In his three-Michelin-star kitchen Manresa, chef David Kinch is cooking refined, vegetable-centric, contemporary California cuisine, inflecting his dishes with influences from Japan. His cuisine can be delicate and beautiful, but that’s not always how he wants to cook. It’s a much different story on his day off, when he likes to pull out the charcoal grill.
“Cooking outdoors, there’s something relaxing about it, especially if you’re working with an open fire, it immediately becomes more rustic and can put you much more attached to the act of cooking,” Kinch says. “You also don’t feel a lot of pressure to analyze things, it’s more about eating well and having a good time.”
But, this being Kinch, there’s still a fair amount of thought and analysis dedicated to getting steak grilled right. And he’s found a kindred spirit in Carlo Mirarchi.
Mirarchi first gained fame building Roberta’s in Brooklyn, back when Bushwick was practically culinary Siberia. The rough-and-ready wood-burning pizza spot had people flocking to the neighborhood. And in 2012, he created a restaurant behind it that stood in stark contrast. Blanca is a sleek, sophisticated two-Michelin-star spot with just 12 seats arrayed in front of the kitchen. That venue has given Mirarchi the chance to experiment more with food, including with how he ages beef to change the character of the meat.
In the video below, the two of the meet to each cook dry-aged strip loin and compare notes on how to grill it. To build his fire Kinch reaches for binchotan, a Japanese charcoal that burns really hot, but also very clean. It’s not a very smoky method of grilling. Kinch builds an extremely hot side of the grill, then a cool side with no charcoals, so he can control temperature by moving the meat along the grill. Mirarchi uses a similar method when building his fire, but opts for hardwood, which will impart a smokier flavor.
When it comes to seasoning, Mirarchi goes really heavy on his salt, practically building a crust, but he does so because he expects much of it to fall off into the fire during cooking. Kinch, on the other hand, has a lighter hand with his salt, opting to salt more once the beef is grilled and ready to serve. Kinch also makes a special point not put pepper in his seasoning before he grills because when it burns, it turns acrid.
Neither Mirarchi nor Kinch believe you should just sit back and not touch the steak. Especially for a thicker cut you want to flip the meat so heat is evenly applied to each side.
The truth is though, you can use all the great technique you want, if you don’t start with good steak, your cookout can reach epic levels. Chefs usually have premium suppliers we don’t always have access to, and aging beef at home is tough to do safely. That means you’re usually heading to the steak house for a dry-aged steak. However, there are some great mail-order options out there now. One of them is New York Prime Beef, which carries some outstanding dry-aged selections from NY strip to porterhouse (and some outstanding Wagyu too while you’re at it). They’ll make sure your hard work won’t be in vain this summer.