Tim Love Preaches Grill Gospel at the Austin Food & Wine Festival
I have a fear of cooking meat. I’m most comfortable with vegetarian dishes, and will occasionally make seafood or chicken, but I have never cooked and served a thick, juicy, steak. Growing up, my parents would regularly use our gas grill to make burgers, flank steak, kabobs, and more, but I never ventured to the grill to learn how to do it myself.
When I saw that Ft. Worth based Tim Love was leading interactive grilling demos at the Austin Food & Wine Festival, I saw the perfect opportunity to conquer my fear. Media badge slung around my neck, I arrive at the gates of the Festival this morning at 9:30 a.m. I was the 26th person in line, and by the time we were allowed in, there were hundreds of people behind me. Knowing that those with VIP badges would be allowed in first, I sprinted with my fellow early birds to get a good spot in line at the appropriately named, “Hands On Grilling Area.”
After the people in front of me let their friends join them in line, I was 10th in the General Admission line and was placed at a grill four rows from the stage. There were a total of 201 participants — each with their own prep station and grill — making today’s class the “largest outdoor cooking demo ever,” according to Chef Tim Love, who added an additional grill to top yesterday’s 200.
Within five minutes of Chef Love’s energetic arrival on stage, participants were clapping, cheering, and laughing along with him. He reminded me of a baptist preacher, and we were his adoring congregation. Instead of preaching about the bible, he was preaching the Word of meat, charcoal, and cold white wine.
Love told us not to use olive oil on the grill — it has too low of a smoking point and will burn. He suggests peanut oil instead. He says all you need to make perfect steak on the cheapest, easiest grill on the planet is natural wood and good (not necessarily the most expensive) cuts of meat.
Other ingredients needed to cook the perfect steak include:
- Charcoal grill – $100
- Charcoal chimney starter – $10
- Mesquite wood chips – $8 for a 2 lb. bag
- Chef knife – starts at $12
- Basting brush – $4
- Cutting board – $10
- Peanut oil
- Big flake salt (kosher salt)
- Cracked black pepper
- Kitchen towels
Note: You’ll notice that a meat thermometer was part of the mise en place, but we never did use it. However, Tim did recommend using a meat thermometer at home.
Next to our grill was a cooler filled with ice, a bottle of white wine, two NY Strip Steaks, two Skirt (or Flank) steaks, two bags of broccolini and two lemons. Tim told us that he chose Skirt as one of our cuts of meat, since it tends to be a more inexpensive cut, and he wanted to show us “how to take alternative cuts of meat and make it badass.”
We prepped our meat by brushing each side with peanut oil, and sprinkling liberally with salt. Love suggested more restraint with the black pepper, but I really like a peppery steak so I put a little on mine. We pushed the pepper into the steak to help encourage a crust to form when it started to cook.
Love told us to put our steak on the hottest part of the grill and put the lid on it, which keeps the grill at a constant hot temperature and ensures that the steak will taste and smell like the natural wood we’ve used.
“If you lift the lid, it gets cold, and the only thing you want cold when you’re grilling is your white wine.”
After we took the NY Strip off the grill to rest, we pulled off the grate, and in the process, I got my first battle scar of the day — a small burn on my right hand. Love is a big fan of getting dirty while grilling, and although burning yourself is likely not part of the plan, I was a quarter of the way into our bottle of wine at this point. Love says, “if you walk out of my class with clean hands, you’re an asshole.”
Next up was the skirt steak, which we had also brushed with peanut oil, and then sprinkled with Love’s Wild Game Rub, a mix of salt, ground pepper, chile powder, cumin, thyme, and rosemary. Love instructed us to place the steaks directly on the hot coals. He joked that some of the audience members were like, “shit, ok, he said to do it.”
Love’s all about making grilling fun, and during his demo, he was joined on stage by some of the other chefs at the Austin Food & Wine Festival — Morimoto, Marcus Samuelsson, and Andrew Zimmern, who he made fun of while they ribbed him back.
Placing the skirt steak on the coals made them smoke like crazy, and this is what it looks like when 201 grills are smoking all at the same time. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one thankful for the recent rains and end of the burn ban that we experienced last summer and fall.
We took off the skirt steak to rest with the NY Strip, but the grate back on the grill, and basted the broccolini with peanut oil. We chopped a couple garlic cloves, mixed it with the broccolini, and sprinkled it with salt and pepper. On the grill, we squeezed a 1/2 lemon over the vegetables.
The final stage. I was drooling by now.
The final step to grilling the perfect meat, is to cut it against the grain. Jon demonstrates the proper way to hold a knife below. I didn’t demonstrate, because I had already cut myself (left hand this time) — proving that drinking copious amounts of wine while grilling might not be the best idea for some of us.
On our way out of the class, Jon and I shared our perfectly prepared medium rare meat with friends and strangers alike, and went on to enjoy the final class and tastings of the festival weekend.
For more grilling tips from Chef Love, check out this Q&A in Food & Wine magazine.Tags: Austin Food & Wine Festival, charcoal, grilling, steak, tim love