Char’d Steaks


Where there is smoke, there’s flavor writes salamander grill. You can have smoke from hardwoods or briquettes but by the time you place whatever you’re cooking onto the grill the aromatic compounds are vaporized. The real secret to grilling are the drippings of sugars, proteins and fats. The carbon is carbon and it imparts no flavor.

The greatest challenge in grilling is controlling temperatures and controlling radiant heat can be a challenge. I entered the kitchen of “cut” to see how they finish their steaks and it is in a salamander grill, radiating heat from above and below. If you look at the steaks below in second photo, you’ll see the surface totally blackened. One reason is the salamander is open and the “sweet spot” is through trial and error and up to the chef. The problem with a salamander and steak is, after grilling the steak has darker areas on its surface, i.e. the steak develops dark char lines. These char lines actually absorb the incoming infrared radiation, as the dark surface scatters less radiation and heats up more quickly. A broiler or Salamander can easily burn foods as the dark surface soaks up energy and heats up by accelerating the cooking time.

The high heat charring removes hydrogen and oxygen so that the remaining charring is composed primarily of carbon. Grilling protein foods creates two kinds of dangerous compounds that may contribute to cancer: heterocyclic amines (HCA) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH).

HCA form in meat when it’s cooked at a high temperature. charred bits at the edges of barbecued meat contain HCAs in their purest state. HCA, which are also found in cigarette smoke, have been shown to cause cancer in organs including the stomach, colon, liver and skin but only in animal studies. It’s unclear whether HCA cause the same problems in people.

PAH, the second type of compound, are formed when juices from meat drip onto coals and create smoke. The smoke contains carcinogens, which are deposited onto the surface of meat as it swirls around the food.

Meat @ Wolfgang Puck CUT restaurant – from left to right:

U.S.D.A. PRIME, Illinois Corn Fed, Aged 21 Days
U.S.D.A. PRIME, Nebraska Corn Fed, Dry Aged 35 Days
American Wagyu / Angus “Kobe Style” Beef From Snake River Farms, Idaho
True Japanese 100% Wagyu Beef from Kagoshima Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan