Not everyone is a BBQ master and not everybody wants to pay an arm and a leg for a good steak, so we checked into a Summer Grilling 101 class with BOA Steakhouse executive chef Michael Neflas this week to pick up some tips and techniques for cooking meat, fish and an impossible chili burger at home.
Demonstrating from the restaurant’s patio on three tabletop propane mini grills, Neflas discusses distribution of heat, the importance of resting and not to be salt-shy.
“I first want to talk about our mise en place,” Neflas starts off while prepping his 40-day dry-aged New York strip steak and whole branzino. “ When we start off in the kitchen, we want everything to cook this food to be close at hand first. That means salt, pepper, room-temperature meat, fish, vegetables and your herbs.”
Next, make sure the grill is hot and well-oiled. Neflas takes a regular kitchen towel and ties it up to oil up the grill. And his secret — the herbs. A lot of people will use a brush for their oil or marinade; he constructs his own herb bundle.
“We take rosemary branches and break them up to the size of the thyme and tie them up tightly,” Neflas says. “In a blender with olive oil we [mix] the same herbs and marinate our steaks with that. And then we use the bundle as a brush to infuse the flavor on there.
“Season the steak heavily with salt and pepper. We use sea salt, which has a less chemical taste. It’s a softer, more natural salt, so you can be pretty aggressive with the seasoning. You want your grates to be nice and hot. Place the steak on the grill and give it the first hit of herb flavor, a generous basting of the marinade.”
A rib-eye man himself, Neflas says lean cuts like filets and the New York strip, which has a cap of fat on the outside and is leaner on the inside, are geared toward lower temperatures. Rib-eye holds up to higher temperatures, so your grill can be hotter for the fattier cuts.
For the fish, he likes to stuff the whole deboned branzino (that’s a separate lesson) with garlic, thyme and lemon, seasoned generously inside and out with salt and pepper. As the meat cooks, it will pick up those bold and bright flavors as they steam inside the fish. To hold it all together, use a little butcher’s twine, so the inside ingredients don’t fall out.
Then, just as with the steak, oil the grill liberally — you don’t want to put anything on a dry grill. Start the barbecue off hot and then lower it a little for a nice crispy skin. As with the steak, baste with herb oil.
“The trick on when to flip the fish is to leave it alone until it gets some good carmelization on it,” Neflas says. “If you go too soon or your grill wasn’t hot enough, it will stick. Be patient and wait for the fish to release itself. A good trick is to pick up the tail. If it sticks, leave a while longer. If not, flip.”
Once it's off the grill, give your barbecued masterpiece another slathering of herb oil and a generous sprinkling of salt (most of the first application of salt burns off during the grilling process).
Finally, give it a rest. Pour yourself another glass of wine or chilled grapefruit-based cocktail. Chef Neflas suggests that the rest time should be the same as the cooking time, whether it’s meat, fish, vegetables or vegan products. His Impossible Chili Burger only takes two minutes per side to cook.
For more tips — like checking doneness — watch Neflas’ full demo here: