And the winner is...
Quick, who is the best griller in your city or town? How do you know? Have you ever had a competition? Well, I think you should. Maybe the best griller (you are the one, right?) can stand large and in charge just like Mike McGrath did last month when I proclaimed him the winner of the 2005 Chicago Backyard Barbecue.
Mike McGrath, top griller in the 2005 Chicago Backyard Barbecue, holds his trophy high and savors sweet victory.
Mike competed against fourteen other self-proclaimed grill masters who had written persuasive arguments regarding their right to win the title. They gathered on a brutally hot July afternoon at Kendall College, a cooking school in downtown Chicago, where each steely-eyed competitor was given two rib-eye steaks, a full set of grilling equipment, and one hour to make the steak of a lifetime.
As a judge, I tasted a couple steaks blazing with spices, a few slathered with butter and stinky cheeses, one smoked with wood chips, and several kissed with barbecue sauce. But you know, the one that stood out from the rest was simply seasoned and finessed over the hot coals to mouthwatering perfection. Here is the spice rub Mike used:
2 tablespoons whole peppercorns, freshly ground (coarse)
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons minced garlic
He oiled the steaks, massaged the spices into the meat, and then let them mingle with the juices for about thirty minutes while his coals reached a searing temperature. Then Mike set those tender steaks over the heat and closed the lid so the thin wisps of milky white fat melted and dripped into the fire, causing a slow, steady cloud of smoke that engulfed his steaks with aromas while his spices sizzled on the caramelized surface.
Man, what a steak! What a griller! So who’s next? Are you ready to compete for your local championship? Or maybe next summer you’d like to travel to Chicago, the steak capital of the world, and put your best up against the likes of Mike. I hope to see you there.
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