Meat, beer and rock ’n’ roll. Those three things unite John Carruthers and Jesse Valenciana, two long-time Chicago buddies, who put their passion for all of the above into their new instant classic cookbook, ManBQue. (Not to be confused with their website, manbque.com.) We picked their brains to find out how, like Dial Power Scrub’s Power Garage, you can over-engineer your approach to take your meat-prepping skills to the next level.
“When I was a kid, if it wasn’t a particularly flush month, I’d ask Mom what we were eating and she’d say ‘beef.’ We all knew that meant one thing—tongue.” —John Carruthers
1. Configure Your Grill Like a Boss
This video of the guys grilling looks pretty intense, but that’s mostly a trick of editing. “We went up on the roof of my building and used a grill we picked up somewhere down the road,” confesses Carruthers. The point was to show just how much you can do on a basic grill.
“You can put a really good sear on a piece of meat while you have a sauce going and you’re slow cooking something on the top rack,” he says. The key is separating the grill into different parts and creating heat zones. “You can mix and match the vents to make it a convection oven, you can open it up and burn the hell out of everything, you can slow cook or even smoke,” he says.
With gas, this is a rather straightforward process: You turn the heat on higher in some areas than others. When grilling with charcoal, however, it’s… not actually much more complicated. “Pile a big stack on the left third, with a smaller stack in the middle and nothing on the other side,” he says. You’ve just created an area where you can sear your meat, then quickly move it to a lower heat setting for cooking, then the final third for keeping things warm.
You can even have sauces going on the grill. According to Carruthers, the important thing is to use the right material. “I’m not going to use a nonstick pan on my grill,” he says, “because it’s going to flake or smoke.” Instead, he recommends a cast iron skillet or even just a stainless steel pan.
The ManBQue crew get pretty creative hacking their grills. “We’ve used a cast iron skillet with a brick to make a makeshift plancha for cubano sandwiches.” What about paninis? “We don’t have a lot of panini eaters among the drunken bearded gentlemen we serve.”
2. Choose Interesting Meats
Carruthers and Valenciana are both huge fans of hanger steak, a cut of beef that comes from the diaphragm of the cow. “It used to be a butcher’s cut,” says Carruthers, “but now a lot of hip restaurants have caught on, so it’s getting a little pricy.” The best place to get it? Your local German deli, if you have one. Otherwise, you might have to buy a whole head or pay a steep price for hanger.
“I had a hanger steak last night,” Carruthers says, with Valenciana quickly adding: “I have a rule. If I see hanger steak, I buy it.”
The pair disagree on beef tongue, however. “I used to love tongue tacos when I was a kid,” says Valenciana, “Now I don’t even want to be near it.”
Make no mistake: Tongue has historically been poverty food. “When I was a kid, if it wasn’t a particularly flush month, I’d ask Mom what we were eating and she’d say ‘beef,” Carruthers says with a laugh, “We all knew that meant one thing—tongue.”
Still, Carruthers loves his tongue, especially in tacos. “It doesn’t feel like an event like liver or balls,” he says. “Pig tongue is great too,” he adds, noting that the pair once made Reuben sandwiches out of corned pig’s tongue and he loved it. While you used to have to go to an old ethnic place, now you can grab beef and pork tongue just about anywhere.
The pair come into agreement again on lamb. “There’s not much meat that’s tastier and juicier than a whole lamb cooked on a grill,” says Valenciana. “Throw on some generic Greek seasoning and it just soaks it up.”
“I feel like a whole generation had lamb ruined for them with cheap mutton and World War II rations,” observes Carruthers. In fact, he loves lamb so much that the only power tools he owns are for butchering whole lamb. “You can make it as a burger, you can slow cook it, you can do it in a stir fry. There’s basically no wrong way to cook lamb.”
No matter what kind of meat you’re getting, Valenciana is a Mexican supermarket enthusiast. “They’ll trim the fat and tenderize it for you,” he raves. “I swear they can trim fat with their eyes closed.”
3. Make Awesome Rubs and Sauces
“One thing people forget when they’re using Moroccan this and Tahitian that is to use salt,” says Carruthers. “You get all these spices yelling at each other. Start with salt, then sugar, then fresh herbs, then dried herbs.” He also urges people to know where they’re going and plan how to get there, rather than just throwing a bunch of herbs on meat.
“The Flavor Bible is a great book,” suggests Valenciana. “It will really show you the big picture about reaching into your spice cabinet.”
As far as sauces go, you need to start with a fat base for balance. From there, you need an emulsifier: mayonnaise, mustard or anything that’s going to keep it from separating and looking gross. Sauces allow for greater changes while you’re cooking, whereas rubs are more set in stone. “When it comes to making BBQ sauces, a strainer is your best friend,” says Valenciana.
One hot tip from Carruthers: “Never use a really hoppy beer to make anything, it’s pretty much always going to be disgusting.”
“What about that IPA vinaigrette we made?” asks Valenciana.
“A little bit went a long way there, dude.”
Feeling inspired? The mother of all BBQ grills is just one of several awesome prizes Dial For Men’s Power Scrub Power Garage is giving away daily, now through August. Other prizes include bottles of Power Scrub, a stocked industrial workbench, a monster riding mower and a souped-up Ford Mustang full of Power Scrub! Get more details and enter to win on the Power Scrub Power Garage section of the Dial For Men Facebook page!