“all the tips you need for the perfect BBQ steak”
I have already shared the secrets for a delicious steak on my previous article “How to cook the perfect steak?” As the British Summer is just around the corner the good news is that the same can be done on a BBQ as well, with a little bit preparation and attention to detail.
Just to remind once more, when it comes to steak, the main difference between restaurant cooking and home cooking is the amount of heat used. In a restaurant cooking temperatures are usually higher than a traditional kitchen. It is the extra heat which creates charring (browning) and the exquisite taste we are all after. Handling steak on a BBQ can be slightly more difficult compared to pan-fry cooking and it is not uncommon that a beautiful steak ends up burned, not charred enough, over or under cooked in the inside. Two simple reasons are not being familiar with the BBQ – we usually use our hob more often – and the BBQ not being set to a constant temperature every time. With this quick guide you will get the perfect steak BBQ steak right every time.
Do you remember how important the cast iron frying pan was on the previous article? Similarly the selection of BBQ itself is the main factor that lets you get it right. You will need a BBQ with a lid, simple! It doesn’t need to be an expensive one with lots of goodies on it but it has to have a lid that you can use while cooking. So we are not talking about lids to avoid rainwater while the BBQ unused, it needs to be a high enough lid which leaves enough air around the steak while it is cooking. And unfortunately disposable BBQs are not good to achieve the perfect BBQ steak for various reasons but mainly because they don’t come with a lid.
Surely you can recall a time when you put a fatty piece of steak or burger on you barbecue and flames appeared in a matter of minutes. One option is moving food around like mad until the charcoal gets less hot and flames goes off. Flames are due to the fat dripping on top of hot charcoal and beyond being unhealthy; it causes you meat to burn and gives it an unpleasant taste. On the next barbecue we try to wait little longer to make sure charcoal cools down sufficiently so that we don’t get flames, then we don’t get charring as the BBQ is not hot enough. This is where the lit comes into play. The lid limits the amount of air (oxygen) in the BBQ so that no flaming occurs; meanwhile it still lets the barbecue going thanks to ventilation holes on the top and the bottom. This simply lets us to cook at a higher temperature without bothering with flames.
I prefer Weber’s charcoal BBQs similar to the one on the picture. You can use any make and model which has a similar lid with air vents at its bottom and on the lid to ensure BBQ does not go off when you close the lid. Usually the difference between an expensive BBQ and a cheap one is how long they last rather than how good they cook so go for whatever you can afford. A high quality one serves you years to come.
I always prefer charcoal and to me gas sounds a bit artificial. If you prefer gas purely because charcoal is “messy”, please don’t be lazy and do it properly. If you have to use gas for whatever other reason, you are welcome and feel free to adopt this guide to gas as you see fit.
Second important point on our journey to the perfect BBQ steak is the charcoal. If you are going to cook steak, prefer natural lumpwood charcoal instead of briquettes. Remember why we were using the cast iron frying pan? To be able to store heat and provide high enough cooking temperature to create sufficient charring. Same applies with a BBQ. Briquettes are good to maintain medium heat for a long time so that you can fire the BBQ once and cook lots and lots of sausages and burgers for your friends. Lumpwood on the other hand gives high heat however it passes quickly so if the idea is to server lots of steaks you might need to be adding charcoal as you cook. That’s said, a medium size BBQ should last long enough to feed a party of four to six.
Selecting your steak
Cuts with more fat content, like Rib-Eye or Sirloin are good choices if you are trying this method for the first time. Extra fat content makes the caramelisation easier and the steak can be eaten without needing any sauces. Once you get the idea there is no reason to not to experiment other cuts like Fillet and Rump as they cook equally well on the barbecue. Try to get a steak which has matured at least 21 days for the best results.
If you like medium, medium-rare or rare cooking get something thick enough (3/4” or 2cm). Thin steaks are more difficult to get the timing right.
Preparing the steak and the barbecue
Take the steak out from the fridge at least one hour before cooking and remove the packaging especially if it is vacuum packed. If the surface is wet, dry it by tapping with a kitchen towel. Let them get to the room temperature and breathe until cooking time.
Light the barbecue. I will not go into details of BBQ tips and tricks however if you are finding lighting up charcoal difficult get a chimney starter. As soon as charcoal gets a white colour immediately proceed to cooking.
Slightly wet each side of steaks with olive oil, season them with a pinch of freshly ground black pepper and place them on the barbecue. As soon as you see first flames close the lid making sure that the ventilation holes at the bottom of the barbecue and on top of the lid are fully open. Leave the steak for 2-2.5 minutes before turning over. Don’t be tempted to open the lid frequently to check; as long as it is closed you meat will not burn. You will see a beautiful caramelisation as you turn it over. Leave the other side for a similar amount, with the lid closed and take the meat out.
I usually sprinkle sea salt on the steaks once they arrive to the plate however you can do the same just before you turn them over if you prefer. At this stage the difficult part is done and you are very close to the perfect BBQ steak.
Let your steak stand for at least ten minutes after you take it off the BBQ. As mentioned on our previous article standing locks the juices within the steak and it is especially important when you cook to medium-rare or rare. Sufficient standing ensures you don’t get red, bloody juices when you cut your rare steak.
Don’t really want to bore you with all details of standing once more so please see “How to cook the perfect steak?” article if you are not familiar with it.
Sauces, seasoning, smoking etc
As I repeat time and time again the perfect steak deserves to be served on its own without being covered under a thick layer of sauce or jus. If you would like to use a sauce or jus, which usually accompany less fatty cuts like Fillet or Rump better, serve them on the side so that your guests can add them as much as they like. A properly barbecued steak is usually so full of flavours you wouldn’t need anything extra.
Another way of seasoning on the perfect BBQ steak is smoking. With the right amount of smoking you simply add the wow-factor to your steaks. Get some wood chips that you can find on barbecue section of the markets. Put three or four chips into a glass of water at least 30 minutes before cooking. This ensures chips actually smoke instead of burning quickly. Drop the wet chips on to the charcoal just before closing the lid. Ideally place them at a cooler corner of the barbecue. This will give an amazing smoky flavour on your steaks. If it is your first time doing this type of cooking I strongly recommend you go ahead without chips and try them another time when you get used to high heat cooking. You can later increase or decrease number of chips to your liking but remember too much smoke usually creates an unpleasant taste and overpowers the steaks. It is a good idea to start with a few chips and increase slowly if you want a more intense flavour.
Enjoy your steak!
Now, tell us what you think. Tried this recipe and liked it? Do you have a suggestion to make it better? Just want to say few words about your recent BBQ experience? Liked the article? Please leave a comment.
Wish everyone a great weather next weekend so that you can give the perfect BBQ steak a go.