I started this piece with research. Like most scientists I have my beliefs: one is that the Sharks are the best club rugby team in the world; the other is that Argentina is the true home of the best beef and the finest ways to cook it over a fire.
In Argentina, according to deeply serious and completely trustworthy meat lovers among my acquaintance, sirloin steaks are marbled with self-basting fat and cooked on complicated chain and pulley grills over the glowing coals of wood fires. Fueled by this information I downloaded a photograph of an Argentine sirloin and asked my local butcher for something similar. “That is not South African beef,” he told me, showing his professional prowess and pointing to the marbled fat. Instead he cut me three porterhouse steaks, each 50mm thick and weighing 500g. These were marvellous pieces of beef, each with a thin layer of fat along one side. I took them home and left them on the kitchen counter so they could return to room temperature. While this was going on, I set up the Cobb portable braai, placing 10 briquettes in the firebox. I lit them and let them burn for 30 minutes, until most of their surfaces were covered with grey ash. I installed the non-stick grill and covered the whole device with the domed lid.
Time for more theory.
A Cape Town steak house owner once revealed to me his secret steak marinade and baste, mixed from equal quantities of Coca- Cola and Worcester sauce, with a few crushed garlic cloves. Treating this as the joke it clearly was, I forgot all about it. Then one day my brother braaied me the best steak in my entire life. “What’s your secret baste?” I asked. Blood being thicker than water he told me: equal quantities of Coca-Cola and Worcester sauce plus a sliced clove of garlic. Back to the present, I looked at the 1,5kg of porterhouse returning to room temperature. With perfection like this, I thought, who needs any marinade at all? With a pastry brush I applied a light coating of extra-virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper. Removing the cover from the Cobb, I arranged the three giant steaks on the grill and replaced the lid.
I let them grill for 12 minutes exactly, turning once, then placed them on a plate for three minutes to allow the internal redistribution of liquids. The first cut of the knife revealed a gloriously caremelised crust surrounding a moist, pink interior. A tiny bit of salt was added and bite number one hit all the taste buds in my mouth. They – the taste buds – had a deeply religious experience, resulting in my conclusion that the combination of South African porterhouse and a Cobb portable braai eclipse anything in the world, including Argentina. – David Basckin |fw
Steak on a fire
There are very few secrets in braaing. I discovered one of the better ones last week with the purchase of a Cobb portable braai, a device that reinvents cooking with fire. This machine is a smoker, roaster, oven and grill, made mostly from stainless steel. Its outer casing runs so cool you can braai with it on top of a plastic table; you can pick it up by the ventilated base and move it around without injury or harm. For real men who want to be real cooks, this device is a major addition to your personal cooking tool kit.