Campfire Cowboy-cut Tomahawk Ribeye Steaks and A Grillmaster’s Guide for Cooking with Charcoal

 

Live from the heart of Utah, it’s Your’s Truly, LIVE from the Food.Fire.Feasts 2015. This one-of-a-kind event brought together 8 of the most well-recognized outdoor chefs and food bloggers in the country – Trekking deep into the wilderness to camp, cook, collaborate, & share their best rustic livefire recipes with the backdrop of Zion National Park’s breathtaking towering mountains, deep canyons & resplendent waterways.

 

 

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On Friday evening, after returning from the canyons, knife’s edge cliffs & heart racing trek to the summit of Angel’s Landing, I was charged with hosting dinner for the event. The main dish – Cowboy-cut Long-bone Tomahawk Ribeye Steaks. Needless to say, those steak bones were being licked clean by night’s end. In this post I’ll not only share a backwoods-inspired recipe to encrusting the best campfire steaks you’ve ever grilled, but I’ll offer a host of best practices & common mistakes to avoid in building an incredible multi-zone grilling station over charcoal & wood.

Stay tuned. Stay hungry. And follow the feasts!

 

 

PRE-TREATING & PRE-HEATING THE CHARCOAL GRILL

Just cause you’re in the woods doesn’t justify negating sanitary measures. Thoroughly scrub down grill grates & mix in an abrasive wash of your hands. A clean grill = a happy grill. A happy grill = healthy campers. Healthy campers = Happy campers. 

Now. 30 minutes in advance of cooking, open the grill lid, top & bottom air vents. Over the grill grates, place a charcoal chimney. A simple tool that looks like an oversized coffee canister. Inside are 2 ventilated chambers. Fill the smaller bottom chamber with crumpled news paper – Load the larger top chamber to the brim with charcoal. Stand the canister upright & simply light the news paper. 20 minutes later you’ll have glowing lumps of charcoal. It’s just that easy. Seriously.

There are several alternate techniques & methods to starting charcoal, including expensive blow torches & flammable chemical applications, but, by far & away, the chimney method is not only the most straight forward, it’s cost efficient ($15-25 for a decent chimney) & avoids unnecessary use of toxic lighter fluids.

 

 

CHARCOAL & OXYGEN – THE FUELS OF YOUR FLAMES

Most wouldn’t consider the later a fuel, yet in outdoor charcoal cooking, nothing is more important than the control of oxygen & airflow over the coals & food.  

Most grills are equipped with 2 vents – An “Intake” located below the grill & and “Exhaust” on the top of the grill.  Exhaust vents are not only critical for safety, but ensuring maximum airflow – sucking the oxygen from the coals through the grill’s roof & avoidance of soot buildup. As such, leave the “Exhaust” vents 1/2 open at all times.

On the other hand, temperature control will be levied via the “Intake” vents. 

General Rules: More coals = Hotter grill.  Closer the coals are the the grilling grate = Hotter the cooking surface. Close off the “Intake” Vent = Choke the heat. Open the “Intake” Vent = Breathing glorious life into the flame emanating from your charcoal pit.

To ensure the appropriate temperature is achieved – Always preheat the grill 30 minutes in advance of cooking & measure with a well-calibrated surface temperature thermometer.

Cowboy steaks are about to change Zion forever thanks to A Bachelor & His Grill #followthefeasts

Posted by Food Fire Feasts on Friday, September 11, 2015

 

INTEGRATING FLAVOR WITH HARDWOOD SMOKE

Barbeque is defined by smoke – most commonly integrated through smoldering wood chips, chunks, pellets, &/or logs. Pit master purists say, “There’s low & slow cooking, then there’s barbeque.” The intent of smoke application is exponentially elevating the flavor profile of grilled fare by imparting the natural, earthy essence of smoldering hardwoods in an enclosed, low heat cooking environment.

General rule of thumb is using heavier hardwoods (ie. hickory, mesquite & oak) for heavier meats (ie. beef & pork) & lighter hardwoods (ie. alder, apple, cherry, maple & pecan) for lighter fare (ie. poultry, fish). Avoid using softer woods such as fir, pine, redwood, & spruce – each burn rapidly & produce a pungent, infecting aroma.

