It’s March, which means multiple things. March Madness is about to begin (finally), spring break is on the horizon, and the weather is warming up. Or… staying warm since we never had a real winter this year. With warmer weather comes the inspiration to be outside with nature, and what better way to enjoy the beautiful outdoors than caking your hands in the remnants of charcoal and coating your being with the scent of smoke?
Grilling is an art and takes more than just practice to perfect. There are multiple steps that don’t even include the meat. If you want the most tender, most flavorful steak, the majority of your time will be in preparation and not in actually having the meat on the grill.
What you will need:
- Anywhere from 2-3 hours
- A charcoal grill
- Woodchips (recommended, not required)
- A bowl or plastic container
- Gallon-sized freezer bag
- Olive oil
- Steak seasoning (I recommend Weber KC BBQ Rub or McCormick Grill Mates Montreal Steak Rub)
- Lighter fluid (If the charcoal is NOT match light)
- Matches or lighter
- Your choice of meat
- Grilling utensils (Grill brush, spatula, etc.)
Step One: Picking Your Meat
It’s important that before you do anything related to the grill or fire that you pick good cuts of meat to smoke. Ideal cuts have light-colored fat where the blood hasn’t run into it, is thick so it won’t cook too fast, and doesn’t have too much or too little fat. Fat is what soaks in all the flavor. With no fat there is no flavor, but with too much fat there’s not much to eat. Meat (pun intended) in the middle.
Step Two: Marinating
Before you even light the grill, the first thing you need to do is marinate the meat. Take your piece(s) of meat and place on a plate. Drizzle olive oil on the top, and then lightly cover with seasoning. Pat the seasoning into the meat so it isn’t loose and will stay on the steaks. Turn over and repeat this step.
Next, transfer the meat into the gallon-sized freezer bag. Drizzle a skosh more olive oil and seasoning into the bag. Remove all excess air from the bag, close, and place in the refrigerator. Enough air should be removed in order to fold the bag underneath itself when placed in the fridge. Leave them alone until ready to put on the grill.
Step Three: Lighting the Grill
Once your meat is in the refrigerator, you’re ready to light the grill. It will take more time lighting the grill and perfectly preparing it than any other part of the process. Before you even think about lighting the grill, though, we have to begin soaking the woodchips. Fill a bowl or plastic container with the chips and then fill to the brim with water so the wood soaks it all in. Leave it, then take your charcoal, lighter fluid, spatula, lighter, and grill brush outside to the grill.
In case you weren’t aware, you will almost always have to remove the grates in order to put in the charcoal. Using your hands is fine, but they will be caked in grease, ash, and other unwelcoming left-behinds. If you don’t want to use your hands, simply use a spatula (or any other tool you might want to use) to pick up the grates and remove them.
Make sure that where the charcoal should be placed is completely free of all ashes or any other debris; your coals will need space and air to continue burning. Make a pile of charcoal in the center, stretching out underneath the edges of the outside grates. Douse the mound in lighter fluid and immediately light multiple pieces of charcoal before the flames catch up.
The flames will rise through the grates, this is when you take your grill brush and use the heat to brush off remaining meat and other particles left over from the grill’s last use. Leave the grill cover open while the charcoal is burning.
After a while, the flames will die down and the charcoal will barely be smoking. DO NOT MESS WITH IT. That’s normal; after a while there will be a glowing bed of orange and the flames will pick back up again.
Once the coals turn gray with an orange ember shining beneath, it’s time to put the wood chips on.
Dump the water out of the container of wood chips and place all of the woodchips on top of the bed of coals. This time I’m using Applewood, but normally I use Hickory. These will catch after a few minutes after the water cooks out of the wood. Again, leave the grill cover open.
Step Four: Smoking the Meat
After the woodchips are burned up, it’s time to put your meat on the grill. Make sure your grill is anywhere from 200-250 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat shown below is right at 225 degrees.
Take your meat out of the plastic bags and put on the grates. DO NOT put them directly above the bed of coals and wood. The dripping olive oil will cause the flame to catch back up and scorch the meat.
Once the meat is positioned to where it’s close to the heat but not catching a flame, you can finally close the grill cover. The smoke will flavor the meat with whatever wood you used and whatever your choice of marinade was. Depending on how hot the grill is, you should check your meat every fifteen to thirty minutes.
If you have a meat thermometer it is easy to know when to take the meat off and determining when your steak is cooked to your liking. Without one, it just takes practice and experience. More than likely your first few times your steaks will be medium-well. I aim for a perfect medium. The goal is to have a steak tender enough to cut with a fork or a butter knife, which should take around forty-five minutes.
When you finally take up your steak, you’re ready to cut into it and chow down on your tender creation. Questions, comments, or recommendations for marinades or anything else can be left in the comments or emailed to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.