, cleaning the grill and table and touching up some blemishes in the porcelain finish with high-temperature paint.

So, against the backdrop of “Steak Night” and my desire to fire up the Performer, the selection was made.  I set up the Performer for a “modified two level fire” – as Cooks Illustrated calls putting the coals on one half of the cooking grate and leaving the other half of the charcoal grate empty. I used some once-used briquettes and lump mixed, lit the charcoal with my propane torch and waited for the charcoal to get hot and ready. After about 15 minutes, the charcoal was heating up slowly (it was COLD here tonight) but I went ahead and tossed the rib-eye on the grill over the coals an let it ride about 8 minutes. By this time, the temp on the Weber had risen to about 400 degrees and side one had a nice char on it. I flipped the rib-eye to the other half of the hot side of the grill and added the thinner chuck-eyes. Another 6 minutes or so and the rib-eye was reading about 125 degrees so I slid it over to the cooler side of the grill while the chuck-eye’s finished. The chuck-eyes hit about 130 a couple of minutes later, so I tossed the mean onto a Fiestaware platter I had heated on the top of my Weber Genesis Silver B gas grill and let the steaks rest.

Meredith is my biggest fan – she loves my steaks and pulled pork – but she also can have a critical palate. I generally judge my cooking efforts by how Meredith likes the product. Tonight, she commented quickly that her chuck-eye tasted really good. I was enjoying the rib-eye, which turned out a nice medium rare. After she finished her steak and salad, she asked “Is there anymore steak left?” Ahhh, the sound of sweet success……..

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