Chef Tim Hollingsworth's barbecue rules: thick steaks, cheap tri-tip

Russ Parsons
The California Cook

Getting ready for summer barbecues? Chef Tim Hollingsworth of Barrel & Ashes has some advice.

Make sure you buy thick cuts. It's better to serve one steak to two people than to try to cook two thin ones.

"The biggest mistake people make is buying too-thin steaks," Hollingsworth says. "If you do that, you can't get a good sear and render the fat without overcooking the center."

Be sure to cook the meat on all sides, not just the two flat ones.

"You want to break down the meat, and you want all the fat to be rendered. When I'm cooking meat, that's what I'm really focused on."

Choose wood carefully. For a solid all-around choice, Hollingsworth likes mesquite, though he prefers red oak for tri-tip because that's the traditional Central Coast choice.

Cook with your senses. Don't try to follow rigid timing. Instead, pay attention to how the meat looks and feels.

"Every time you cook meat it's a little different. It's a feeling you have to develop. You have to pay attention to the meat."

And finally, when it comes to tri-tip, remember that it's a working-class steak. More expensive grades don't pay off.

"I went to one butcher shop and they wanted $15 a pound for their tri-tip," Hollingsworth says, shaking his head. "You know what I did? Seriously, I just said, 'You must be crazy,' and I dropped my basket and walked away."

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