Michael Shores, whose family has been cooking pit beef at the Baltimore Farmers' Market & Bazaar for some 30 years under the name Beef Barons, recommends that home cooks use an eye round. The cut is very lean, so there is not a lot of fat to make it juicy. On the upside, the straight-ahead flavor makes for a poor man's prime rib.
Hardwood lump charcoal works better than typical briquettes because it burns hotter, giving a better char. But briquettes work fine if you can't find lump or don’t want spend the additional money.
This recipe includes a basic rub, but if you have one that you like for beef, feel free to use it.
Make Ahead: The seasoned meat needs to rest in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or up to overnight.
Servings: 6 - 8
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- One 3-pound eye round cut of beef
- 8 kaiser rolls, potato rolls or 16 slices of regular white sandwich bread, for serving
- 1/2 cup homemade or store-bought horseradish sauce (see related recipe)
- 1 large sweet onion, sliced thin into rings and halves
Combine the salt, black pepper, garlic powder and chili powder in a small bowl and mix well. Rub the beef all over with all the spice mixture, then cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or up to overnight.
Bring the beef to room temperature; this should take about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare a fire for direct and indirect heat. If using a gas grill, preheat to medium-high (450 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes; when the briquettes just turn ashen, distribute them on one side of the cooking area. For a hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 5 inches above the coals for 3 or 4 seconds. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames. Lightly coat the grill rack with oil and place it on the grill.
Place the meat on the direct-heat side of the grill. Cook (uncovered) for 2 to 3 minutes on each side of the meat, turning as needed, so the exterior becomes evenly crusty.
Move the meat to the indirect-heat side of the grill. Close the lid. (In Baltimore, the pit beef is cooked over an open pit. But that’s because the pitmen distribute the coals in a way that creates hot and cool spots and also because they constantly monitor the cooking process. Cooking the beef with the lid closed reduces both the grill-hovering and the challenges of cooking to tenderness over a live fire.)
Grill for 30 minutes to 45 minutes (for medium-rare). A meat thermometer inserted into the center should register 130 degrees. Transfer to a cutting board; rest the meat for no more than 5 minutes, then slice it against the grain as thinly as possible. Don’t worry about full slices; you’re only heaping the meat onto a sandwich. The key is thinness.
Pile the meat onto buns or bread. Top with horseradish sauce or Tiger Sauce and a few onion slices.
From Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin.
Tested by Jeff Donald.
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