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Summer Grilling Tips
from EPIC Roadhouse Chef

Grilling Tips from Jan Birnbaum, the executive chef of the acclaimed EPIC Roasthouse in San Francisco, on the best way to cook steaks this summer


  • Always allow meats to rest at room temperature for up to two hours, depending on the size of the meat.  Meat, directly out of a refrigerator is typically about 38 degrees. For best results, starting meats on the grill an internal starting temperature of 50- 55 degrees is great.  Any internal warmth is better than 38 degree meat.  Tempered meat produces a more desirable even-cooked color and texture.  Even a rare steak is better if it is cooked when the meat is not too cold.
  • Sear first then cook low, slow, and even.  It’s best to start a steak over higher heat so the surface caramelizes and provides a better mouth feel, visual appearance and assertive flavor.  Then lower the heat, so it will penetrate deeper, thus improving the chew and providing a more lush mouth feel.  Consider removing from the heat all together midway in cooking and then return the meat to the high direct heat again to complete the cooking.
  • Always rest the meat after grilling and before cutting and serving.  Meats continue to cook, even once they have been removed from heat.  In fact, once the meat is removed from the heat it may continue to rise in temperature up another 10 percent.  The meat is continuing to cook that entire time, even when removed from the heat source.  This process is known as Endothermic Energy.
  • Choosing the meat is key.  Tenderness and depth of flavor and texture tend to be opposing.  Cuts of meat from the most tender to the most chewy tend to be opposite when it comes to flavor.  Meats of the more developed muscular structure tend to have more chew as well as more depth of flavor.  Therefore meats like flank steak, skirt steak and even front shoulder as opposed to ham quarter are all ranging examples of flavor and texture.  Muscles that participate in functions - such as exercise related to repetitious motion as opposed to load baring exercise - produce meat that is less tender but with more depth of flavor.  Cook these meats hotter and harder.  Rest them for less time and slice thin.  Less active muscles produce more fork tenderness, less chew and more delicate flavors.
  • Live fire is best. Smokey nuances have familiar and delicious effects. The combination of flame and coal bed also enhances the complexity of the eating experience, and building the fire is key to achieve this effect.  For this, a combination of fuels is desirable and Chef Jan likes to use walnut, oak and a bit of mesquite charcoal in combination.


    • The size of the fire and amount of food you have to cook are an important function.  Across the board, however, a mature developed fire beats a quick and immature fire.  Don’t cook on flame, cook on a developed ember bed.
    • Start the fire with paper and walnut, because this type of wood is lighter, less dense and burns easy with more flame and requires less oxygen to produce a vigorous flame.   When this lighter wood has burned by 20- 40%, add a bit of mesquite charcoal.  The walnut fire will facilitate the mesquite catching well.
    • Once the mesquite has begun to establish itself into the fire, add a log or two of a heavier harder wood, such as almond, pecan or oak.  By now the first wood has burned and developed some of an ember bed, and the second woods are progressing.
    • Once the hard wood has begun to become part of the ember bed, you are getting a fire that’s ready to cook on.  This process is likely to take up to an hour.  Keep adding to the fire even after you are done cooking on it as there are always marshmallows to end with!
  • Choose the proper tools. Chef Jan prefers a professional meat fork instead of tongs as it offers more control.  Just use the tip of the fork, no need to over pierce it. Fish spatulas are good for small delicate items like fish and vegetables. The bigger, heavier jobs are best for a steel hamburger spatula (as cooks call them).
  • Final tip. Design the menu so that you can cook everything outside!  Give the kitchen a break today.  Try to make the menu so it allows you to keep the indoor kitchen cleaner and more user friendly.

About EPIC Roasthouse :
EPIC Roasthouse is acclaimed chef Jan Birnbaum's contemporary waterfront roasthouse, featuring his interpretations of traditional steakhouse favorites and more.  The menu features an inventive combination of traditional and contemporary dishes, showcasing everything from fish to fowl, and specializing in a variety of meats and steaks.  Handmade cocktails, domestic and imported beers, and a well-selected wine list complement the menu.  The restaurant features an intimate upstairs bar and lounge with panoramic views of the city, ferry building and bay featuring the full restaurant menu as well as its own separate bar menu.
Please visit for more information.


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