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Working the grill, any advice?

post #1 of 118
Thread Starter 

I just made the move from a sous at a reputable restaurant in my area to being grill chef at the best restaurant in my area.  I'm a bit nervous because this place is much higher volume than I'm used to, and while I am very confident in my ability to temp meats it's never been the thing that I focus on the most.  I'm sure lots of you have toughed it out on a grill station at one point in your career.  Any advice?  I'm really excited and I really need to be as good as I can be.  They break down all of their own proteins, which is awesome but something I will need to learn more about.  If anyone has any recommended readings or info that would help me it would be much obliged.  Thanks and wish me luck!

post #2 of 118

My best (and probably inadequate) advice is not to sweat it.  I run the broil station at one of the highest volume (good) places in town.  Doing 100 steaks in an hour is really no different than doing 10, it just takes a bit of time & practice to scale things up.  The big thing is to learn your individual broiler.  They all have hot spots and are very much living creatures.  If divide it up into four quadrants; when I'm busy I can keep different proteins in different spots, simply different temps.  If you get overwhelmed you can often mark the item then "idle" it a bit on a cooler spot while you figure out what you need when.

 

About ten years ago I was thrust into a similar situation, going from Exec in a small-to-middling sized place to broiling at the most high end steakhouse in the area.  I was talking to my buddy, who also broiled there and did a lot of the meat cutting, and asking him how the hell he could rock out that many strips, chops, chateaus, etc and keep all the temps straight at the speed he did.  He just shrugged his shoulders and said he didn't know what he did, he just did it.lol.gif  After a while I adjusted to that kind of pace and I see what he means.  I do the same thing I did in slower places, just faster!

 

To start off though, you have to go slow in a hurry...if you get what I'm trying to say.

"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
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"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
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post #3 of 118

Oh, and aim for the bottom side of the temp.  You have to allow carry over, and of course it depends on how long (if at all) the product will rest before being served.

"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
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"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
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post #4 of 118

Almost everywhere that I have worked, the broiler is the easiest station when you're busy. Scaling up isn't that big of a deal. The hardest part is keeping track of what you owe, and when. I found that it helps a lot to keep your grill organized. It's always dependent on where the hotspots are, but I like to keep everything of a given temp in either a region, or a certain row or column of the grill. You'll also find your job much easier if you can keep your communication with the window/expediter going. Find out what they need now, and make sure they know how long they have on something if they are waiting to fire the rest of the table.

post #5 of 118

My Trick to working grill. The minute you get the order put it on when its 60% done pull it off. when they tell you fire it put it back on. This way no matter what you can never be caught  without the order  at least almost ready no matter what. Also a hot side and a cooler one

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #6 of 118

How did you become sous of a restaurant without proper knowledge of breaking down fish/proteins?

 

Good luck on the grill, learn the hot spots, and just know your cooking times, hopefully that will keep you right in line with the other stations.

 

Also, I agree, pull the steaks a touch early, that way you can rest them and let them come up to temp, I always say i'd rather have a refire of an underdone steak/fish than overdone.

post #7 of 118

Touch everything.  Everything.  Touching is the best way of temping. 

 

Fish is usually very definitive about it's done point.  Make sure you use your eyes to check for a band of translucency on the side of a fillet or steak.  You want the fish to not mush or feel hard when you touch temp.  Like most proteins, you want it to spring back. You want the "flakes" to barely open when you press, not completely separate; if you've got definite flaking on both sides of the fish, it's overdone.

 

There are a couple of keys to breaking down proteins. 

 

Most important, you need a VERY sharp knife.  I cannot overemphasize the importance of keeping your meat knives SHARP.  You want them at least sharp enough so that they won't force you to hold them too tightly, or use force to cut.  Using a steel is not sharpening.  If you don't know how to sharpen, let's talk about that.

 

If you're cutting from primals, whole fish, or whole birds -- they're going to "tell you" a lot about how they want to be cut and trimmed.  Use your off hand to feel for the natural places where they want to be trimmed or broken. 

 

Make sure you trim all silver-skin, gristle, and connective tissue from red meat.  A little fat for flavor is nice, but something tasteless, too tough to chew, and difficulty for a diner to cut out herself -- not so much.

 

It helps to be very fast and confident with fish.  That's something else which can't be over-emphasized.  Slow, little, hesitant cuts make for ragged surfaces.  No thank you. 

