When it comes to steak on the grill, Adam Perry Lang does everything wrong. Before cooking, he attacks the meat with a chef's knife. Once it's cooking, he flips it over and over again. And while many restaurants serve steaks with perfect cross-hatched sear marks, Lang couldn't care less. That's because Lang is concerned with one thing above all else: char, the smoke-flavored crust that makes grilled food irresistible. Clearly, Lang is doing something right. Bon Appétit called his cookbook Charred & Scruffed "a bible for a new kind of charcoal-fired religion." Here are three ways to master your char.
Scruff Up the Surface
With grilling, more browning equals more flavor, which leads to Lang's most innovative technique: Before cooking, he lightly scores the meat all over with a sharp knife. "The scruffs and cracks mean more surface area to brown," he says, as well as a thicker, crunchier, tastier crust.
Baste. Then Baste More
"I'm really big into basting with oil or fat on the grill," Lang says. "It conducts heat so much better than air." Think of it this way: Hot air on meat turns it into jerky. Hot oil, on the other hand, fries the outside. Mix olive oil, melted butter, grated garlic and onion, and herbs. Make a brush out of a bundle of herbs and use it to baste whatever you're cooking, when it first hits the grill and right after every flip. The combination of herbs and oil creates new layers of flavor.
Don't Fear the Flip
Rather than letting the meat sit still to char in neat grill marks, Lang flips it constantly. "Heat, flip, and baste it; heat, flip, and baste it," Lang says. "You'll get the rich browning that you want." Once the basting liquid sizzles into a crust on the meat, turn it to do the same to the other side, and repeat over and over. The constant motion lets both the outside and the inside cook more evenly, resulting in a richly flavored crust without scorching.