Trading Places
Unrelenting heat, kids runnin’ around at all hours of the day and baseball in full swing can only
mean one thing. Summer is here. And with summer comes the smell of weekend grillin’ and
smokin’! Though like I’ve mentioned before, here in the 50th, we just seem to have two
seasons, a really hot summer and a hot non-summer so our grills and smokers are used year
round. But for those of you residing in the CONUS (CONtinental US), this is a time when those
grills and smokers emerge from fall and winter’s hibernation. To grill New York strips and
Delmonicos and to smoke brisket and pork shoulder right? Nope! What if I told you one of the
best cooking applications for the thick steak didn’t involve charcoal or a grill but an oven? An
oven? An oven is just to bake meatloaf! Then what if I told you one of the best smokin’
applications is to smoke your meatloaf? Trading cooking places!

Baked Steak

I first saw this on the internet probably on Facebook and I gave in and clicked the link. I rarely
do so on Facebook as you don’t know where you’ll be taken or what potentially malicious code
will be uploaded to your computer. But that picture of that perfectly cooked steak drew me in.
Especially after I found my favorite cut of steak, the Chef’s cut of ribeye sold at my local
Foodland Supermarket. Basically it’s a thickly cut ribeye that’s been butchered to remove that
½ to ¾ inch strip of fat that runs about 1 inch into the steak. It’s then reassembled with
butcher’s twine to create a round steak with perfect marbling. And because it was cut to about 1
& ½ inch thickness, it was perfect for the baked application.

For starters, a baked steak isn’t for everyone. It’s the perfect cooking application for those who
love their boeuf rare or medium rare though it’ll also work with medium. But if you enjoy your
steak medium well to well done, look no further than your grill or stove top cast iron pan. But
if you savor the flavor that only comes with pink to red beef where bovine DNA is still
retrievable, read on. The one word of caution is that the baked application does take more time
than the usual 6 to 10 minutes of grilling. Anywhere from 35 to 50 minutes of baking then
another 15 minutes of rest followed by 2 minutes of searing. But the payoff is a steak rare,
medium rare or medium virtually the whole thickness of the meat. With the high heat of a grill,
what you invariably get is a steak that’s crusted, then well done for a millimeter or two then
medium well done for another millimeter or two then medium for another millimeter or two
finally medium rare just in the internal 4 or 5 millimeters. With a low and slow, baked steak you
get a nice crusted exterior with a medium rare consistency almost the entire thickness of the
steak!

So you’ve decided that you’re on the baked steak bandwagon, how do you proceed? For starters,
get a steak that’s 1 & ½ to 2 inches thick. Then set your oven to 275 F degrees. You can place
the steak simply on your oven grates but I like to foil line a cake sheet and place a cooking rack
over the cake sheet to support my steak. You then generously salt and pepper both sides of your
steak then place it on the grate and insert a digital thermometer probe sideways into the middle
of the steak and set it for 115 F for rare, 125 f for medium rare and 135 F for medium. Once the
internal temperature hits the desired doneness setting, remove the steak from the oven and
allow it to rest for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, brush a little oil on both surfaces of the steak
and sear in a hot pan (cast iron is preferable) for 1 minute. Turn over and sear the side for
another minute. You should now have the perfect rare, medium rare or medium steak!

Smoked Meatloaf

I first saw this cooking application on one of the cable food networks. But now that I’ve
sampled smoked meatloaf, I beat myself over the head wondering why I never thought of this
cooking application on my own. I mean, I do my fair share of smoking various proteins from
fish to pork to beef to lamb as well as various veggies but I never once considered using ground
meats. Probably since the cooking grates in my smokers are spaced about an inch apart. Ground
meat will fall right through the grates. It never occurred to me to use an aluminum pan or tray
as the containment vessel. And nowadays, you can find smoking specific pans with mini
perforations that let smoke penetrate the bottom but don’t allow “seepage” of your meat.

All you need is your favorite meatloaf recipe then either place it freeform on the cooking tray
or pan of your choice and smoke it at 225 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 to 3 hours. You just
want to make sure that your loaf is freeform, if you place it in a regular 4” by 9” pan only the
top of the loaf will be flavored with that smoky goodness – you want maximum smoke exposure
for your loaf. If you want precise cooking, just use a corded thermometer with the probe in the
thickest section of your loaf and smoke it until it registers 155 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

Since smoking does take a little extra time, I also add other vittles to my smoker while smoking
the meatloaf like thick cut onion rings and halved tomatoes for my smoked tomato
mayonnaise. You can also smoke other veggies to create smoky side dishes for your meatloaf. If
you’ve smoked your loaf properly, you should create that nice smoke ring you find in properly
smoked beef, pork or lamb but since the ground meat is a little more porous, the smoke ring
should extend about ½ to ¾ inches from the surface. If you don’t already have a favorite
meatloaf recipe, you can sample my version:

The Gochiso Gourmet’s Smoked Meatloaf

4 lb ground beef (80/20)
2 pkg Lipton onion soup mix
1 & ½ cups milk
1 cup bread crumbs
½ cup BBQ sauce
4 eggs
Fresh ground black pepper
Salt to taste

Mix Lipton onion soup mix with milk. Add to ground beef then add the rest of the ingredients
and thoroughly mix. Place on an aluminum roasting pan or smoking tray and shape like a
traditional meatloaf. Place in the smoker with the temperature around 225 degrees and smoke
for 2 to 3 hours or when the internal temperature registers 155-160 degrees.

You can still fire up the grill

Because grilled veggies as a side dish or grilled fruit for a side compote or dessert enhances any
barbecue meal. Just remember that you don’t have to always grill your steaks or bake your
meatloaf. Use your grill for your side players like a grilled or smoked potato salad or a grilled
veggie panzanella… but that’s another column.