|Cook your steak directly on the coals. It's worth it.|
Cooking a steak caveman style is simple - it's searing your steaks directly on hot coals. That's it. The result is a fantastically seared exterior with a nice smoky flavor.
From what I've read, President Eisenhower liked his steaks cooked this way, thus you will sometimes hear it referred to as an Eisenhower steak. The other moniker you'll hear is dirty steaks for obvious reasons, although in reality they do not get dirty with ash as the name may imply.
Here's what you'll need:
- Your preferred cut of steak
- Kosher salt
- Coarse ground pepper
- Natural lump charcoal (do not use briquettes)
- An open pit or grill
- Long tongs for handling the steak
Season your steaks liberally with the salt and pepper. Set them out and let them come to room temperature. For my cook I used T-bones, about 1 inch (3 cm) thick.
Meanwhile, get your lump charcoal started. They're ready when they are no longer producing flames, and are ashed over with bright embers throughout. It'll take 15-30 minutes. Once the coals are ready, try to spread them out evenly to make as flat and uniform of a surface as you can.
|Remember, only use natural lump charcoal.|
|Nearly ready, just letting those flames die down.|
Moment of truth - place your steaks directly on the coals. Don't run off, because you'll need to flip them soon. For my steaks, I found that about 3 to 3 and 1/2 minutes per side worked perfectly and resulted in medium rare-to-medium cooked steaks. That said, when you flip your steaks will depend on how hot your coals are and the thickness of your steaks.
|They will not burn or catch on fire. A little flame here and there is normal.|
Let the steaks rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting into them.
The result was excellent - a salty, seared exterior and a great smoky flavor.
Q: Won't the steaks be covered in ash?
A: No. If any ash is on your steak, it's minimal and will likely dissolve. Feel free to have a brush ready to remove any ash or embers you come across after taking the steaks off the coals, but you likely won't find any.
Q: What kind of charcoal do you use?
A: Natural lump charcoal, NO briquettes. This is about the only hard and fast rule you'll find for cooking this way. Briquettes have fillers that you may not want coming into direct contact with your food, and they are inherently produce more ash that lump charcoal. I picked up a bag of lump (a mix of hickory and oak) at Home Depot for about $10.
Q: How thick should the steaks be?
A: I honestly don't think they have to be overly thick. I've found several videos and articles saying you must use really thick steaks because you need something hearty that can withstand the torturous heat. When you step back and think about it, all you're doing is searing your steaks. And because it's such a high heat, if you have a really thick cut, the exterior could get more charred than you'd want while trying to cook the cut through. In the Alton Brown video in the link below, he cooks skirt steak this way. Skirt steak is relatively thin, maybe 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) thick. You will see other examples in the videos below of steaks in the 2 to 3 inch thickness range.
Steve Raichlen's video is the best I found for a start to finish demonstration on cooking caveman steaks. He also makes a pepper sauce that I want to try in the future. Raichlen video link.
Alton Brown of 'Good Eats' demonstrates cooking the thinner skirt steak directly on the coals. He will make you feel reassured about ash on your meat. Alton Brown video link.
This BBQGuys video is a good demo, especially if you want to get really primal and cook in a hole in the ground. BBQGuys video.
The chef at Ox Restaurant in Portland demonstrates cooking dirty steak at his restaurant. Ox video.
Tim Byers of Smoke in Plano, TX cooks up a meal centered around a giant cut of meat cooked on the coals. Smoke video.