Jamies Journal

Where's the beef?

Jamie Purviance Super Bowl

In New York City, one of the country’s premier butchers, Evan Lobel, cuts steaks good and thick and grills them hot and fast


Talking about beef with Evan Lobel is like talking about basketball with Michael Jordan. He knows his subject from every angle imaginable … and well he should! His family has been in the meat business for more than 100 years and he has spent much of his life working in the family store on Madison Avenue in New York City. When it comes to grilling beef, Evan tells me he likes to cut steaks close to two inches thick. That way, you can sear them really well on the outside without the risk of overcooking the center. After all, cooking a steak well-done is a crime in most states, isn’t it? Like me, Evan is constantly stressing the importance of letting steaks sit at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before grilling and about 5 minutes after grilling; a little bit of patience makes a big difference in the juiciness and tenderness of the steaks you serve.


Jamie Purviance Super Bowl

In Dallas, Texas, the legendary Sonny Bryan’s takes its own sweet time, barbecuing brisket low and slow.


At the other extreme of beef today is Texas barbecue. For a taste of the real deal, I visited Sonny Bryan’s in Dallas. Its history goes back almost as far as Lobel’s, and all the while they have been barbecuing brisket, among other things, at very, very low temperatures (their barbecue pit in the back of the restaurant never gets above 225°F.). Don’t let the run-down appearance fool you. This place is a culinary gem.

Jamie Purviance Super Bowl

The dinning room at Sonny Bryan’s features old-fashioned classroom-style benches and tables.


I stepped inside for a plate of brisket and ribs, served with coleslaw and deep-fried onion rings. My cholesterol probably took a turn for the worse that day, but that brisket was a revelation. With no special seasonings at all, just salt and pepper, Sonny Bryan’s pit master produces full-flavored, succulent slices of beef from an impossibly tough section of a cow. The secret ingredient? Time. It takes hours and hours of low heat from smoldering charcoal for the connective tissue in brisket to break down. Many restaurants hurry the cooking, but not Sonny Bryan’s. It’s no wonder this joint has been popular for so long.

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