4 to 6 servings
25 to 30 minutes
I’m serious: You’re going to put meat directly on the coals. And instead of getting burnt bricks, the results are a sublime balance of charred crust and juicy interior. The best cuts for this are porterhouse, rib-eye, and strip; bone-in or boneless—it’s your choice.
2 or more thick steaks (1–1 1 ⁄ 2 inches thick; about 2 pounds total)
Salt and pepper
1. Prepare a hot direct fire using hardwood charcoal; make sure to use enough so you can spread the coals out thickly and still lay the steaks fully on top.
2. Pat the steaks dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides.
3. When the coals are blazing hot, spread them out into an even bed. Put the steaks directly on the coals so they’re not touching each other. Cook until 5° to 10°F shy of the desired doneness, turning and moving them as needed. Timing will be extremely variable, depending on the thickness of the steaks and temperature of the fire, but figure boneless cuts release with few coals stuck to them at 3 to 4 minutes before the first turn. Then start checking with an instant-read thermometer after a couple more minutes. (Bone-in or thicker cuts will take a little longer.)
4. Pull or shake any embers of the meat above the fire and transfer the steaks to a cutting board. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes, continuing to check the internal temperature. (Or nick with a small knife and peek inside.) Cut across into 1 ⁄ 2-inch slices, transfer to a platter, pour over any accumulated juices, and serve.
Tips For Into-The-Fire Cooking
1. Use untreated hardwood charcoal. The food will be sitting right on the fuel.
2. Dab away any moisture on the steaks with paper towels and season them with salt and pepper; you want to taste the fire and the food.
3. A pair of long-handled tongs is essential when working this close to a super hot fire.
4. The steaks should lie flat on the coals, so make sure the fire is big enough to accommodate all of them with an inch or so in between.
5. The fire must be hot, with flaming red embers. Moisture from the meat can tamp down the fire. If you let the fire get past its prime or haven’t made it big enough, the steaks may take longer to cook and not develop as much crust.
6. An instant-read thermometer will make determining doneness so much easier. Remember that the meat closest to the bone will cook the slowest, so take that into consideration when you take readings. To check, transfer the steak to a plate and insert the thermometer.
7. When turning the steaks, pieces of charcoal tend to stick. Pull them off with tongs and be sure not to take one into the house with you by mistake or drop one into dry grass.