 

Not all fish cut alike, knowing the particular species makes a lot of difference -- it comes with practice.

 

Always keep your knife straight in the cut, without letting it twist, wander, or cut on a bias. 

 

Don't "saw" your blade back and forth when you're steaking, chopping or otherwise portioning.  Keep your portion sizes very consistent.  Consistent portion sizes will help on the grill too.

 

If you're doing most of the protein prep, your chef's knife isn't a good choice.  Get the right knives.  They don't have to be expensive.  Forschners are not only plenty good enough. but "gold standard" for meat work.  A blade which is a bit too long is better than a bit too short -- at least for me.

 

No on, off and back on again -- at least for the restaurant you describe. Yes to leaving enough time to rest proteins.  A big fat NO to pre-cooking.  It may be okay for catering outdoor steak dinners and other volume situations; but it is anathema for fine dining.  

 

The semi-exception to no on and off:  Anything too thick to cook quick relatively quickly should be marked on the grill and finished in the oven.

 

Touch, touch, touch.  Sharp, sharp, sharp.

 

Hope this helps,

BDL

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What were we talking about?
 
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post #8 of 118

Your friend was kind of right about doing it without really doing anything

 

Once you learn your grill well enough(hotspots, searing spots, where your med-well/well's will sit, ect) you can get to the point where you'll rarely ever have to touch the meat before you know it's done, just timing and knowing how hot where on your grill is going to be

 

As for breaking down primals, easy easy. Strips, ribeyes, sirloins, t-bones and porterhouses, easy easy, just cut/saw and trim for the most part

 

Filets can be difficult depending on how you get your loin. PSMO can be difficult because there's a lot of stuff to get off before you have a clean, portionable filet. They come without all of the silverskin and fat it's easy

post #9 of 118

As BDL says  aquaint yourself with touch"" "Let your fingers do the walking""

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #10 of 118
Cook the meat 60% and rest a side and wait until waiter fire the meal.. And just finish it .. That is the most simple way to do it... And try to judge by touch which point of donenes is the meat..
post #11 of 118

Yes the broiler is a living breathing entity so get to know yours well. Touch is the only way to go and it is developed through attention and time spent on the station. Great advice on the undertemp cooking except for the well done and charred rares and expect to get the returns with the waitstaff telling you this was not cooked to the proper temp and having to add more fire as a lot of customers do not know how to order meat and dont take it personal as it has happened to us all!

Also as well as touch after you have cooked a few thousand pieces of meat you can pretty much tell by just looking at it and know where it is. As far as meat fabrication the advice given here is golden( sharp knife and learn how to sharpen ). Now go cook some meat and make the people happylicklips.gif

The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity !
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The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity !
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post #12 of 118

time on, time in , time under the grill is the only way to know what you don't know.  when you don't know peek with a paring knife or pray that the unemployment rate is south of 10%.

post #13 of 118

I'm surprised even two Chefs have said to cook the meat xx% done, then pick it up and finish when it's time.. that's horrible advice IMO, and no way to learn the correct way to work a grill station, or any station for that matter.

post #14 of 118
Quote:
Originally Posted by SquirrelRJ View Post

I'm surprised even two Chefs have said to cook the meat xx% done, then pick it up and finish when it's time.. that's horrible advice IMO, and no way to learn the correct way to work a grill station, or any station for that matter.

And so I suppose at your place, you make the customer wait for the kitchen to cook the proteins when the server comes in to tell you to fire such and such a table?  Now THAT'S horrible advice.

Many places mark the steaks and cook them a little way, then allow them to sit off to the side until it's time to fire.

post #15 of 118

When your pumping out 600 a night thats the only way you don't get fouled up.(50% done) Most places start on the grill then put on sizzler and pull off keep warm then when pick up order or fire is called put back

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #16 of 118
Thread Starter 

Thanks guys, today's my first day.  I plan to stay confident, calm and collected; take your guys' advice and turn it into competence.  With your insight I've got a good direction and some good questions to ask the other chefs.  I'll keep ya posted on the good, bad and the ugly and holler if I have any other more specific questions.  Feel free to keep the conversation going.

post #17 of 118
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chefross View Post

And so I suppose at your place, you make the customer wait for the kitchen to cook the proteins when the server comes in to tell you to fire such and such a table?  Now THAT'S horrible advice.
Many places mark the steaks and cook them a little way, then allow them to sit off to the side until it's time to fire.


