My husband Keil is a grilling novice and salt block newb. He’s also the most handsome man on the planet, isn’t afraid to try new things, and when given the opportunity to cut his teeth on Man Crates’ Everest Grill Crate, replied with a hearty “HELL, YEAH.”
We live in a killer apartment complex in downtown Long Beach and decided to try out his salt block grilling prowess on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
Crate, grilling grub, stereo and beer in hand, we pretty much ran down three flights of stairs, across the street, and up to our communal grill to try this sucker out.
Now when you’re about to embark on a first-time journey, one might (wrongly) assume that you’d read the literature that instructs you on how to nail this particular leg of life. This is clearly not how man world works and anyone who says differently has never watched her husband tear into a wooden crate with a crowbar.
In his defense, he did watch some YouTube videos for pointers and did learn a thing or two beforehand. Regardless, instructions are rules disguised as help and no man of mine’s got time for that.
The unboxing of the Everest Grill Crate itself was like watching a rugged man-rainbow of glory form within the smile of a newborn babe—a true site to behold.
- Himalayan Salt Plate (8″ x 8″ x 1.5″)
- 70 Recipe Salt Block Cookbook (Softcover)
- Circle Kabobs
- 4 Mini-Thermometers
- Salt Block Scrubber Brush
- Black Grilling Glove
- Foldable Spatula
- Salt Block Holder
Not a single piece of this salt grilling puzzle was a disappointment and every piece came in handy. I suspect we’ll try out the kabobs and recipe book on our next adventure, but let me just state for the record how personally relieved I was to see a glove that went halfway up his arm.
It ended up getting a little crispy. He did not. Thanks Man Crates!
The spatula that flips open like a switchblade is a nice touch too. Men take note, it’s the nicest switchblade-esque spatula you will ever own.
It turns out that the salt block star of the show is not just for turning into lamps to “purify the air.” Oh, no. This hunk of mineral magic adds depth of flavor to any food it touches—get this—whether cooked or chilled.
Even though Keil didn’t open the cookbook, I did and there are instructions in there for presenting cold food like cheese plates, sushi, caramelized apples and sorbet.
FREAKING SORBET, PEOPLE.
Our menu included steak, peppers, FRESH WILD BOAR SAUSAGE (no big deal), and a whole lot of gumption.
When I asked Keil how he was feeling, he said, “This is fun! I really like trying new and unusual culinary things!”
Good—because your vocabulary is about to morph from G to PG-13 in t-minus 10 minutes.
Beautiful, right? So far everything looks like a home run.
“I was not expecting all that fat to drain off. What a weird thing!” Then, upon closer inspection, “Aw, YEAH.”
Two minutes later, “This is not going well. It’s not hot enough!”
And then with a chuckle, “I wonder how soon you’ll figure out that I’m just a fraud at barbecuing. I actually don’t know what I’m doing.”
Expect to run the gamut of emotions with the Everest Grill Crate (and first-time grilling in general), everyone.
Also, to minimize your newbness, let your salt block heat up for 15 minutes on low heat and then another 15 on medium—at least.
The instructions that no one read say:
“To cook on your salt block, heat it very gradually (taking from 30 to 60 minutes, depending on heating method) to arrive at the block’s optimal cooking temperature of between 300°F and 400°F.
Once the block comes to temperature, you may either continue to cook over the heat or carefully remove the block to a heat-resistant surface and cook off the retained heat.
The salt block will maintain its temperature for quite some time, but please keep in mind that if you are cooking multiple batches, foods will acquire saltier flavor as the block cooks.”
Hopefully, since you’re reading a snappy blog post about a handsome husband’s first-time salt block grilling experience, this extraordinarily helpful information will find you well.
Now back to the rapidly shifting language:
Reaches for the glove.
“Dammit! My wood chips are on fire! If they just burn there’s no smoke to be had! Tough balance.”
Blows on the grill.
Remains wildly handsome while his doting wife records his every move for the entire internet.
The good news is that the wild boar sausage made for a solid pregame snack while he continued to navigate the ancient wiles of the salt block.
