My boyfriend and I took a grilling class and learned all the best ways to grill meat, how to season, how to tell rare vs. medium vs. well-done, and most importantly, got to eat some pretty amazing food. Well he did, I just watched.
Last fall we took a pizza cooking class in the city where we learned to make our own dough, sauce, and how to create the perfect pie. While that class is still my absolute favorite, Pizza A Casa (I highly, highly recommend), we had a fabulous time grilling away two nights ago at Craft Butchery in Westport.
I know you might be wondering why in the world a vegetarian would take a class 100% comprised of meat products. The reason of why I am vegetarian is not ethical.While I do not support the way some animals are raised and killed for meat production, it is not why I dislike eating meat. It is because eating meat does not make me feel good. It is not something I crave or miss. I love the smell of bacon, but have no desire to eat it.
I wanted to take this class because I doubt that there will be a point in my life where I will only be surrounded by vegetarians. Therefore in the future, when I have a BBQ, I would like to have a general idea of how to cook meat. And I’m sure my meat-loving guests will appreciate the fact there will be something other than quinoa and kale being served.
Now, lets get to the specifics of the class.
Craft Butchery is an AMAZING butcher shop in Westport. My mom gets all of her meat from here. One of the parts of the class I enjoyed was when they discussed their ethical standing on meat farming. They support local farmers, and do their best to only purchase high quality, pasture raised animal products. We were also educated on the differences between “grass-fed“, “free-range” and “certified organic” labeling on meat products in the grocery store. I’m going to hold off on going into detail now and write a follow-up regarding the differences. Needless to say, I was surprised by some of the answers we got.
ANYWAYS (longest introduction ever), we arrived to the class and for a brief moment in time I was convinced I was going to be the only female. (Spoiler: one other girl came, YAY!). We got suited up in some snazzy aprons and got right to it.
Burgers: I was actually very surprised with how simple this whole process was. I am used to people adding special seasoning to the ground beef, but with an 80:20 ratio (lean to fat), you don’t need seasoning at all! We formed small little balls (roughly 6oz) and shaped them into an inch wide disc. Once we placed them down, we used our thumb to make an indent about halfway down in the middle of the patty (similar in appearance to a donut). This prevents the burger from expanding and becoming spherical. We seasoned the top with salt, placed on the grill salted side down, and then salted the top of the burger. Once we let them cook for a few minutes, we flipped them over and added the cheese.
*Key to cooking meat, you ideally only want to flip it once. It helps keep the outside of the burger moist, and allows for the most even cooking of the meat.
*Fun fact: to determine how “done” meat is on the grill, touch the tip of your thumb to your pinky… now feel your thumb muscle on your palm. That is what the top of a well-done piece of meat feels like. When you move your thumb across your fingers towards your pointer, the pad of your palm will begin to feel softer. When you touch your thumb to the top of your pointer, your palm will feel much softer. This is how a burger feels when it is medium rare. I hope I explained that well enough because I thought that was a pretty cool fact!
Without any additional seasoning, my boyfriend said this was his favorite item of the night (aside from potato salad).
Next up was chicken, pork chops, and dry-aged skirt steak.
I’m not going into too much detail for these, because the tips I mentioned above are the same. The chicken was seasoned with salt and poultry rub. Pork chops and skirt steak with just salt.
Again the goal is to only flip the meat once. Chicken you want cooked to 160 degrees in the shoulder and the thigh, while the pork chops should be cooked to 140. For the skirt steak, you can again use the thumb to finger method to determine how well done it is.
Side note – I’m super impressed with people who man grills because I felt like my arm was on FIRE each time I went to flip.
A few other useful facts I learned:
- Do not season meat with pepper before putting it on the grill – pepper burns and will char the outside of your meat.
- Same goes for olive oil… use palm oil, peanut oil, or any other kind of oil. Because olive oil has a low heat point, it will burn the outside of your meat. Drizzle on after you take the meat off the grill for flavor.
- The higher the fat content in the piece of meat, the better the flavor.
- To prevent your fish from sticking to the grill, heat your grill to 600 and clean the grill when on with high heat. Then use a pad to oil the grill before placing the fish on.
- You can cook meat in a cast-iron skillet the same exact way. Great tip for the winter when you don’t feel like shoveling snow off your porch to cook up a yummy pork chop.
My boyfriend was able to sample all the meats and his favorites (in order, I think?) are: burger, steak, pork chop, chicken. All the meat looked and smelled delicious. They also had macaroni and potato salad for sides – because otherwise it wouldn’t be a real BBQ : )
My boyfriend was IN LOVE with their potato salad. The key – they smoked the potatoes before making the salad. And they added bacon. So I’m sure that didn’t hurt either.
We got gift bags (the ones that keep your food cool) at the end of class that had a meat thermometer and some meat seasoning in them. And because we were super lucky, we got to take home some leftover potato salad.
Now for the real question:
Would I go back? Yes. Their food was amazing (they have some vegetarian brunch options I am DYING to try) and the atmosphere and staff are beyond friendly. However, I do think it was a bit pricy for what it was. My boyfriend described it best as more of a “watch and learn about grilling while someone else does it” instead of an interactive do-it-yourself kind of cooking class.
I thought it was a super fun and different way to spend a weeknight, and I definitely learned a lot of great information. They even described the difference between all the types of cuts of meat and I wish I could have absorbed more.
I highly recommend stopping in, even if you’re just looking for some quality meat products. The staff encourages you to ask questions about the meat and about the way it should be cooked. Craft Butchery is a great company and I am so excited to go back and get some food in this girls belly : )
Have you ever taken a cooking class?
If you could learn to make one dish from scratch what would it be?
Do you enjoy cooking specific meals even if you can’t eat them? I really enjoyed grilling! I think it’s a fun, social atmosphere, and love hosting BBQs (I just gotta throw some extra veggies on there!)