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Beef for the Fourth

Tomorrow is our great national holiday and I'm willing to bet the ranch that grills all over the state are going to be fired up.  Hot dogs and hamburgers may be fine, but for a big feast you want to go with the heavy artillery:  succulent cuts of beef in all their glory. But grillers, take note: Chef Jerry Pellegrino says, you can't treat all cuts of beef equally.

Here are some tips for grilling beef steak, our favorite option.

1.  Set up your grill to produce a hot spot and a "cooler" spot.  If using charcoal, you mound up your embers on one side,  and leave the opposite side vacant.  If you're using a gas grill, fire up the front burner, but leave the back burner off.  This effectively gives you two zones to work with.  The hot zone is best for the initial sear, and will give you the best grill marks.  The cool zone is best for finishing the steak a little more slowly.

2.  Think in terms of "2-2-1-1"... meaning minutes per side.  Admittedly this is a rough rule of thumb, but the idea is good.  Two minutes for the first side on the hot spot, grill marks running directly across the steak.  Flip it in place and keep the same orientation for two minutes.  Then flip the steak back to its original side, but turn in 45° one way or the other for beautiful hash-marked sear lines.  One minute per each side.  Now closely examine the steak for doneness.

3.  A raw steak is totally floppy.  A well done steak is totally rigid, like a board.

So it goes to follow that there is a spectrum of doneness at work.  As soon as a steak begins to cook it gets more and more rigid.  Squeeze the sides gently with your tongs

to ascertain stiffness.    As soon as the steak gives you serious resistance, it is medium-rare.  Another test is to look at the sides of the steak.  Brown-pink-brown layers indicate that the center is still rare.  When that middle layer of pink starts to turn brown, you're at medium-rare.  Also, look for miniscule puddles of red juice in the tiny crevices of the steak's surface.  Once they begin to form, you are at a perfect medium-rare.

4.  If after the 2-2-1-1 sequence you think your steak has a little bit further to go, put it in the cool zone and flip it once.

You can get a whole bunch of other tips by visiting The Culinary Cook online, and searching for "grilling steaks".

Here are some seasoning ideas Jerry came up with.

Francis Mallmann’s Chimichurri


1 cup water
1 tbs. coarse salt
1 head garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
1 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 cup fresh oregano leaves
2 tsp. crushed red- pepper flakes
1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the salt and stir until it dissolves. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Mince the garlic very finely and put in a medium bowl. (1) Mince the parsley and oregano, and add to the garlic, along with the red-pepper flakes. (2) Whisk in the red-wine vinegar, then the olive oil. Whisk in the salted water. (3) Transfer to a jar with a tight-fitting lid and keep in the refrigerator. Let the flavors mingle for at least a day and serve with grilled meats. The sauce can be kept refrigerated for up to 3 weeks (adapted from Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way, by Francis Mallmann with Peter Kaminsky; Artisan, 2009).

Steak Seasoning Blend


2 Tablespoons Kosher salt

2 Tablespoons black pepper

2 Tablespoons garlic powder

1 Tablespoon smoked paprika

1 Tablespoon onion powder

2 teaspoons dried rosemary

2 teaspoons dried thyme

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Sprinkle liberally on beef steaks and roasts before grilling, searing, or roasting. Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.