For Love of the Grill
Top grilling tips from Chef Tim Love: A preview of what to expect from theAustin Food and Wine Festival
In a state that knows grilling, Tim Love has established himself as one of the best, with his successful Fort Worth restaurants Lonesome Dove, the Love Shack, the new Woodshed Smokehouse and his countless appearances as a grilling expert on national television shows.
At the upcoming Austin Food and Wine Festival, he’ll be leading a hands-on grilling class, teaching 200 people how to cook the perfect steak from start (building a fire) to finish (cutting into the perfect ribeye). It’s not likely to be an easy task, but judging from his cooking demonstration skills at a small 25-person lunch at the Chateau Splendido at the Beaver Creek Food and Wine Festival a couple of weeks ago, I'd say Love has both the finesse and laid-back personality to pull off the grand interactive grilling demo.
At the elegant Splendido demo kitchen, Love's students gathered with mimosas and Bloody Mary's in hand to learn about a few dishes he and his Lonesome Dove crew were preparing for our lunch. Dish one was a handmade guinea fowl, bacon and foie gras sausage rolled in seasoned flour, deep fried and served with a creamy corn milk sauce and fresh pears; dish two, a Guajillo and rosemary crusted elk tenderloin pan sautéed and served with crisp maitake mushrooms and Swiss Chard and a purée of roasted salsify.
Among the best tips we picked up from the event:
Tim Love on Frying:
I may like to grill, but if I were stranded on a desert island, I’d want a deep fryer. I can cook meat on an open fire. But a fryer is a necessity.
If you’re going to fry anything, whether it’s meat or vegetables, use peanut oil. It’s got the most flavor and it is also recyclable. You could also use canola or vegetable oil, but whatever you do, do not use olive oil. It has a low smoking point and will make everything taste bitter.
Tim Love on grilling meat:
The method to grilling meat well is to season, sear, cook, rest and reheat. Cooking meat is all about having things at the right temperature to get the best flavor. Never cook a piece of meat straight from the refrigerator. Always bring it to room temperature. You don’t want it to be cold because it will have such a shock from cold to hot when you sear it that the exterior will tighten and it will make the rest of the meat cook unevenly.
Tim Love on seasoning:
Just before you sear your meat, season with whatever ingredients you like, whether it’s just salt and pepper or a specific rub. The key to seasoning is to always season twice as much as you think you need to. These are flavors that have to cook into the meat and create a good crust.
So many people buy one of my rubs from the restaurant and try to make steak at home like they’ve had at my restaurant. They spend a bunch of money on a good steak and probably on a good wine too, then they go home and try to cook it and it comes out wrong. Usually the first mistake they made was in not putting enough flavor on the meat to begin with.
Tim Love on searing:
To sear, I like to use a very hot pan with just a little bit of canola oil. Again, don’t ever use olive oil because you’ll just make your meat taste bitter. Get the oil just to smoking point (about 350 degrees) and place your seasoned meat on the pan. Let it sit for a while and get a really good crust on both sides. Then let it rest on a plate and leave it alone.
Tim Love on resting:
This is one of the second mistakes people make when grilling. You need to let your meat rest. You can do that right after you sear it. You need to let the temperature from searing come down so that all of the meat is back at the same temp. This allows it to cook evenly.
Resting is key because it also helps lock in flavor. How many times have you seen someone take a steak off the grill and immediately cut into it? What happens? All this red juice flows out of the steak and onto the plate. You just lost your flavor. You have to let all of those juices settle back into the meat before you serve it. You should let it rest for at least 15 minutes, but if you’re planning ahead, you can let it rest for up to four hours.
You can do this with steaks, burgers, any kind of meat. With burgers it’s the same principle: Cook til it’s almost done, rest it for at least 15 minutes, then stick some cheese on it and melt and serve.
Tim Love on grilling after searing and resting:
Everybody likes to cook their steaks to their own specifications. That’s fine, but you’re doing yourself a favor if you incorporate the searing and resting into the process. If you’re going to serve dinner fairly quickly, sear your meat, then throw it on the grill and cook it. But only cook just to the point BEFORE you consider it done.
You’re going to rest the meat again to maintain flavor. Then you’re going to heat it up again really quickly just before you serve it. So you want to make sure you don’t cook it to your preferred point of doneness because that high heat at the end will cook it just slightly more. The worst thing you can do is serve meat that’s overdone.
Tim Love on dinner parties:
When you’re throwing a dinner party, you have to design menus that you can get down before anyone gets there. Usually when you have a dinner party, all you do is cook the rest of the damn night and you’re guests are drinking cocktails all night. All they want you to do as the host is sit down and relax. It makes people nervous when you’re not — or at least they should.
So you want a set up where you can sear and precook your meats and all you have to do is pop them in the oven. You have a set up where you have your meats and your vegetables ready to serve family style. Don’t ever try to plate your own dinners at home. It’s fun and it’s really what people want.
So if you’re grilling, just grill your steaks before anyone get there. Have them sitting out and people will walk by and say, “Oh that looks awesome,” and you can say, “Yeah, I know it does.” And then when you’re ready to serve, you just pop it into the oven and it’s done.
As Love was going through the process of bringing our beautiful elk loin back to temp after letting it rest, a class member asks, “Do you sous vide your meat ever?” (Sous vide is a French method of cooking food sealed in airtight plastic bags in a water bath for a long period of time, at a lower temperature than is normally used for cooking. The goal is to cook the ingredient evenly throughout. Though made popular in the 1960s, many chefs today use the sous vide method as a part of the molecular gastronomy trend.)
Love shot the classmate a fiery glance.
Tim Love on sous vide:
Have I what? Sir, I’m from Texas. We don’t do any kind of crap that’s got French words in it. We sear shit and we eat it.
I have used sous vide, but here’s my problem with it: You can’t get the crust on the outside. People say you can sous vide it and then sear it, but to me you’re going in the reverse direction of what I want to do with my cooking principles. When you sous vide it, take it out and chill it and then try to sear it, you’re not going to get a crust on it. You’re going to get a sear on it, but it’s not going to be nearly the same as getting the crust on it.
Sous vide has it’s place. It’s great for vegetables like salsify. It gets just the perfect texture, there’s more opportunity for exactness and temperature. People do it so they can pull out meat at a perfect temperature for medium rare.
But for me, cooking is more than a science. If cooking was an exact science than I wouldn’t have a job and neither would a lot of other chefs. You have to have feeling in the food and believe in what you’re doing with it. Sous vide takes a lot of that out. For me if you’re going to cook meat, you’ve got to sear some meat, and say let’s get the smoke on, let’s taste it, let’s smell it and that’s what makes a better cook at the end of the day, understanding what develops in the meat as the cooking goes on.