15 beefy tips for Father's Day feasts

We grilled the experts about how they beef it up for Father's Day

Staff writerJune 15, 2011 

  • Walter Royal, executive chef at the Angus Barn in Raleigh. He grew up in Alabama, where his family had frequent cookouts on his grandparents' farm. His dad was a T-bone man, he says: "A big ol' piece of meat."

    Robert Brener, chef-instructor at Johnson & Wales University Charlotte. Brener teachers New World Cuisine, which includes grilling. At home, he has a smoker and a small gas grill, but he really cooks over wood in his outdoor fireplace.

    Vic Giroux, owner of the butcher shop What's Your Beef?, 14021 Conlan Circle in Charlotte's Ballantyne area. He's such a grilling fanatic, he has a combination gas and charcoal grill with a super-hot, infrared burner. "I grill all my meat, all year round. Up in Jersey, I grilled when it snowed."

Sure, any good chef can grill a steak. Chefs have access to high-quality beef and super-hot restaurant equipment.

And most dads can grill a steak. They've got experience.

But what happens when it's Father's Day and the rest of us might like to cook our fathers a steak?

We asked three food professionals to put down the restaurant-quality ingredients and gear and tell us: How do you best grill a steak at home?

Did they all agree? Of course not. They're all dads. And they all have their own ways to do it.

Which steak?

Royal: "For me, on a personal note, it's the ribeye. The fillet is the most popular choice, for the fat content. The ribeye - it's meaty, it's flavorful, you can get it well-marbled."

Brener: Skirt steak. "Great flavor, very easy to cook, very versatile. It can be tough, but you cut it very thin and cook it really fast, smoking hot. I do it all the time on the (gas) grill as high as I can get it. I think it has better texture than the flank steak even, and I like flank a lot. Throw a vinaigrette on it when it comes off, a basic chimichurri. It's just fresh and awesome."

Giroux: Ribeye, bone-in or boneless. If there's no ribeye, "go for the porterhouse. A porterhouse is a full fillet with the strip (steak) and the bone around it. You're getting a two-for-one deal, yes, you are. And definitely cook it on the bone."

Picking a good one

Royal: "Look at the color. You don't want anything that's sort of faded or not a good, rich red. And then you look at the marbling. You don't want big chunks of fat. You want little flecks of whiteness woven in the meat itself."

Giroux: "For the average person, look at the marbling of the meat. The more marbling, the more flavor."

Getting ready

Royal: "One of the biggest mistakes we make is going from the refrigerator to the grill. No, no, no. Bring it out and let it temp (come to room temperature), 15, 20 minutes, in the house, in the air-conditioning, not outside sitting at the grill. (The meat is) relaxing, and all those juices are going back into the meat."

Brener: "A big key is try and let it air dry. You can do that in the fridge, on a rack over a pan. If you can let it go overnight, great. Air-drying is going to help you build flavor, it's going to help you get better caramelization. A lot of your moisture has evaporated, so you have a higher ratio of the sugars. The food just cooks better."

Seasoning

Royal: Brush it with melted butter or olive oil just before you put it on the fire, again when you turn it and a final time just before it comes off the fire. Don't add salt and pepper until the very end. "When you salt anything, what happens? You're zapping it of that moisture."

Brener: "I'm a big fan of salt and pepper." Sometimes he will use prepared Montreal seasoning. "It goes really well with meat. It's salt, pepper, garlic, onion." After air-drying in the refrigerator, he'll season with salt and pepper and return it to the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

Giroux: "You don't need any rubs for a great steak. For a really good steak, all you need is a little olive oil, cracked pepper, garlic (fresh, mashed, rubbed on the meat) and salt." He doesn't salt in advance: "You're draining out the flavor."

Cooking

Royal: "A lot of people are into thermometers. But if you are the grill master, it's by feel."

Brener: "Leave the grill open. Everybody closes the lid, and they turn their grill into an oven. When you're grilling, you want to cook from one side only. The idea is to cook it halfway on one side so you get the moisture up through the middle and then you flip it, so you send the moisture the other way."

Giroux: A gas grill is more precise, usually cooking at 350 degrees. For a 3/4-inch-thick ribeye, 6 minutes per side is rare, 71/2 minutes per side is medium rare, 8 minutes per side is medium. "I don't even talk about well-done. You just add two minutes to the medium. You'll see no flavor whatsoever, but there you go. Why people eat it well-done, I do not know."

The final step

Royal: Let it rest. "How many times have you seen a person cut a steak and all those juices puddle? It's because we didn't let it rest. Even if it's medium-well and you let it rest, it won't be quite as dry."

Brener: Let it rest. "Give it 10 minutes, 15 minutes after it comes of the grill, to let the water settle in." Ideally, let it stand in a warm place or on a warm plate. "It's not to cool it down, it's to let the water (the juice) redistribute."

Giroux: Let it rest. "It's still hot, so it's still cooking and still developing flavor and tenderness."

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