Perfect Steaks in 3 minutes at no cost
If you noticed, especially in the German market, a new family of tools dedicated to steak has been introduced, able of reproducing in a few minutes the effects of a steakhouse, a very dry and sizzling bark, a juicy and tender meat and a perfect cooking grade. Among these, one of the most famous is the Beefer, which you can easily find on the net but there are different versions of different brands
Let’s change scenario, now: you may have taken part in a barbecue contest or just a simple cook out session far away from home and based on American barbecue. In those moments, the problem is always what to eat at noon when you are half-way with cookings for the evening. The answer is, in most cases, the real lunch of the griller: the steak. However, there is the problem of not having a kettle, but only smokers and moreover full and set for Low & Slow. Here then our DIY side awake and the classic conclusion is to grill the steak on the chimney starter. The limit is however the possibility of grilling only one steak at a time, with maybe 10 people to satisfy and claiming nothing less than the canonical times needed to make a perfect steak, three fingers thick and cooked with all the chrisms. Here I have seen in many German or Austrian competitions teams taking with them one of the above mentioned devices, which objectively constitute the perfect solution, both in terms of timing and result.
Here’s what I asked myself: how can I get the same effect using what I usually have at my disposal in a competition and avoiding to spend the 700 € needed for buying a Beefer? I came to mind to try to make a Do It Yourself version replicable anywhere, without dedicated equipment and at no cost.
Let’s think about how a Beefer or similar device works. This is essentially a small, front opened metal box, on the top of which is placed a gas burner. At various height of the box you can insert a grid on which the steak is placed. Heat raises violently the surface of the meat, but it does it from the top. The juices then when they fall do not invest the heat source, they do not create direct flames and do not burn. The irradiation effect then combines a refractive effect due to the fact that the cooking environment is relatively small. Cauterization therefore becomes very homogeneous across the surface, with a beautiful golden and inviting bark. You can also reach very high temperatures, making the timings very short with a perfect cooking degree, given by the great difference between the outside and the inside of the meat.
The most immediate solution that came to my mind was to try to resume the rudimentary chimney system and to evolve it. As first, we need the heat source to be placed over the steak and not below it. No problem: the space below the basket, destined for the paraffin cubes seems to be made for that, just put the steak under the basket and not on it. However, the refractive effect of the heat is missing. I came to think of using a cast iron grid for this purpose and to heat it over the chimney while the coal comes to perfect combustion. Then move the cast iron grill on a second chimney off, place the steak over and then cover it with the hot chimney. The only limit is to choose a steak whose surface is not bigger than the chimney’s one but it is worth considering, that a common ribeye on that space fits great. There’s nothing left but to try.
Just to complicate life a bit in terms of homogeneous cooking we choose two rib steak of Polish meat, about two fingers thick. Apply a film of oil and a simple SPG rub with a spoonful of rosemary. At half-cooking we will turn the steak on the other side to homogenize the cooking effect.
The result was excellent: homogeneous roasting and perfect cooking, in particular the distribution of the degree of cooking seen in section, seems to be drawn. But above all, what amazes are the times: in a minute and a half per side I gained an intensity and homogeneity that in the traditional method would have required me at least twice but most probably triple the time and have to moderate and quite a lot, the ‘Intensity of heat. When I lift the upper chimney to turn the steak, the effect is stunning: the fat parts literally was frying, with abundant bubbles on the surface, almost a foam that disappeared in a moment leaving a glittering and inviting crusty sight. It is only necessary to take measures because clearly the cooking is not visible and the temperatures are so high that exceeding the external cauterization is a real risk. In the test I have to admit I have underestimated the power of this system and superficially on both of the cookings I let get away some excessive burnt points. The impression in any case is that I could further reduce the time, obtaining an ideal browning, without in any case affecting the overall cooking grade of the steak. Lastly, I’ve tried both hardwood charcoal and briquettes solutions. There aren’t big differences but probably the solution with briquettes in the opinion of the people present has give a more homogeneous result, furthermore the charcoal tends to release some small flaming flares that pass between the mesh and falls on the steak itself.
Ultimately I consider the low cost attempt of emulatation as positive. The Beefer certainly has the ability to place the steak at different heights so that it can modulate the cooking according to the thickness and also fits even with larger than the standard steaks. But we are simple people and we make do with it.
Now there is only one question: to your next cook off, after loading two chimneys and a cast iron grill, how many steaks will you take with you?