When grilling meat, styles may vary but one thing remains constant: everyone wants that perfect rich, brown crust with a juicy, evenly cooked center. So how do you do it? According to one notable chef, the key is to flip the meat constantly...
...or so says Adam Perry Lang, author of the new cookbook Charred and Scruffed: Bold New Techniques for Explosive Flavor On and Off the Grill. in a recent NPR Splendid Table episode, he calls it having "a dialogue with heat." Lang, a classically trained chef, cooked for top New York and French restaurants before turning to grilling, where he quite unexpectedly started winning major barbeque competitions with his unusual methods. His secrets are outlined in his cookbook, but he shared a few tips on the podcast:
1. Do a "Hot Potato." Lang calls himself an extrovert at the grill—he likes to move around, talk, stay active—and this translates to his grilling style. But it's not just a personal preference; it's also the best way to grill a perfect piece of meat. His technique involves constantly flipping the meat while layering flavor with an herb brush and basting sauce, which helps develop the crust. This method also tempers the heat so that the meat cooks evenly.
2. Season 10 Minutes Early with a Paste. The key to a beautiful crust is seasoning with a paste before grilling. Seasoning on the grill or barbeque, as Lang says, is very different than a pan or oven. When you flip on the grill, the seasoning peels off onto the grill and comes away from the meat. Lang recommends seasoning ahead, ideally with a salt-based seasoning meat "paste," to allow time for the paste to create a glaze on the outside of the meat.
3. Don't Be Afraid of Scruffing. Scruffing—when meat sticks and tears on a hot grill—is actually desireable, according to Lang. "Most people are so attracted to grill marks. To me, grill marks happen but they're not the goal," Lang says. "I want to create surface area, as much browning as possible." Scruffing essentially creates a 3D cooking surface that enables you to build up layers of flavor.
Listen to the full Splendid Table podcast below - the Adam Perry Lang segment is right at the beginning!
(Image credits: Leela Cyd)