This weekend, you should do the American thing, and cook up a million pounds of meat to send Summer off in a charcoal-y blaze of glory. Or actually, a gas-powered one. Yep. We sat down with meat kings Pat LaFrieda Sr. and Jr., plus company president Mark Pastore -- who collectively provide the beef for basically every burger that matters in NYC -- and they told us something bordering on what many would call sacrilege: forget the charcoal, and go with gas. Alright guys, let’s start with the big question: Gas or charcoal? Pat LaFrieda Jr.: I prefer gas. Pat LaFrieda Sr.: Gas! Really? Pat Jr.: I know I’ll come under scrutiny from some “foodies” who love charcoal, but for me, gas is the way to go. And why is that? Pat Jr.: When I’m grilling, we don’t have all that time to mess around with the charcoal, we want to get right to the point and get cooking. Mark Pastore: Gas is neater, cleaner, and tastes better, with no lighter fluid or charcoal taste. Charcoal is great for the beach, not the backyard. Pat Sr.: Charcoal puts a different taste on the meat, and it’s apparently unhealthy, too! It’s such a mess. You get it all over your hands, your clothes, and anything else you touch. So what’s your gas grilling technique look like? Pat Jr: Well, the gas grills that we use always have heat stones, or lava rocks, that heat up so that there is a buffer between the gas flame and the meat without the mess.
And how do you set up lava stones?
Pat Jr: The hardest part is really just going out and getting some lava stones, but once you have them, it’s not really a complicated process of setting them up on the grill. I make sure that I evenly distribute the lava stones under the cooking grate. This way I can grill as much meat as possible, and it will take relatively the same amount of time. Once they are evenly distributed, I begin to heat the stones until they are at a searing temperature, then I turn off the gas and begin the fun part: grilling with family and friends!
Why use lava stones?
Pat Jr: Lava stones lie under the cooking grate, above the gas heat, and they act as a buffer between the two. The benefit is that they heat up quickly and disperse the heat to the inside of your gas grill, which allows the food to cook more evenly. Using lava rocks allows you to enjoy the convenience of gas without the loss of flavor.
Any other reasons you consider yourselves gas men?
Pat Jr: It’s so much easier. Why lump all that charcoal into one spot and then have to wait for it to heat up? Gas is at the flip of a switch, and the heat is evenly distributed throughout your cuts of meat.
Pat Sr: Also, after you enjoy your meal, you gotta go back to that mess and you gotta throw everything out! And not only throw it out, you gotta make sure there are no embers burning, so you don’t start any fires.
Mark Pastore: In reality, I’d rather just have Junior or Senior grill for me, so I can just relax.