It was one of those food articles designed to attract attention: a photo of a giant steak sitting on a pile of fiery coals, like someone just had their worst grilling nightmare come true. "Uh, honey, you know that $300 porterhouse your dad bought for me to grill for their 50th anniversary…?"
Kind of scary looking, isn't it?
The article in the New York Times by brothers Matt and Ted Lee described the way that restaurateur Tim Byres is cooking steaks in his Texas restaurants. It quotes Byres as saying, "I heard a rumor of Ike [President Dwight Eishenhower] grilling these really thick four-inch sirloins." Byres "tracked down a 1953 article in The Miami Daily News that confirmed his hunch: Eisenhower, it said, 'rubs the steak with oil and garlic and then, as the horrified guests look on, casually flings the steak into the midst of the red and glowing coals.'"
This is the way a steak should look!
As you can imagine, this was more than enough to get Dave's grilling juices flowing, and he declared then and there that he needed to attempt this flaming feat with our trusty Weber. Deciding that it might be better to start conservatively rather than potentially incinerating a hundred bucks worth of cow flesh, we bought a couple of nice grass-fed New Yorks from Old Salt and got the fire started.
For this initial experiment we decided to go by the book and use Byres' chile and coffee dry rub from the article, coating the meat generously on both sides. Per the article and his own preference, Dave used hardwood charcoal in the chimney and dumped it out when it was white and ashy, then waited until the flames died down.
A nigh perfect meal.
Putting the meat on the coals was tricky, since the coals were pretty lumpy and uneven, but down went the steaks. Immediately they were enveloped by some pretty hefty flames, so we put the lid on the grill to smother the fire and provide some smoke. After a couple of minutes they were turned over and the lid replaced, and in two more minutes we pulled them off. Crusty and black, they looked a little scary on the outside but a check of the interior temperature with our trusty instant-read thermometer said the interior was perfect for rare steaks. Whew!
A few minutes resting under tin foil was all I could stand, and when I sliced into them it was astounding to see that rosy red, warm meat under the dark outer shell. And delicious…it was one of the best steaks we've ever had here, though a quibble is that the coffee in the rub somewhat overwhelms the subtler flavor of the grassfed beef. But now I'm jonesing to try a slightly bigger, if not Brobdingnagian, hunk of meat using Ike's method. I think we might like it.