15 Things I Learned While Grilling A Very Large Cow With Pat LaFrieda
NYC meat master on grilling, guns, the damn veggies
“Basically, it’s a huge Caja China box,” says Pat LaFrieda as we sit next to his giant D.I.Y. grilling apparatus that contains 867 pounds of prime Black Angus. The box is slow-cooking this unholy quantity of meat as part of an edible demonstration at the Great Googa Mooga Festival. It would be served a solid 24 hours later, which takes the concept of low-and-slow to a silly stupid extreme.
“We made a cage inside the box in chains, so when it’s done we lift the whole crate up with a forklift.” Yes, this rig is not so user-friendly (see: forklift). But LaFrieda, a New York City meat legend and star of a reality show, assures me that you can in fact cook like this in your backyard. “Make your own box and start with smaller cuts. We tried lamb legs first. They cooked in two hours. Then we tried briskets.” He offered some additional advice about fat caps, and sticky marinades, and I learned that shooting guns can make you very hungry (among other things).
1. He’s inspired by South American barbecue
“There are a lot of ethnic backgrounds that you could say roast whole animals, but it’s mostly a South American thing to do an entire steer. They do it the best.”
2. If you have 30 hours to spare, use it to grill
“When you slow-cook for 30 hours it makes the meat just like butter. You can taste different flavor profiles as you go from muscle to muscle. It’s all tender. You would think parts of it would dry out, but they don’t.”
3. If you have bone marrow to spare, make a rub with it
“We rubbed this steer with eight pounds of porcini rub and drizzled red wine reduction with bone marrow over the top.”
4. His mom is a vegetarian
“A lot of people approach me quietly and say ‘I’m a vegetarian.’ That’s great, because I’m the most socially liberal guy you’ll meet. My mom became a vegetarian after my parents got divorced. There are some great veggie burgers out there. I like the ones chefs make. The commercial ones are horrendous though.”
5. Pat LaFrieda is a gas man
“At home I have a 25-gallon propane tank hooked up to a long copper tubing apparatus, which leads into a 60,000 BTU Weber grill. It’s commercial, so you can buy it. What I like about it is that the grill itself is stainless steel. It’s pricey, but you’re not going to be throwing it out in three years. And it’s so much easier to clean."
6. Never charcoal
“When you work 16 hours a day, six days a week, you’ve got to get to the heat quickly.”
7. With lamb, ask for the fat cap.
“If we French [cut] a lamb rack and a chef doesn’t want the fat cap, we pull the cap off and just add a little salt and pepper and throw it on the grill. Nobody experiences that cap. It’s normally ground. It’s a great cut.”
8. With beef, there’s this very special muscle you probably can’t find.
“When we’re grinding beef all night, I’ll take a chuck and I cut this one muscle off, above the sierra muscle. It’s amazing. You can’t find that in a supermarket."
9. Invest in a meat thermometer
“I’m all about the thermometer. You need to know what that heat is, and it’s difficult. You see a lot of people grilling and they’re not paying attention. They’re probably at 250 degrees. That’s not grilling, it’s steaming. I’m all about a nice sear. I want it relatively rare.”
10. Overnight marinades are overrated
“I have no patience for overnight marinades. Who has the time or the thought? I don’t want to start prepping today for what I have to eat tomorrow. That’s why we go to restaurants. That’s what chefs do for us.”
11. Quick marinades should stick
“I like marinades that stick, not the ones that cook off. Take brown sugar, a touch of honey, some ground-up clove and some soy and rub that over an outside skirt steak. It will stick and caramelize on the grill.”
12. Sometimes chef guests will stop by
“I constantly have small farmers sending us samples, and sometimes they pile up. So I’ll have racks and loins from different species of animals and will have a bunch of chefs over. I have a firing range in the back of my weekend house, so after a long day of shooting everyone is hungry. One of the chefs who recently came over was April Bloomfield. She’s such an awesome person. I basically just handed her all the meat. We had pork racks, lamb legs and steaks of all different kinds. It was epic.”
13. Vegetables are not so popular at the LaFrieda cookout
“I had some friends over, Seamus Mullen and his brother, and they were looking around for the vegetables. At our house, there is meat and then there’s a meat side dish. I do love to put Jersey corn and asparagus on. Tin foil on the corn and nothing on the asparagus but a little olive oil.”
14. It’s craft beer, early and often
“It’s always Dogfish Head. I’m a loyal Dogfish head consumer. If it’s not Yuengling, it’s Dogfish. There’s very little wine at my household.”
15. And maybe a quick nip of the brown
“Johnny Walker Black on the rocks never disappoints. Mixologists are doing a great job, but I keep it simple.”
Check out our Illustrated Guide to the Caja China box
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