You have purchased a couple of thick prime quality ribeye steaks, invited your special friend, set the table and can’t wait for that first perfect bite.. only to discover that it is overdone! How did it happen? Why is it different this time? You cooked it like you always do, you thought you timed it perfectly. What will your special friend say about your cooking skills?
The above scenario is not that farfetched. Grilling recipes dictate not only condiments, marinades, accompaniments but also specific cooking times. However, there are many variables that can make these times inaccurate. It is important to know these variables so you can make the necessary adjustments and ensure perfection for your steak.
THICKNESS OF THE MEAT
In recipes one finds that weight is used to determine cooking times, whereas it is actually the meat’s thickness that is important. Say you have just bought two steaks, one longer and wider and one shorter and thicker. Both have the same weight, only the thicker one will have to take longer to cook. That is because the heat has to reach the middle of the steak and the middle has to reach a specific temperature.
Temperature can be hard to regulate when you are cooking steaks. That is why it’s good to invest in a good grill thermometer. Some grillers have their own built in thermometers, only they tend to be inaccurate and inexpensive. Worse, they are located away from the meat so they cannot give the real temperature. Another important factor in controlling heat is the vent system in your griller. Any change in the vents makes a big difference in cooking temperatures. So, buy a good thermometer and check the vents!
Humidity in your griller while you are cooking meat is paramount. Generally, low humidity in the grill will cause a higher rate of evaporation from the meat and increase cooking time. Higher humidity will lower evaporation from the meat so it will cook faster. In other words, if you add marinades during cooking keep in mind that this moisture will evaporate from the meat’s surface, cooling it but also it will increase cooking time.
METHOD OF COOKING
If you have meat that is no more than one inch thick, cooking over direct radiant heat is the fastest and most effective way to cook it. However, if your meat is thicker than that, then two zone cooking is required to get the best results. On a griller, a two-zone setup means that one side of the grill is hot and produces direct radiant heat while the other side is producing no heat. Meat placed on that side cooks by indirect, convection heat. When cooking meat that is tough like brisket, low and slow cooking is required. Of course, two zone cooking will take longer since it is cooking with convection. So, make sure your griller has a two-zone setup, since this will give you better control overall.