An­gela Mol­lard

Steak­ing my rep­u­ta­tion on the bar­bie

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - NEWS -

When it comes to bar­bies girls are just as good as guys ... and I’ve done the course to prove it

Iam not hav­ing it. Not for an­other sum­mer. Year upon year I’ve dressed let­tuce leaves, grated beet­root and grilled peaches to make ever more ex­otic sal­ads only for all the glory to go to the blokes.

So many men I know are culi­nary vol­ca­noes. They lie dor­mant all year then erupt on the first week­end of spring in a ca­coph­ony of clash­ing tongs, siz­zling hot­plates and clink­ing beer bot­tles.

Yes, the bar­be­cue bores. And this year I’m go­ing to join them.

Trou­ble is I barely know how to turn on a bar­be­cue. And I don’t re­ally drink beer un­less it’s a 38-de­gree day and I’ve just run a marathon. So, ba­si­cally never.

But all that’s about to change be­cause last Sun­day I went to BBQ School which is just like nor­mal school ex­cept with knives. The teacher was called Sea­mus.

“Ha ha,” I quipped. “A bunch of Aussies be­ing taught to bar­be­cue by an Ir­ish­man.”

Sea­mus didn’t laugh. Not even when I queried how he’d learned to bar­be­cue in Ire­land where 10 de­grees and a light driz­zle is cause to break out the board shorts. In­stead he made me cut up the veg­eta­bles. Great – there’s eight blokes, two other women and a 12-year-old do­ing the course and I’m the one tasked with chop­ping. Mean­while, two of the chaps are im­pal­ing chick­ens on cans of beer.

Now most blokes are pretty hum­ble when it comes to bar­be­cu­ing. From what I’ve ob­served they hud­dle round said ap­pli­ance in groups, de­fer­ring to each other’s skills, dis­cussing ro­man­tic come­dies and melt­ing their faces off purely so they can mod­estly present a plat­ter of var­i­ously seared meat with a non­cha­lant: “Oh, it was noth­ing. Any­one could do it. The real work is in the sal­ads.” Then, of course, they do the dishes.

So why are these chaps – many of them older than me – at­tend­ing Bar­be­cue School? Push­ing round coals – ahem, turn­ing on the gas – surely comes im­printed on their DNA?

For many it was a Fa­ther’s Day gift. Al­though one bloke was brave enough to con­fess that his wife had signed him up be­cause “she’s sick of me torch­ing the steak”. An­other boasted that he liked his steak well done and took great pride in send­ing his meal back if it wasn’t. “Haw, haw, haw,” he chor­tled, in the man­ner of a man who wears slacks and has doubt­less never ven­tured past the mis­sion­ary po­si­tion.

Sea­mus, who clearly had a PhD in ego man­age­ment, talked us through some ba­sics. Why are heat gauges on bar­be­cues a waste of time? Be­cause they don’t work. Far bet­ter to use a meat ther­mome­ter, al­though don’t leave it in the sun. Food cooks faster on a hot day and bot­tled gas is more pow­er­ful than your house­hold sup­ply.

Then we set to mak­ing seared scal­lops with crunchy Asian salad, Ja­maican jerk beer can chicken, Scotch fil­let and choco­late pud­ding. Four cour­ses with­out trou­bling the oven.

The scal­lop dish (de­li­cious) con­firmed ev­ery­thing I’ve long sus­pected about bar­be­cu­ing – that the chop­ping of veg­eta­bles and mix­ing of dress­ings re­quires gen­uine ef­fort and con­cen­tra­tion while a 30-se­cond sear of sea crea­ture is within the ca­pac­ity of any nump­kin. The nice bloke next to me, clearly pro­fi­cient with tongs, couldn’t pick co­rian­der leaves from their stem if his life de­pended on it.

The chooks ba­si­cally cooked them­selves stand­ing up­right on their cans of beer (lemon­ade is also fine). They’re done when a ther­mome­ter in the breast shows the meat has reached 74 de­grees. Rest them cov­ered in a tea towel, never foil. Again, hardly the palaver the coal kings of my ac­quain­tance make it out to be.

But then it was time for the steak. As Sea­mus sliced the grass-fed Scotch fil­let into 3cm steaks re­veal­ing a seam of fat and some mar­bling, some­one asked if it was “wagyu”.

“Ev­ery­thing is wagyu these days,” he shrugged. “If I checked the cat he’d be wagyu.”

What you want is meat that looks real not the ver­mil­lion-hued stuff you get in su­per­mar­kets. And you need to cut it with a sharp knife. And bring it to room tem­per­a­ture be­fore you cook. As for oil (veg­etable never olive be­cause it has a low smoke point) and sea­son­ing, it’s best done in a tray. Coat your steak both sides and throw it on a hot bar­bie. It should be hot enough that when you hold your hand a foot above the grill you should only be able to keep it there for 4-5 sec­onds.

Then there’s the “don’ts”. Don’t pierce it, lift it or turn the meat more than once be­cause it changes the di­rec­tion of the juices. In other words, leave it bloody well alone. If you want the criss-cross pat­tern so beloved by Amer­i­cans then go for your life but ac­cord­ing to Sea­mus it’s an af­fec­ta­tion em­ployed by restau­rants to charge you an­other 10 bucks.

I like my steak medium rare which means I need to cook it two-and-a- half min­utes on each side. There’s a test you can do for “done­ness”. If you press your mid­dle fin­ger to the tip of your thumb, the fleshy area be­low the thumb should be how your steak feels. For rare, press your in­dex fin­ger to your thumb and for well done try the pinky. But none of this mat­ters if you don’t rest it. Rest­ing is to steak what sane as­sis­tants are to Don­ald Trump. With­out rest­ing your meat, you may as bar­be­cue dog roll.

It turns out to be the best steak I’ve ever eaten. The bar­be­cue will be my do­main this sum­mer. Now if I can just rus­tle up a bloke to make a salad. an­gela.mol­lard@news.com.au

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