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Extreme Steaks: Three Ways to Grill Without a Grill Grate

06/01/2015 12:43 pm ET | Updated Jun 01, 2016
Forres Meadows

It's time to tackle extreme steak grilling. For obvious reasons, we're going to have to leave out steaks grilled over a trough of molten lava--a cooking stunt sponsored by "Lava Project" at Syracuse University and shared on Twitter and Facebook by Popular Mechanics.

Why extreme grilling? It takes you out of your comfort zone and adds a dimension of flavor you simply cannot achieve through conventional grilling. Besides, there's nothing more theatrical (not to mention fun) than grilling a steak without the one piece of equipment most people consider indispensable for grilling: a grill grate.

Here are three variations on the theme, all of which produce great steaks.

  1. In the embers: Somewhere around 1.8 million years ago, a human ancestor called Homo erectus became the first animal to cook his dinner. What I call "Caveman T-bones"--steaks grilled directly on the embers--pays homage to that first caveman barbecue. I've amazed more than a few people when I've demonstrated Caveman T-Bones at Barbecue University and on Primal Grill. Roasting the steaks on the embers gives the meat a surface charring and smoke flavor you just can't duplicate on a conventional grill. Add pan-fried jalapeños, cilantro, and garlic, and the "wow" factor is off the charts.
  2. In cloth and a salt crust: When I heard that Colombian grill masters had found a way to give expensive but often boring beef tenderloin drama and taste, I couldn't board an Avianca flight fast enough. Lomo al trapo (literally, "tenderloin in cloth") is beef tenderloin wrapped in a salt-packed cotton cloth and roasted in the embers. It's cool as all get out and is ridiculously quick and easy to make. A guaranteed showstopper.
  3. On a shovel: Here's a technique used by generations of Australians living in the bush: grilling steak and other meats on a shovel over an open campfire. The meat sizzles and chars on the shovel blade, perfumed by fragrant swirls of wood smoke. Season with salt, pepper, garlic, rosemary, and a picturesque outdoor setting.

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Steven Raichlen is the author of the Barbecue! Bible cookbook series and the host of Primal Grill on PBS. His web site is BarbecueBible.com.