For longer cooks employ chunks or logs, but be strategic in your placement of this wood, as bulky pieces will undoubtedly increase the temperature of your cooking environment. For fare requiring shorter cooking times chips or pellets are recommended. Chips, chunks, pellets &/or logs can be nestled directly over smoldering coals or flame. Or, another common method is packaging the wood chips & pellets within homemade, perforated foil packets – an effective way to safely control the smoke, reduce burn rate of the chips & impart flavor.

 

 

TAMING THE FLAME – CONTROLLING FLARE-UPS

Flames – Your friend. Flames – Your enemy. Flames – Your frienemy.  Flare-ups are the #1 cause of poor outdoor cooking experience. Flare-ups are caused when flammable liquids come in contact with the super-heated charcoal – most often when grease escapes from grilled meats, dripping below the grill grates. 

Often home cooks are frightened by big flames. I revel in it. But, its critical to know when to leverage the fire & when to tame the flame. Fire is for searing, encrusting & carbonizing. Indirect heat, is for barbecuing, roasting & slowly elevating your fare to appropriate internal temperature. Both techniques are important to well-prepared proteins & produce.

5 best means of managing flare-ups: 

1. The number one rule of grilling – Never leave your food. It’s unnecessary to consistently play with your food, but for Pete’s sake, don’t let that steak get lonely!

2. Create a 2-zone grilling surface, as noted above. Sear high & hot. Roast slow & low. If the flames become too high over the direct heat zone, simply slide your dish over to the cooler indirect heat zone.

3. Close the grill lid & air vents to starve the fire of it’s fuel – oxygen.

4. Always have a spray bottle filled with water on hand for minor flare-up or emply use of a fire extinguisher if things really get out of hand.

5. Last resort. Just throw the grill in a lake. Order delivery pizza.

 

12009789_871129589636795_872093135752087609_nPhoto credit: Marry Graham, “A Merry Recipe” – Co-Host of Food.Fire.Feasts 2015
 

5 Grillmaster Steps to perfectly seared mouthwatering cowboy-cut tomahawk bone-in rib eye Steaks. 1. Obtain massive @certifiedangusbeef RIBEYE #STEAKS 2. Fire up that @charbroilgrills 940X Charcoal Grill. 3. Consume a '6er of tasty #craftbeer type beverages with your best grilling bud, Scott Thomas – @grillinfools 4. Document @foodfirefeasts experience via sweet #Instagram #Selfies 5. Kick back. Cut into those gorgeous hunks of steak. Enjoy the resplendent scenery of Zion National Park – @usinterior @zionnps #Grill #Grilling #BBQ #Barbecue #FoodPorn#GrillPorn #Beef #BeefPorn #steak #steakporn#Food #FoodPhotography #foodgasm#foodography #instafood #foodiegram #foodie#foodstagram #foodpics #Meat #MeatPorn#meatlover #Paleo #GlutenFree

A photo posted by A Bachelor & His Grill (@bachelorsgrill) on

 

ESTABLISHING A 2-ZONE GRILLING SURFACE 

Ignite the charcoal in a chimney starter. When coals are glowing red & beginning to ash upon the exterior, dump coals onto the grill floor. Rake coals, pushing ⅔ to one side of the grill, slanting the remaining coals to the opposite side of the grill, establishing 1 high-piled intense heat zone & 1 cooler, indirect warming zone. As a general guideline, you’ll usually need far more charcoal than you think – Load up that grill!  And, for every 45-60 minutes of grilling, add a half-chimney of coals to maintain consistency of the grill’s heat.

Direct Heat: A high heat method used to cook small or thinner portions of food quickly over the immediate direct heat source, with grill lid open.

Indirect Heat: Think of this method as low & slow outdoor roasting ideal for larger hunks & tougher cuts of protein– cooking to internal temperature, not time. With the capacity to integrate a variety of flavors & smoky essence into your fare, this barbeque-style approach to grilling is best leveraged by placing food over the grates furthest from the direct heat source, with the grill lid covered for maximum consistency in convective heat application.

