My friend Chuck is a dude. A dude’s dude. He’s got the requisite bullshit “dude” accessories: guns, the motorcycle, the building skills and I have seen him take an ax to a particularly resilient cholla tree. What scares Chuck?
Specifically, cooking it. I have watched via Facebook posts for years as Chuck has tried to make romantic dinners for his girlfriend, whether grilled or broiled or baked and they have often ended in a rainbow of curse words and lamenting about the relative cost point of his experimentation and the nutritional benefits of frozen burritos.
Although I think one of the most successful, least fuckupable dinners I can make for friends is a roast chicken, there is an appreciative oohing and ahhing that suggests enviability. People, I promise you that with a few simple tools, you, too, can produce deliciously carnivorous dinners without flipping out. Put the pasta away, we’re about to shake and bake.
First: the tools:
- This digital thermometer is your most important tool and it's only $18. I like this one because of its cheapness, the ability to leave it in the meat you’re cooking and that you can set an alarm for when it hits your temperature.
- A grill and/or oven
See? You don’t need fancy pans or weird rubs or spatulas or a pornographic grilling apron. Lets get down to business.
What to buy: Ribeye
How to cook it: Leave on counter for an hour before you cook so it's at room temperature. Rub with salt, pepper and olive oil. Turn your grill to “high” on all three burners and wait 10 minutes.
Place steak on grill in dead center with lid up for 5 minutes. Flip over, leave for 5 minutes. Now place the thermometer into the center of the steak, turn all three burners down to medium-low, close the lid and wait until the thermometer reads 120 for rare, 140 for medium, and 155 for “you don’t actually enjoy the taste of meat and would rather have charcoal.”
Take the steak off immediately, and let sit on the counter for 10 minutes to rest. Serve.
Start this long before sitting down to eat: 45 minutes
What to buy: 1 roasting chicken, 4lbs or close to it.
How to cook it: Must be completely thawed, so just buy it that way, fresh, and we’ll tackle defrosting around Thanksgiving.
Open package in sink. Rinse under faucet, including inside. Remove everything inside and toss or remove from packaging and give to dog. Rub with salt, pepper and olive oil inside/out and place in baking pan with the breast facing up and the wings tucked under as much as possible.
Turn oven to 425 degrees, wait until oven reaches temperature, then place chicken on middle rack for 20 minutes. Open oven quickly, turn pan around, stick thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh (don’t hit the bone) close oven, then adjust temperature to 350. When temperature hits 165, remove from oven, let sit on counter for 20 minutes. Serve.
Start this long before sitting down to eat: 1 hour, 45 minutes
What to buy: Thick pork chops, bone in.
How to cook it: Let the chops sit on the counter for an hour so they're room temperature. Set oven to “broil” and close.
Place chops in a baking dish, rub both sides with olive oil, salt and pepper and when oven has come to temperature, place dish on the uppermost rack for 5 minutes. Open oven, flip chops over, put thermometer into thickest part in middle of chop, close oven.
When thermometer reads 140, remove and let sit for 10 minutes on countertop. Serve.
Start this long before sitting down to eat: 30 minutes
What to buy: Ground beef at a fat content that makes you happy, but remember, fat=flavor.
How to cook it: In a bowl, combine ground beef with salt and pepper. Gather enough into your hands for a burger of your liking -- usually ⅓-1/2 lb, or a nice big ball o' meat. Roll it into a ball. Now use both hands to smush into a flat patty, trying to keep it uniform rather than thick in the middle, thin at the edge.
Allow the patties to come to room temperature while heating grill on high, about 10 minutes. Put burger on grill in center with lid open, 2 minutes. Flip over and cook another 2 minutes on high, place thermometer into meat, and close lid while turning burners down to medium-low.
A done burger is 130 degrees (rare) to 160 (well done). When it is 10 degrees short of your desired temp, open grill and place a slice or two of cheese on each burger, place buns open and face down on grill near very front of grill, close lid again. When it hits the desired temp, remove bun, slide burger on bun and serve.
Start this long before sitting down to eat: 45 minutes
These are super duper simple but delicious ways to prepare meat and many schmancy restaurants that you pay a fortune for wouldn’t do any more than this. Really good meat, like veggies and bread and pasta doesn’t actually need much to shine. But once you’ve conquered the above recipes (simple prep, sear meat and then cook at low temp, let it rest then serve), remember that literally ANYTHING ELSE you do above and beyond is basically Anthony Bourdain level shit.
Want to get fancy? Add some Worcestershire or Tabasco or ground onions to your burgers. Rub your steaks with a clove of garlic. Marinate your pork chops in oyster sauce or rub them with cumin and mustard seed. Stuff some fresh herbs and a lemon (and it really doesn’t matter which) up your chicken's bum before you roast it. Mostly though just remember, the magic key to cooking meat is temperature, and if you have the right tools, you can idiot-proof it.
Alright peeps: what are some favorite simple sides to go with these earthly delights, or what are the funniest ways you’ve screwed up cooking meat?