Since the OP said the new restaurant is one of the best in his area I can almost guarantee that the chef or sous will be running expo. A good expo will know when to fire everything to keep ticket times low. I would never want to rely on a server who is just as busy as me to tell me when to fire things during a rush.

Know your product and your equipment and have perfect mise. Other than that if you know how to cook on a line you can figure it out.
post #18 of 118

Not only that what if erver gets busy and forgets to tell you Fire it?  then comes in 6 minutes later and says I forgot to tell you amd expo, so  I need that on the fly?? Your covered if its 50% done .

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #19 of 118
You must not know what its like to work on a solid line. Someone is reading tickets and calling fires. Long pickups are fired right away, shorter ones are fired later. Sandbagging proteins (cooking ahead) and resting them only half done causes most of the juices to run out leaving them dry.
post #20 of 118

Not in a lot of places here in Florida

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #21 of 118

Sheesh when I worked the Hotel Casinos in Reno a slow night was 700 covers during the week and weekends went up to 1200+ for the PM shift in the Coffee Shop which I ran as a Sous Chef / Restaurant Chef. Our main special was a 4 oz butt steak with a 4 oz Canadian lobster tail for $5.95 and man those little steaks were thick and a large portion of our guests were Asians from the bay area and for the most part they wanted there beef well done. The place only seated 210 and we had a 5 man line and our sales were consistently 50 to 60% of that special plus New Yorks, Rib Eyes,T-Bones, Burgers and Chicken Breast as well as Fish for the Broiler guy! We kept a big pyramid on the cool side of the butt steaks leaving enough room for the other protiens and we still had trouble keeping up with the well dones. Oh and the broiler man was the wheel guy while I did the order/prep/gave the union breaks on the line and expedited. If we fired those steaks to order those lines at the door would have moved real slow and our job was to get them in and make them happy and get them back out to gamble.

It just depends on what kind of outlet you are working as to how you must respond to it as a chef but working smarter on the broiler can keep you out of the weeds for surewink.gif

The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity !
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The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity !
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post #22 of 118
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chefross View Post

And so I suppose at your place, you make the customer wait for the kitchen to cook the proteins when the server comes in to tell you to fire such and such a table?  Now THAT'S horrible advice.

Many places mark the steaks and cook them a little way, then allow them to sit off to the side until it's time to fire.

Why would the server be telling anyone to fire tables? I wouldn't allow that to begin with.

 

We run an order fire system, but I assure you, servers aren't telling us when to fire tables.

 

If you're ok with cooking stuff halfway, then picking it up, great, but I'll stand by my original point, marking off proteins ahead of time is no way to run a kitchen.

 

Furthermore, if you're so busy pushing people in and out the door, maybe the menu should be done accordingly so you don't have items that are going to take "too long" to cook in the first place.

post #23 of 118
I'm going to have to agree with the cook on order guys. There's a special section on my grill where well done steaks go to hibernate. The servers know that if a customer orders a well done ribeye or 16 oz strip or got forbid a 12oz filet or porterhouse, they're kooking at 20-25 minute ticket times. They're instructed to tell the table that

Par cooking and refiring is something I've never been taught
post #24 of 118

Touch.  Touch?  Really, chefs?  Touch?  Do not poke that meat, do not squeeze it, do no touch.  Do not touch your index finger to your thumb and touch that muscle on your hand.  Do NOT touch.  Get a cake-tester.  Get 20 cake testers (you'll lose them).  Put that cake tester into the center of your protein, meat, fish, a scallop if you must.  Then take it out and only then do you TOUCH it to the most sensitive part of your wrist- if it's cold, it's raw, closer to body-heat: perfect rare, once rested.  Warmer than your wrist, med-rare, if it starts getting hot, you're already in mid-well to shoe-leather stage.  Cake tester, young man.  The rest of you, shame...

post #25 of 118

Never seen a cake tester on the line and no way i'm going to have time to futz around with a few dozen steaks and needles over a hot grill.  Besides I doubt I could pick out a cake tester with a pair of tongs and it will be hot hot hot.

 

Touch - touch touch... 

 

It allows you to instantly tell where a steak is at.  You don't even need to put your tongs down.