Sear & Roast Method over a 2-Zone Cooking Surface: Grilling high & hot, over the intense heat of red-glowing coals & raging flames, with the lid wide open for all to witness your glory. When the exterior of your fare is perfectly carbonized, a gentle slide across the grates to the far indirect, cooler zone allows the internal temperature to rise without the exterior drying, burning & transforming into petrified, inedible fare.

 

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Campfire Cowboy-cut Tomahawk Ribeye Steaks

Prep Time1 hr 20 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time1 hr 50 mins
Servings: 1 Massive Cowboy-Cut Ribeye
Author: A Bachelor & His Grill

Ingredients

  • Cowboy-cut long-bone tomahawk rib eye steaks
  • Canola oil plus additional for basting
  • Sea salt plus additional for rolling fat cap of steak
  • Fresh ground black peppercorn plus additional for rolling fat cap of steak
  • Granulated garlic powder plus additional for rolling fat cap of steak
  • Onion Powder
  • Chili Powder
  • Smoked Paprika
  • Fresh leaves of thyme plus additional for garnish
  • 2 pinches granulated white sugar plus addtional for the Cowboy Rosé
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • Splash of whiskey
  • Cowboy Rosé Ingredients:
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 shot of whiskey
  • Thyme sprigs
  • 2-3 garlic cloves smashed
  • Garnish:
  • Knob of butter
  • Dry roasted walnuts salted and chopped
  • Aged blue cheese crumbled
  • Fresh leaves of parsley and thyme chopped

Instructions

  • Rinse steaks with cold water then immediately pat dry with paper towel. Score across the fat cap with a sharp knife as a preventative to the meat "curling" during the grilling process. With kitchen twine, tie down steaks around the fat cap and bone, in effort to maintain continuity of the beef & improve evenness of cooking.
  • Rub the steak with oil, then season liberally with coarse salt and pepper. Dust with remaining seasonings and herbs, to taste (remember: just like cayenne, a little sugar goes a long way). Splash seasoned steaks with whiskey and massage rub into steak. Roll fat cap edges of steak in a thick bed of ground peppercorn. Cover steaks with plastic wrap and allow to rest at room temperature for 1 hour prior to grilling.
  • Establish a 2-zone grilling surface with 1/2 of the grill fueled by intense, direct searing heat, the other 1/2 leveraged as a cooler, indirect heat warming zone (see notes section below). Over the coals of the cooler, indirect heat, place several large chunks of hardwood to introduce a smokey essence into the flavor profile of the steak.
  • With the grill lid open, over direct heat, sear the exterior of the steaks 4-6 minutes per side, turning ¼ turn after 2-3 minutes. Once both sides of steak are seared, move those gorgeous beef hunks to the cooler, indirectly heated grill grates and close the grill lid. Basting intermittently with oil and flipping once every 5-10 minutes, cook until within 5 degrees of desired internal temperature (see temperature chart in notes below).
  • To finish steaks - Remove from the grill, grab by the bone handle & perform the "Rosé Technique" - In a heavy bottom skillet placed over the direct heat zone grill grates, whisk together butter, thyme, garlic & whiskey. Simply lay the steaks into the pan of simmering seasoned butter. Gently tilt the pan towards you & repeatedly spoon the butter over the steak, basting for 30-60 seconds per side, developing a rich luscious crust around the rib eye.
  • Place the steaks upon a cooling rack, uncovered. Rest, untouched, for 5-10 minutes (ie. 5 min per pound or inch of thickness, whichever is greater).
  • To plate, remove the kitchen twine, season additionally, to taste, garnish with a knob of butter, walnuts, blue cheese, chopped fresh parsley & thyme. Serve family style.

