Bugs Bunny: [pulls out "1000 Ways to Cook A Duck"] Fillet of duck Bordelaise maitre d'butter. Yum-yum. Duck polonaise under glass. Mmm-mm.
Daffy Duck: [reading from "1000 Ways to Cook a Rabbit"] Rabbit au gratin de gelatin under tooled leather. Oh, dah-rool, drool.
Bugs: Barbecued duck meat with broiled duck bill Milanese. Yummy-yum.
Daffy: Chicken-fried rabbit with cottontail sauce braised in carrots. Mm-mmm.
—Rabbit Fire (1951)
I actually got a complaint yesterday that my posts have been very existential lately, because I’ve been working from the Emerson prompts, and why haven’t I told any fun stories like the one about the gasoline? So here’s a break in the existential action.
Yesterday when I got home I noticed a package still sitting on my doorstep, despite the fact that Wife and Wee One were already home. Why didn’t they bring it inside? I reached down to pick it up and discovered that it weighed nearly forty pounds, that’s why. Hey! My Father’s Day gift to myself had arrived!
Some of you know that I’m a fan of The Mike O’Meara Show, which was once a radio program and is now available as a daily podcast. (It’s still a radio show if you live in or near Coralville, Iowa.) The show is frequently sponsored by a product called the Mangrate, and between the chatter on the show, plus other positive things I’d heard, I decided that I was finally going to pull the trigger and get Mangrates for my grill. Also, I was engaging in a little retail therapy, but that’s for another post.
The Mangrates arrived in about three business days via Priority Mail (ordered Saturday, got them on Wednesday), and the only complaint I’d have about the shipping is that the tracking number they sent me didn’t work. But in the end, that’s a nit, right? If they hadn’t arrived, then I’d have a real complaint.
Because the Mangrates are cast iron, you have to season them before you can use them. I did this by spraying them with cooking spray and putting them in a 400-degree oven for an hour, then just shutting off the oven and waiting for them to cool back down to room temperature. At one point a few hours later, I opened the oven to take them out. I could touch the oven racks but not the grates, because they held the heat so well. The next day I took to the grill with my grates, and I’m just egotistical enough to have recorded it with my POS cell phone.
So here’s my “before” grill. The top rack is really rusty, which is why I have the foil up there. The main cooking rack is porcelain-coated iron, but the porcelain has started to chip and is beginning to rust. And, the porcelain flakes are GETTING ON MY FOOD. Furthermore, there’s all kinds of crud that’s fallen through the grate onto the heat plates and to the bed of the grill. It’s a mess. The grill brush is one of three I bought this season (because they were really cheap). It’s already starting to get the bent-down, flattened bristles. The spray bottle is plain water, which I use to hose down the flare-ups. But you know what the other bad thing is about having to hose down the flare-ups? Now you have a bunch of water in the grill and you’re essentially steaming your food, not barbecuing it.
My grill, like so many others, has “hot” and “cool” spots. Part of this experiment was to learn whether the Mangrates would eliminate this unfortunate phenomenon. I put a London Broil over a “hot” area of the grill. This steak was somewhere between refrigerator and room temperature. I confess I may have put it on a few minutes early; the steak didn’t sizzle much when it hit the grate, and I was able to touch a “cool” spot near the front. So, note for the future: give it a little more time than usual to get up to speed.
After six minutes I flipped the steak over (using tongs, not a fork, natch). Look at those grill marks. You can see that there’s a band where it’s a little more cooked on the outside; that’s over a gap in the heat shield. I was a little worried at this point that the heating wasn’t as even as I’d hoped it would be.
This was also the point where I threw on a frozen burger, in a typically “cool” area. I know, I’m a bad barbecue guy because I use frozen burger patties. But it’s my concession to convenience. Ordinarily, once the burger thaws on the grill I season it with a dash of Worcestershire sauce and a few shakes of something called Cavender’s All-Purpose Greek Seasoning. I love this stuff. It’s tough to find in this area, but when I’m in Florida (it’s plentiful near Tarpon Springs, go figure), I usually take the chance to stock up. I may just resort to buying it online, though. I didn’t take any more pics of the burger, so let me just note that the hot/cool experiment didn’t work out so well: the Mangrates don’t really eliminate those spots, but they do provide more overall even cooking. Go figure.
The finished steak, awaiting the last couple of minutes of me cooking the burger. That’s the second side you see; I’d flipped it again putting it on the rack. Again, great marks and a little bit of heat banding.
I should mention that the London Broil didn’t have a lot of dripping to do, which is the other reason I cooked a burger. Once I moved the steak to the top tray, I moved the burger to the hot area. Remember all those flare-ups I was talking about earlier? Gone. NONE. Not a one. The burger dripped plenty (as they do), but there were no flare-ups whatsoever and—AND—the burger remained juicy throughout. I cooked it all the way to Well Done and it remained juicy without overcooking on the outside.
The next important step in the Care and Feeding of Your Mangrates is brushing the grill clean. Remember the cheap grill brush I had before? Gone. This brush comes with your grates for free, though you pay a little extra for the shipping. I got a shot of it in my hand so you get some idea of the proportions involved. This ain’t yo momma’s grill brush. It’s also pretty good for getting dirt out from under your nails.
This is the grill, after I’d brushed it down. You can see that the area toward the back is already close to the traditional black you find on cast iron. I imagine the rest of the grates will approach that color before much longer.
The finished product, perfectly done. And while the banding (as I noted above) had me kind of worried, it was like this from end-to-end, all the way through. Everyone in the house agreed that this was all kinds of awesome steak. Except for Wife, who insists on well-done meat, so I threw hers in the microwave where it turned all gray and stuff, and it went “clunk” when it hit her plate and that was nasty.
So to recap, Mangrates are incredible. Go get some, now. If you’re a friend of mine of Facebook, I’ll experiment with a couple of other foods and report back there, but after one use I’m already a very happy customer. And to any Mike O’Meara fans who may have made it this far: Essadee!