 

Hell on a pro-grill station I bet the cake tester would take on more heat from the metal portion outside of the steak than the inside of the steak.

Not to mention all the little plastic thingy's melting and falling off.

 

Thinking this through further... touching anything to my wrist isn't going to give me any useful information.  I've not had hair on my wrists for over 15 years, and I regularly grab things coming out of moderate ovens.  I occasionally snatch things out of the fryer with my fingers...

 

The poke test will work as it's based upon resistance... that I can feel.

However feeling a 5 or 10 degrees difference on my skin... well exposed skin, i don't think so.

 

Maybe on a back-yard grill or in a home kitchen but not on the line, and certainly not in volume.

----

 


"Plus, this method makes you look like a complete lunatic. If you care about that sort of thing".  - Dave Arnold

 

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----

 


"Plus, this method makes you look like a complete lunatic. If you care about that sort of thing".  - Dave Arnold

 

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post #26 of 118

What in Gods name is a cake tester? a toothpic?  If you mean sticking the steak or roast and then putting it near your neck or finger, NO WAY first you are making a hole in the meat so juices run out, you might as well use a meat therm.  Years ago we used to stick an ice pic into roast or steak count to 6 take it out and feel what temp of heat has reached center. Touch with the fingers is just as accurate (If you know how) and does not make a hole or cut.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #27 of 118
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rambo View Post

Touch.  Touch?  Really, chefs?  Touch?  Do not poke that meat, do not squeeze it, do no touch.  Do not touch your index finger to your thumb and touch that muscle on your hand.  Do NOT touch.  Get a cake-tester.  Get 20 cake testers (you'll lose them).  Put that cake tester into the center of your protein, meat, fish, a scallop if you must.  Then take it out and only then do you TOUCH it to the most sensitive part of your wrist- if it's cold, it's raw, closer to body-heat: perfect rare, once rested.  Warmer than your wrist, med-rare, if it starts getting hot, you're already in mid-well to shoe-leather stage.  Cake tester, young man.  The rest of you, shame...

This method is no more useful than using your hand to feel the meat. In fact, it's another step you have to make (picking up, poking meat, putting tester to wrist) and will waste you time in the long run.

post #28 of 118
Quote:
Originally Posted by chefedb View Post

What in Gods name is a cake tester? a toothpic?  If you mean sticking the steak or roast and then putting it near your neck or finger, NO WAY first you are making a hole in the meat so juices run out, you might as well use a meat therm.  Years ago we used to stick an ice pic into roast or steak count to 6 take it out and feel what temp of heat has reached center. Touch with the fingers is just as accurate (If you know how) and does not make a hole or cut.

400This is a cake tester.

post #29 of 118

I'm with Squirrel on everything. 

 

1.  Touch, touch, touch, and touch some more. 

 

2.  Pre-cooking, even if it's only marking, is NOT "fine dining" or high-end "steak house."  It's "volume," it's "chain," it's "event catering," it could be lots of other things, it's not the worse sin in the world, the steaks could come out great, but it's not high end.  And yes -- in the two "fine dining" restaurants I worked in, as well as my own little catering operation (both long ago) -- we made diners wait.   

 

That said, no matter what you know or think you know or passionately believe, the chef already has a policy about pre-cooking steaks and a lot of other things.  The thing to do is ASK.

 

BDL

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post #30 of 118
Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

 

 

2.  Pre-cooking, even if it's only marking, is NOT "fine dining" or high-end "steak house."  It's "volume," it's "chain," it's "event catering," it could be lots of other things, it's not the worse sin in the world, the steaks could come out great, but it's not high end.  And yes -- in the two "fine dining" restaurants I worked in, as well as my own little catering operation (both long ago) -- we made diners wait.   

 

 

I should also note, i'm not saying it's the worst crime you can commit in a restaurant, but you made my point since I couldn't get the words on the screen, it's just not fine dining.. it screams "turn and burn" restaurant.

 

Servers know they're looking at 22-25 minutes for a table that has a well done 10oz filet on it, so if the course is fired while they're eating appetizers or salads, there is zero lag in the flow of their meal.

 

Also, do you just assume how many items to mark off to 50% before service starts? what happens to those meats that don't end up selling that night? use them the next day? throw them out? either way, the meat isn't the same as it was in raw state, and your product is a ton more inferior than it could have been.

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