Adam Perry Langs new cookbook, BBQ 25, comes out May 11 (just in time for Memorial Day!) and the more accessible follow-up to Serious Barbecue is a hot little number 25 grilling recipes printed on pages so thick and glossy they can withstand both beer spills and all the salivating youll do over the hard-core steak porn. (As if it werent clear enough that this book is for the dudes, there are telestrator-style notes like SUPER TASTY and MAX TASTY all over the place). We asked the meat-master behind Daisy Mays (a man who would even cook Elmo) for some barbecuing advice, and to tell us about a fascination with fire that has taken him everywhere from Poland to Japan.
What would you recommend to someone whos looking to buy a grill this summer?
Whatever will get you out there most and grill the most. I like to cook in live fire with a mix of wood and charcoal, but that takes a bit of a commitment. A gas grill doesnt deliver as much, but if youre going to be entertaining and you dont want to get the charcoal going, thats the grill for you. One of the most important parts on the grill is one of the most inexpensive and thats the grill surface, or the rods. You can get a reasonably priced Weber or whatever brand, but the key is to have great grill rods because thats going to conduct heat and accentuate charring and caramelizing and recovery. I tend to like cast-iron, though it requires a bit of maintenance. You should clean it and coat with a light coat of vegetable oil on top. Enameled steel is fine but depending on what grill brushes you have, you can wear it down or crust it up.
Speaking of vegetable oil, you advise against using olive oil. Whys that?
Its good for finishing and can be nice as part of marinating components, but when youre grilling, it has a lower burn temperature and it tends to smoke and give off flavors at higher temperatures. Its also more expensive.
In the book, you tell whether to apply direct or indirect heat to various cuts of meat. Whats the rule of thumb?
Its about the thickness [of the meat] and also what your end result is. Ill often use a combination of the two to create an oven effect. I want a char, but I also want that heat to mete into the center and not dry out the crust. I like to moisturize the meat as Im cooking. Whatever the protein is, its being bombarded by direct heat. I like to choose more indirect [heat] when I want to make things, like shoulder, that are thicker cuts that are heavily collagen-laden, or things that are going to be pulling apart, or where Im focusing on the collagen turning into gelatin, giving it that voluptuous texture. Brisket is cooked mostly indirect because theres so much collagen that it requires relatively slower cooking with more moist heat.
Is it worth buying a smoker or is it just fine to convert your Weber?
It comes down to your lifestyle. The smaller you go, the more sensitive the micro-climate is. But the larger you go, the more you need to make sure you have enough to fill it. If you have a big smoker and you put one thing in it and it fits 50, its going to be too dry of an environment. You can create an indirect type of thing by having one side turned on and one side off with a pan underneath so you have the heat emanating and the meat cooking.
For the amateur who does decide to invest in a smoker, what would you recommend?
The Weber Smokey Mountain is a great inexpensive unit, and it turns out some great barbecue.
Whats the latest with your London project with Jamie Oliver?
One of the misunderstandings is that Im going to do something like Daisy Mays in Europe. It has more to do with wood-fired cooking and using different types of equipment, whether its a robata, or a tandoor, or Texas-style open pit. Its centered on the equipment and the applications of heat, wood-fired cooking.
Where has your research taken you lately and what did you bring back?
I just went to Japan because Ive been fascinated with Japanese charcoal and how they handle the grill and flavors. I spent three, four hours a day eating four meals a day. Theyre all about subtlety and flavor. What I got from the trip was seeing how they manage and maintain a salty flavor in their grilling.
I went to Krakow and went to a lot of the local markets and got to meet some of the artisans that create these old-school sausages. That was tremendous.
Have you cooked with a tandoor before, or are you learning these methods cold?
Some of them are a completely new discovery Ive always had these fantasies of what this wood-burning tandoor might produce, and its lived up to it and more. For me its probably one of the greatest methods to cook game birds like quail, pigeon, squab also, incredible mutton chops. Its not simple. Its not like its this clay oven and you have to put this stuff in it takes a real knowledge of air flow and temperature, and resting it halfway through similar to how youd do Korean fried chicken so that it carries over and crisps at the end.
Will you bring any of this newfound knowledge back to New York? Whats next for you here?
Im not really thinking about New York right now right now Im focusing on whats at hand. Theres a lot to do and a lot of excitement and things to experience. We have plans to expand, but Im just dealing with whats at hand.
BBQ 25 will be published May 11 and is available for presale on Amazon.