All Fired Up
Grilling expert Jamie Purviance walks you through the process
STALK YOUR PREY
New York strips and rib eyes may be tasty, but they're loaded with fat. Top round is considerably leaner, but its lack of marbling means most cuts end up tasting like a microwaved baseball. Purviance recommends sticking with the middle ground. His picks:
BEEF TENDERLOIN, the same section of meat from which you get filet mignon. It's soft, supple, and melts in your mouth, meaning it's also the priciest steak you can buy.
For a cheaper option, try TOP SIRLOIN. It's ideal for kebabs, says Purviance, because it can be cut easily into large cubes. You can sear the outside, and the inside is thick enough that you can cook it to just the right doneness. FLANK STEAK is another great, lean option. It's long and thin, so it's best cooked as either a whole steak or a satay (cutting it into half-inch strips and grilling it on skewers).
If you're grilling up some burgers, go with the leanest meat available: 90% lean ground beef or 100% ground sirloin. Select a steak you like and have the butcher grind it for you. You can doctor up either option to replace the flavor you lose from the missing fat (see "Flavor Boosters" on page 95).
LIGHT THE FLAME
Once you're ready to cook, it's all about temperature and time
KNOW YOUR HEAT | When you're using a gas grill, you have two heat choices: direct and indirect. With direct heat, you've got the food directly over the fire; with indirect heat, you're cooking over an unlit burner (next to a lit burner). Thin cuts of meat cook quickly, so they're best cooked over direct heat. Thicker cuts of meat, however, can't survive direct heat for long-the outside will burn before the inside is cooked. If your steak is 11/2 inches thick or thicker, start it over direct high heat (three to four minutes per side to sear it and form a nice crust), then move it to indirect heat to roast it gently.
IS IT DONE? | Lots of novice grillers check the doneness of their meat by cutting into it. Amateur technique, says Purviance-you're letting out all the juices, and you'll end up dining on hockey pucks. The trick for checking the doneness of meat that Purviance teaches in his grilling classes is called the thumb test: Open your hand and feel the skin at the base of your thumb. That's how raw meat feels: soft and pliant. Touch each finger to your thumb and press lightly, and you'll see how your meat should feel when cooked:
THUMB AND INDEX FINGER | RARE
THUMB AND MIDDLE FINGER | MEDIUM RARE
THUMB AND RING FINGER | MEDIUM WELL
THUMB AND PINKIE | WELL DONE
While the steak is cooking, the juices start to pool in the middle-if you cut it now, they'll all run out. Let the meat rest for three to five minutes after you remove it from the grill, however, and the juices will redistribute, ensuring that each bite is tender and juicy