A method tried by many around the world, Clinching has been done by chefs from Ted Reader to Julia Child and even President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Sometimes called “Dirty Grilling,” Clinching is the process of cooking meat directly on a hot bed of charcoal. Although this method dates back to prehistoric times, the modern term “Clinching” is derived from a boxing term – a defensive move that will prevent the opponent from punching.
Guaranteed to spark up conversation, this method of cooking is often met with “ooohhh,” and “aahh,” reactions. However, most are surprised to find that this technique creates a unique taste of beautifully charred, and smoky, but tender meat that can only be achieved by direct grilling on hot coals.
How to Prepare
If you are a frequent griller, you may already know a lot about regular charcoal grilling. But there are 3 key rules that need t be followed for successful Clinching:
You need a Charcoal grill or smoker
You will need natural, un-soaked lump charcoal, which is made from big chunks of hardwood. This burns very clean, and has less ash flyaway than briquettes.
Do not use lighter fluid, presoaked charcoal briquettes or lumps.
Start by lighting your charcoal as you normally would. For detailed instruction on how to use and light a Chimney starter, click here.
When your charcoal is ready to go, blow out any excess ash with a fan or blow-dryer (yes, the one you use for hair!) This will also keep your coals hot and going strong. Be careful and make sure that there is no one in the direction you are blowing, that there is nothing flammable in the direction you are blowing the ash, and please try to blow with the direction of the wind to avoid blowback.
Let’s Get Clinching!
Season your meat as you normally would, and add a thin layer of olive oil onto both sides. The most common and by far the most famous type of meat for clinch grilling is any thick-cut steak or cut of beef. This includes Filet Mignon, Strip Loin, Porterhouse or T-bone, Ribeye and Sirloin. When grilling Fish, Salmon is also a popular choice.
Clinching is a fast process, and requires only 2 to 5 minutes to achieve the maximum flavour and temperature of your meat. This is due to the close proximity of the meat to the coals. Believe it or not, it actually provides a more even cooking temperature to clinch your meat, than to grill it 5 or 6 inches above heat because of the smoke and constant air flow between the embers. Also, there is no grate to hold in heat and add to the temperature.
Remove your meat, lightly brush off any ash (it won’t hurt !) and let it rest for a few minutes. This wil help the meat rest and absorb all the yummy juices. Serve and enjoy the smokey goodness!
Tip: For really picky eaters, you can place a grate directly on the coals to avoid ash contact.
This article inspired by Chef Adam Perry Lang from his best selling cookbook “Charred & Scruffed”, which is where I first heard about this interesting technique. For a full recipe with photos, check out the Sultana of Sizzle's recipe for Steak on Hot Coals over on the Recipe Blog