When we got back up to our apartment to feast, I asked him about his experience.
“If I knew how to cook a steak properly, it’d be great!”
Then, upon tasting, “Whoa! It’s really salty! Not bad. I’m disappointed that they didn’t sear, but I’m happy that they’re not dry in the middle. They’re still a little pink. Really, the test is in the flavor because the (salt block’s) supposed to instill flavor in them.”
“I wasn’t nervous at all. I was feeling really good right before I threw the steaks on because I thought it was hot enough. Clearly it was hot enough, but I was expecting it to be more sear-y.
It just sort of bubbled very slowly on the bottom. It wasn’t like ‘SZZZZ!’ so because I’m a novice at cooking on salt blocks, that could actually be standard procedure and I’m not aware of it. It cooked thoroughly, so there’s that to say about it.
I’ve never cooked a steak on a grill, period. This was my first time trying to do a steak, and I realize a lot of people like their steaks medium rare. Cooking a steak is elegant. It’s masterful, and I didn’t know what I was doing.
The steak was thin, so I wasn’t sure when I stuck the thermometer in. It went past rare to medium, then right to well, so I don’t know if it was an accurate gage because it’s a thin steak—if it was poking through to the salt or what.
I’ve never used a thermometer before. I’ve always gauged my food being done based on how juicy it is. It’s a well-cooked steak! I just like my steak rare.
Thankfully, we do have a little bit of smoke flavor to it. So overall, not a terrible experience!”
I’m constantly impressed with his assessments of any new situation, so when I asked him what his takeaways were from grilling with the Everest Grill Crate, what he’d tell someone else if they were salt block grilling for the first time and what he’d do differently next time, his insights were spot on:
“This is an obvious thing, but because you’re cooking on salt, you don’t need to season it. You shouldn’t season it.
I would let the salt get a little hotter and keep (the steak) on the salt block for less time because it just ended up overcooked. It basically felt to me like I might as well have baked it in the oven, but you don’t do that with steak.
The videos that I watched suggested taking some water and flicking it on the salt block. It should have been hotter so the water sizzled immediately. Searing something is like putting it in a sauté pan. If your sauté pan’s only on medium, you’ll put (your food) in there and it’ll only sizzle a little bit. But if it’s on hot, it’ll ‘SZZZZZ!!’
If you’re grilling, you’re meaning to sear it (and give it) a little bit of a crunchy coating, and because you leave it on the flame for just a short period of time, the inside doesn’t have a chance to cook. It’s still rare.
So when I put it on the block, it wasn’t searing. It bubbled as if I had it in the oven. That’s when I was like, ‘It’s not hot enough. It’s probably not cooking the way it should.’ So I left it on a little longer, then flipped it, left it on a little longer, and it ended up cooking all the way through. But it’s also a thinner steak.
I have to say, it was delicious, and I almost feel like there’s really no way to make something you’re cooking on a salt block turn out bad because the one problem a lot of people have is that they’ll burn their food.
Some people with think, ‘Oh it’s a barbecue. It’s a low heat, slow-cooking thing,’ so they chuck a lid on it and go off to do their own thing. Then, they’ll run out of the house because they see the flames coming out, and are like, ‘Oh sh*t!’
You’ve charred your food.
It’s almost like you can’t do that with the salt block because it’s not directly on the heat.”
“I’ve never used a gas grill either. So a lot of first times.
It turned out fine. It’s just that because of my inexperience, I could not have cooked it to order. But you have the advantage of the fat dripping over the sides of the salt and not actually dripping into the heat causing the flare-ups or charring your meat.
So I feel like there’s almost no wrong way to cook it. My inexperience led me to not know how soon it needed to be pulled off for rare, medium or well-done, but I feel like there’s no way to go wrong.
It’ll still turn out to be a delicious, flavorful piece of meat.”
If you’re looking for a killer dude gift (and a one-of-a-kind bonding experience), grilling with the salt of the earth is about as dudely as it gets.
Everest Grill Crate, it’s been real. We’ll be back for steak and sorbet.