Notes

2-Zone Grilling Surface on Charcoal:
Ignite the charcoal in a chimney starter. When coals are glowing red, dump coals onto the grill floor. Rake coals, pushing ⅔ to one side of the grill, slanting the remaining coals to the opposite side of the grill, establishing high-piled 1 hot zone & 1 cooler zone. For every hour of cooking, add a half-stack of coals.
Red Meat – Internal Temperature Guide:
Medium Rare: 130-135 degrees. Medium: 140-145 degrees. Medium Well: 150-155 degrees. Well: 160 degrees or higher.

 

BRIQUETTES VS. HARDWOOD LUMP CHARCOAL

Lump charcoal (PROs): Produced by burning natural hardwoods in the absence of oxygen. By definition this product is carbonized wood. NO fillers, additional chemicals, additives or adhesives. Lump charcoal lights with ease, burns hotter, harder & produces reduced amounts of ash as compared to briquettes.

Lump charcoal (CONs): Marginally more expensive than briquettes & burns quicker – Must refresh charcoal every 30-45 minutes.

Briquette charcoal (PROs): Burns with more consistent temperature than Lump. Can be found at any nickle & dime hardware or grocery store, year round. Cheap – in every sense of the word.

Briquette charcoal (CONs): Does it seem pleasing to stand over your grill for hours attempting to light a flame? Do you love the smell of chemicals? Are you enamored by seasoning your food with unnatural lab-created adhesives? Do you enjoy consuming emulsifying agents? If yes, to any of these questions, buy Briquettes.

 

 

EVERY TIME YOU USE LIGHTER FLUID… BABY KITTENS CRY

Yes, ladies & gentlemen, baby kittens. I realize, you had no prior indication as to the infliction of emotional distress you were indirectly appropriating upon cute, harmless, furry baby cats – But, NOW YOU KNOW.

Applying additional chemicals into your cooking process which will be subsequently imparted upon your food – Well, I shouldn’t have to validate this further.

Integrating the toxic taste of unnatural chemicals into your food – Well, I shouldn’t have to reason this point any longer.  

Introducing a highly flammable liquid into a party centralized around a fire-breathing outdoor appliance – Well, I shouldn’t have to deliberate on the safety risks involved here – But, if you don’t believe me… YouTube is loaded with folks combining alcohol consumption, super-heated charcoal & lighter fluid – For example: Just click HERE.

Last, but not least, if I told you once, I’ll tell you a 1,000 times – baby kittens weap at the thought of lighter fluid – Well, I just shouldn’t have to pull on your heart strings any further.

Just say, “NO.”

 

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Photo Credit: Kita Roberts – Girl Carnivore | Pass The Sushi
 

BACKYARD BARBECUE BILLY BAD APPLES

You, sir, are a menace to cookouts everywhere. I know you’re tough – you’re probably the strongest guy I know.  And, yes, I’m impressed with your cut-off tee-shirt & the 19 beers you just crushed while managing a BBQ, taming a flame with lighter fluid & all doing so while narrowly avoiding your starring role as YouTube’s next “FAIL Sensation.” You’re the guy who doesn’t play by the rules – Says he can cook on any gradient of surface & once in a while even cookout in your garage – well played. You avoid preheating the grill, light the grill flame with the lid closed, refuse to season & clean the grates after every use – because you believe it adds character to the food. You hate digital read thermometers because you test the doneness of a steak by palpating your your face & at the end of the day just can’t stand the repulsing idea of keeping a fire extinguisher on hand for when all goes to Hell in a handbag. But, so be it.

Count me in for your BBQ. I just won’t be eating. I’ll be the guy filming America’s next viral Grill Explosion BBQ FAIL Video. Thanks. 

 

Written by Live Fire Republic
David Olson is a nationally-recognized American Culinary Federation Chef, television personality and international social media influencer, award-winning recipe developer, live fire grill master, global adventurer-extraordinaire, and the creator behind, "Live Fire Republic." David has an organic and attentive audience of more than two million households weekly via countless television and event appearances, his blog, and various print, radio and social media channels. Meanwhile his recipes and creative content continue to be shared across the web and in print publications from sea to shining sea. For all media inquiries, please email PR agency, The Lisa Ekus Group; Boston, MA - Jaimee Constantine, 413.247.9325 or jaimee@lisaekus.com.