DennisBeaverJuly 13, 2013 • By Dennis Beaver

Last week we told you the story of Emily, a second-year student at the University of Arkansas, and her grilling disaster, the result of following very flawed recommendations given to her by a “butcher’s assistant” at a high-end Fayetteville market.

In one’s early 20s, some things which will be looked at years later with a chuckle tend to take on far more importance than justified. So it was when Emily invited her boyfriend to a steak dinner — which was also her first time grilling.

Informed by the “butcher’s assistant” to “stab the expensive ribeye purchased for this memorable dinner about 50 times on all sides with a fork so that it would be tender,” what came off the grill was “bone dry and cremated,” she told us.

Her boyfriend took one bite, promptly revealing anything except Southern gentlemanly behavior. He was, in fact, a jerk, putting down the poor girl. Emily was in tears, feeling — correctly — that she was given completely wrong meat preparation advice. She asked the store for a refund, but the meat department manager refused, blaming her, and she asked for our help.

Our stake in the outcome 

Wanting to help our reader, we first contacted Executive Chef Karl Marsh of Omaha Steaks, ran Emily’s situation by him, and he agreed that it makes no sense at all to tenderize a ribeye.

“Ribeyes are a tender and flavorful cut of meat, but, additionally, Emily was indeed given very bad advice for two main reasons:

• Stabbing any meat with a fork to tenderize it increases the risk of potential bacterial contamination as it forces any possible surface bacteria into the interior of the meat. This can result in a risk of illness if the meat is not cooked to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit internal temperature — which is well done.

• Stabbing the meat results in a loss of the meat’s juices and can ruin an otherwise moist, tender and very tasty steak. As the steak warms through cooking, the wonderful juices which carry flavor are pushed out and lost. This also can result when using a fork, instead of tongs or a spatula, to flip the steak during cooking.

Chef Marsh agreed that, given clearly improper cooking advice, a reputable market should offer Emily a refund or replacement.

And the market said …

We phoned this well-known, upscale Fayetteville market and spoke first with an uncaring meat department manager, who admitted that his “assistant” was a part-time university student with no experience. Yet he claimed Emily should have known better. We next called the market’s CEO.

He was more understanding, and the next day, a happy young Emily emailed, “Mr. Beaver! Wowee! They called me, asking when I would like to come over and receive two ribeyes as their way of saying sorry. Thank you so much!”

Other grilling no-nos

Chef Marsh takes grilling very seriously.

“You’d be surprised at the many ways there are to ruin a great cut of meat, Dennis, from failing to clean and preheat the grill to between 500 and 600 degrees Fahrenheit before you start, to forgetting to lightly oil or pre-season your food.”

While many more tips are available at the recipe center, Marsh offered us some of those which he believes are the most important:

• Go from the fridge to the grill and do not allow the meat to come up to room temperature before grilling. The reason? Risk of contamination. Anything above 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below 140 degrees Fahrenheit will potentially grow bacteria exponentially. Keep an ice chest handy. Cool down leftovers as quickly as possible. Think food safety at all times.

• Flipping the steak too often slows down the cooking process.

• You want to cook the steak 60 percent of the time on the first side and 40 percent on the second side.

• Cook foods covered as often as possible with the lid down on the grill. This will create kind of an oven effect, helping to prevent flare-ups.

• Using a thermometer to test the temperature of the meat when it is on the grill gives a false reading, as the probe is influenced by the cooking surface.

• Take the product off the grill and insert the thermometer on the side of the steak to determine the temperature. For roasts, remote thermometers are best.

• Do not cut into your steak until it has rested for at least two to five minutes after you remove it from the grill.

• If you cut into the steak too soon, all the wonderful juices will run out.

Following these grilling suggestions from Chef Marsh, and we hope, an apology from her boyfriend, Emily’s next grilling adventure will become the happy ending to our story.

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.