Richard Turner is not just the man behind the Hawksmoor and Pitt Cue restaurants, he is also responsible for bringing New York's Meatopia to London.
Now in its fifth year, this festival of all things meat brings together the world's hottest chefs who all get even hotter by cooking their wares over fire—nothing more, nothing less. It's a three-day party and a meat-lover's paradise.
Here, he gives us his tips for having a go at home.
The very best barbecue is something you make for yourself because if you know what you want and what you're going to use it for, you can put little details into it. But for GBP300 (which is where I'd start in terms of price) there's something called a Drumbecue, which is outstanding for cooking. It's made of an old oil drum cut and welded, with a chimney and different levels for cooking and all on a stand. I like them as an entry-level barbecue. I've got a couple of Big Green Eggs at home—a giant one and small one depending on what I'm doing.
You can cook anything over live fire—it depends on where you put it. There are three ways to cook over live fire:
- Direct, which is how you grill steaks, straight over coals. So the coals are underneath the griddle, and you put the steaks on top of the griddle, which is how everyone grills in this country.
- Indirect, where you move the coals over to one side and you cook off to the side so it hasn't got direct heat and it cooks much slower. And you use that for muscles that work hard and have a lot of cartilage and connected tissue in them, like shoulder and pork butt (which is another name for shoulder) and leg and stuff. So you cook at a lower temperature and it becomes very tender and starts falling apart after a lot of hours.
- Finally, there's a method called clinching, which is straight into the coals or on the wood, which closes down the oxygen between the flame and the meat so it doesn't actually burn—it just gives it an intense caramelisation around the outside, and it's totally delicious. You have to bang it a big to get rid of the ash, but ash is perfectly edible, just looks a bit messy. And it's a great way of cooking.
No oil—nothing. As long as it's hot, it shouldn't stick.
Always season before. I've heard some chefs do season afterwards and I think they're very peculiar people. I season all meat before so it forms a nice crust on the grill.
I'm not a fan of marinating meat—that normally indicates you're buying cheap meat. What I do do occasionally is, after it's cooked, toss it in something, like macerate it—it's kind of like an after-cooking marinade. That's how I do my whole-cooked jerks—I'll brine a chicken for instance, and then grill it, and then toss it in a jerk afterwards.
If it's an expensive meat, then just salt when it's on the grill to prep. Something slightly less expensive I might brine, which is putting it in a salt and sugar water solution, and what is does is break down the molecules of the meat, and the salt drags the liquid out of the meat, and then that forms channels in the meat—little holes—and then it sucks up the brine afterwards, so it becomes super moist. There's a bit of science to it.
Alongside the meat, I like fermented pickles, and fermented hot sauces (I'm a big fan of fermenting stuff). I like pickled shitakes, I like fresh coleslaws or vinegar 'slaws. And potato salad: get waxy potatoes and boil them in seasoned water and then toss them in loads of extra virgin olive oil and diced green peppers—really simple. Simple salads and raw vegetables where possible.
With beef, the least likely to go wrong would be a prime cut. I'm not a fan of fillet, for instance, because there's no fat and less flavour. That is the most prime cut but it's incredibly expensive and you don't get much for it. I'd go for a prime rib, which has got different areas of meat: it's got the deckle or the latissimus dorsi, which is the muscle around the eye, and that's full of fat, and juicy, and the tastiest part of it. Then you've the eye, which is meaty. And then you've got all the bits around the rib. Try and get it untrimmed and then you've got all the stuff around the bone for chewing off when it's cooked.That's favourite beef cut.
I'd start by clinching and put it straight onto the coals, let it get a really, really nice colour and tasty, and then I'd put it indirect to finish cooking in a warm place (about 110 or 115 degrees, maybe a little bit more). If it's a kilo in size, you're probably looking at 20-25 minutes of gentle cooking once it's been clinched or directly grilled (which ever you choose to do). Rest it for a bare minimum of 10 minutes, preferably half an hour. So long as you're keeping it nice and warm (around 60 degrees) then you can rest it for up to an hour. The longer you rest it, the more the flavours are going to change.
Lamb racks are delicious and lamb rump is really good (they call it chump). Just season it, grill it directly, then toss it in olive oil then the juices at the end. Then some lemon zest. So I would zest the lemon over the cooked meat; little bit of lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and then just let it sit in that for a little while and suck it up. A lamb rump should be able to cook in about 12 minutes—you want to cook lamb more than you do steak. You probably want to cook all lamb to medium.
Pork belly ribs want to be slow cooked indirectly. Seal then off under then grill and then cook them indirectly for three hours at about 110-115 degrees until they're just falling apart, until you can pull the rib out of the belly. Your butcher can take the membrane off (there's a membrane inside the ribs which tenses up, so if you ask the butcher to take that off, or cut it, it should cook better). Other than that, then just a little bit of salt and then a marinade once it's cooked. If I was feeling flash, that could be fennel pollen, black pepper and garlic—a classic Italian porchetta mix. But pork is really nice, clean and pure.
Unlike the French, who like their duck pink, I'm more English and I like it well-cooked all the way through (and like the Chinese as well). You could hang ducks above the barbecue – super slow-cooking so they just gently smoke throughout the day. Put them on first thing in the morning and just let them cook, and by the time you actually get round to actually barbecuing the rest of the meat, they should be done. And you can move them up or down depending on how hot the barbecue is. If you're slow-smoking it and you've got some good wood, I'd use cherry or apple flavours—just toss the duck in a little bit of vinegar, fruit vinegar maybe. Keep it simple—too many flavours on meat is not my ideal.
Quail is very nice spatchcocked. Just grill it very, very quickly so it's slightly blackened on the outside, and then let it rest so that it's cooked all the way through but still moist. Five or six minutes should do it.
From: Esquire UK.