Falling out of love with my grill


I never thought I would see this day and I’m even hesitant to write about it, but I’ve had a revelation regarding my gas grill and I’m ashamed it’s taken me so long to realize it. After all, I’m the grill queen. I’ve written a cookbook devoted to grilling and did a stint at Char-Broil extolling the virtues of infrared grilling.

But a deep dive into the Maillard reaction has changed me.

Let’s back up.

I’ve been using a gas grill for years. I also have a Big Green Egg for charcoal grilling the smoking. The Egg takes about 30 minutes to heat up so for my routine grilling I turn to gas because it’s quick. When I worked for Char-Broil a great fuss was made over cross-hatching steaks and chops. You know that technique. Turn the meat from “10 o’clock” to “2 o’clock” on each side to produce cross-hatch marks. Here’s an example:

The boy Char-Broil bloggers were particularly puffed up about cross hatching steaks.

But then I started reading about the Maillard reaction. It’s a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars usually requiring heat that gives browned food its full-on flavor. So one day a few years ago, King Daddy asked for a steak and instead of grilling it I cooked it in a screaming hot cast iron skillet on the stove. The crust was evenly deeply browned and, bathed in butter, utterly delicious. K.D. timidly suggested we never grill a steak again.

And I tried not to listen to him. I had such a long history at the grill. But he was right. It was better. A lot better. And now back to the Maillard reaction. So look at the steak above and see what a lovely crust it has. Now scroll back up to the cross-hatched steak and you will notice there’s a lot of unused real estate on that piece of meat between the hatch marks, areas you could charitably call “gray.” Gray = no flavor.

And, when you think about it, gas imparts no additional flavor to anything. Where it beats the stove top is easy clean-up. And you can’t quibble with being outside on a cool summer evening, sipping a glass of wine and hearing the sizzle of the grill. But for a steak, goodbye gas. It was nice knowing you.

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