Archive | February, 2012

When is a Steak “done”?

28 Feb

When cooking steaks, everybody has their own definition of each degree of doneness and their own idea about theĀ  internal temperature that correlates with each degree of doneness.

I will tell you that, for me, the temperature at which I pull the steak off the grill depends on the thickness of the steak.

I shoot for medium rare. That is, in my book, red, warm center, which, again – in my opinion – translates to between 130 and 135 degrees internal temperature after resting.

Thinner steaks, I believe, have a carryover cooking effect of about 5 degrees, so I get them off between 125 and 130.

Thicker steaks, however, seem to have more of a temperature gain after removing them from the heat. I took WAY too many beautiful 1.5″ to 2″ porterhouse steaks to medium by not getting them off the grill early enough before I learned this lesson. So, when I’m cooking thicker steaks, I pull them between 120 and 125, and figure the temperature will continue to rise by up to 10 degrees after they come off the heat.

I generally cook meats to these temps for degree of doneness. These are just MY guides:
Rare – 115 to 120 (pull thin steaks at 110 – 115)
Med Rare – 130 – 135 (pull thin steaks at 125 – 130)
Medium – 140 – 145 (pull thin steaks at 135 – 140).

Beyond that? Get out of here, I’m not cooking you a steak!

Note that these are NOT the USDA recommended temperatures for steak. In my own opinion (disclaimer here – if you cook at steak below the USDA recommended temperature, its at your risk – don’t blame me, but if you cook your steaks to the USDA recommended minimum temperatures, don’t invite me over to eat one), steaks cooked to USDA temperatures are ruined, even at the bottom range of those temperature recommendations.

If you disagree with me, don’t flame me, just ignore me and eat your own steak.



Been a while – but pork butts were delivered….

5 Feb

It is the middle of “show choir” season in the Smith house. For those who are not familiar with this obsession, show choir is a popular musical performance genre for high school students – very talented high school students – in which they perform in a group of singers and dancers – 35 to 50 in number – in a high energy, over the top, dazzling display of vocal and physical gymnastics. Think Broadway Musical meets Le Cirque. It is “Glee” amped up a few notches. Our daughter is a member of Homewood High School’s “The Network” – a “Large Mixed Group (Boys and Girls together)” show choir, which currently is one of the top-ranked show choirs in the country. Am I a little proud? Nope – I am a LOT proud. The contest days start early to mid-morning on Saturday with a drive of anywhere from 90 minutes to 7 hours to the contest site and end whenever we manage to drag ourselves home in the wee to not-so-wee hours of Sunday morning. Since this week’s contest was only about 90 minutes away, we managed to get home at the relatively early hour of 1:30 a.m. As for the contest, The Network won Best Vocals, Best Choreography and Grand Champion with some VERY stiff competition from other groups of equally talented and well-directed high school kids from around the Southeast. This is a very entertaining obsession.

But then again, so is BBQ! This week was not without BBQ activities! Older daughter is a junior at Auburn University where she is Director of Community Outreach for the AU Student Government Association. Sometimes I think she is majoring in Student Government Association. In any event, this weekend, daughter and her staff of other over-achieving, energetic and community-minded students organized Auburn University’s inaugural AU Dance Marathon benefiting the Children’s Miracle Network hospitals. Darling Daughter “volunteered” me to provide BBQ for the hospitality room set up for members of families that were benefiting from the funds raised by the dance marathon. It was a pretty straightforward and simple order – pulled pork BBQ for about 40 folks.

I decided that three nice eight pound butts would be enough, along with some simple sides and dessert, so I picked up two-two packs of butts at the local Sam’s Club on Thursday afternoon after work. I have a friend just finishing up radiation and chemo who needs some nourishment and needed something to “snack” on during today’s Super Bowl, so the fourth butt would round out the cook. The cooker is going to be fired up so might as well fill it up!

The butts were prepared with my usual “catering” treatment: a slather of yellow mustard followed by a healthy coating and rubdown with Bad Byron’s Butt Rub. I like Bad Byron’s because it has a nice spicy bite, seems to promote a tasty “crust” and I can buy it locally in large bottles at an affordable price. Occasionally, I will mix up a large batch of “Big Bob Gibson’s” rub from Chris Lilly’s excellent “Big Bob Gibson’s Cookbook” but since this was an overnight, during-the-week cook, I opted for the commercial rub.

I fired up the Traeger Texas Grill Elite (BBQ 075) about 6:30 in the afternoon and let the pellets get fired up and the temperature come up to about 200 degrees (a good smoke temperature for the Traeger, I’ve found – no fear, the temp get’s bumped up later). At 7:00 p.m., the butts went on the Traeger and I went about my business. About 10:00 p.m., I topped off the pellet hopper and bumped the temps to 225 for the overnight cook. I used BBQr’s Delight’s excellent Pecan Pellets for this cook and near the end, added some BBQr’s Delight charcoal pellets to continue the heat.

I checked on the butts about 2:00 and they were looking, well, like butts. When I got up at 5:30, they were in the 180s and looking, well, like butts. I bumped the temp on the Traeger to 250. After coffee and my morning social networking, they had come up in temps to the low 190’s by about 7:00. I wrapped the butts in foil and got dressed for work. By 7:45, they were all north of 195 degrees, so I put them all in a cooler with some bar towels and went to work.

At lunch, I came home and pulled the four butts. These were the nicest looking butts I’ve cooked on the Traeger. The combination of the Pecan pellets and the long, low smoke on the front end resulted in a wonderful, dark pink smoke ring and the butts had held plenty of moisture without being greasy. Lunch on Friday was my “samples” from the pulled butts – got to sample each one for quality control purposes!

I pull each butt apart into a foil half-sized hotel pan then I sprinkle in a healthy dose of Saw’s BBQ Sauce. Saw’s is the product of Birmingham resident Mike Wilson (proprietor of the EXCELLENT Saw’s BBQ on Oxmoor Road in Homewood, Alabama – I mean, this guy knows how to do it and does it right. Quite possibly the best commercial BBQ I’ve ever eaten). Saw’s is a vinegar-based sauce with just the right balance of vinegar, sugar and tomato and brings a mild but tangy acidic bite and a hint of sweetness to the pork that perfectly compliments the BBQ.

The pork was delivered on ice to daughter Friday night with instructions for re-heating – which essentially was “give this to your sorority sister who is going to culinary school and ask her to re-heat it. She’ll know what to do.”

The report from the AU Dance Marathon was that the event broke the national record for first-year CMN events by raising over $65,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network and that the BBQ went over VERY, VERY, VERY, VERY well.

So, it was a good weekend for our Smith daughters – a show choir win, and a big win for the Children’s Miracle Network. And I’ve still got two pounds of that pulled pork for the Super Bowl!