When you’re learning any skill, you can shave years off of your trial and error by learning from a master. BBQ is no different. Ask almost anyone who runs a pit either competitively or professionally in a restaurant and they’ll tell you about their mentor. Of course, not all of us can work with BBQ legends but doesn’t mean we can’t learn from them. One such legend, of course, is Tuffy Stone, and today we’re pulling our recipe from his new cookbook, Cool Smoke: The Art of Great Barbecue: a Salisbury steak served with a rich, savory brown gravy with shiitake mushrooms.
What is Salisbury steak?
In the late 1800s, a physician named James Henry Salisbury became convinced that a diet rich in vegetables and other “fermentable” foods was responsible for almost every disease possible, including “softening of the brain and most cases of insanity.” He believed that men and women had strayed in their modern food habits and that, “They become diseased by our departures from the ‘strait and narrow path’ in which we should travel gastronomically.” His view, of course, has echoes in today’s food fads, but his view was rather more extreme than the faddists. His solution to the evils of faulty digestion was to eat large quantities of broiled chopped steaks. And while his science has long been debunked, his recipe lives on, and rightfully so.
The steak, as he originally intended it, was made of lean beef, preferably from the Round, chopped and mixed just enough to hold its shape. It was to be broiled, then seasoned to taste with butter, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce, mustard or horseradish.
Today, the Salisbury steak is almost always served with brown gravy, and even more so with mushroom gravy. As we’re no longer eating it to rid ourselves of fermentables, the ground beef is also often bound together with bread crumbs, much like a meatloaf. It is a dish that is comforting, easy, and relatively inexpensive, making it a classic in the American culinary canon. The recipe that Tuffy Stone gives has great echoes of the original, though it is much, much improved.
In his recipe, Stone binds the meat with egg and breadcrumbs, but seasons it well with steak seasoning and adds even more savory flavor by the addition of finely diced onion that is cooked until soft before being added to the mix. He uses Worcestershire in both the gravy and the steaks, thereby improving the rich meatiness of the dish and also giving a shout-out to Salisbury’s original preparation.
Because Salisbury steak is made of ground beef and eggs, it is important to cook the dish thoroughly, and because it is cooked on the grill there are additional considerations to make.
To eliminate the danger of E. coli bacteria, ground beef needs to reach an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C). To achieve a juicy product, we’ll pull the beef before it reaches that temperature, allowing it to rest, covered, to carryover-cook. By using the Thermapen Mk4 we can get an accurate and fast reading of the steak’s temperature while it grills.
When grilling a thick-ish piece of meat like this—one that we need to cook fully, not serve medium-rare—over direct heat, we can’t have the grill running rocket-hot. These steaks need to be cooked over a medium to medium-high heat in order to give the beef inside time to cook without burning the outside. And to provide for even charring of the grill lines, we’ll rotate the steaks halfway through the cooking on their first side.
The resulting chopped steak will be deliciously flavored by the grill and fully cooked for safety.
Grilled Salisbury Steak Recipe With Shiitake Mushroom Gravy
Based on the recipe in Tuffy Stone’s book, Cool Smoke: The Art of Great Barbecue
For the steaks
- 2 Tbsp steak rub (Montreal seasoning, for example)
- 1 Tbsp canola oil
- 1 C finely diced yellow onion
- 2 eggs
- 2 lb 80/20 ground beef
- ¼ C Worcestershire sauce
- ½ C ketchup
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp mustard powder
- ¼ C fine bread crumbs (plus maybe more if needed)
For the gravy
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 2 Tbsp canola oil
- 4 C thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms (stems discarded)
- ¼ C finely diced shallots
- 1 Tbsp minced garlic
- 2 ½ tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 5 Tbsp butter
- ¼ C AP flour
- 2 ½ C warm beef stock
- 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 Tbsp ketchup
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Make the patties
- Sauté the onions in the oil in a heavy-bottom pan over medium-low heat. Cook until they are softened, about 5 minutes. Set them aside to cool slightly.
- In a large bowl, combine the beef, onion, eggs, Worcestershire, ketchup, steak rub, salt, mustard powder and bread crumbs—everything but the gravy ingredients!—and mix very well. If you find your mixture is loose or feels too wet, add more breadcrumbs. You should be able to form a patty that really holds its shape well. We used a total of ½ cup.
- Cook a tablespoonful size piece of the mixture to taste for seasoning. Adjust accordingly.
- Divide the mixture into even sixths and form each portion into oblong patties, about 1/2-3/4” thick.
- Set aside and keep cool.
Make the gravy
- Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté until the mushrooms become golden brown, about 7-8 minutes.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and add the shallots.
- Cook until the shallots soften, about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook for one more minute. Stir in the salt, pepper, and chili powder.
- Add the butter to the pan and cook, stirring, until the foam dies down.
- Add the flour and stir it in to make a mushroomy, season-y roux. Cook on low heat for 5 minutes. (This will seem dry and obnoxious. Persevere. )
- Add the warm beef stock, whisking as you do so to create a smooth liquid. Well, smooth except for the mushrooms.
- Once the stock is incorporated, add the Worcestershire sauce and ketchup. Stir to combine.
- Increase the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes, or until the gravy is thick and bubbly. Check the seasoning and adjust.
- Stir in the minced parsley, cover, and set the gravy aside until ready to serve.
Cook the steaks
- While the gravy is thickening, preheat your grill to a medium-high temperature. You don’t want blazing heat, but you don’t want low and slow.
- Place the steaks over direct heat and cook them, with the grill lid closed, for 4 minutes. Use a TimeStick® to monitor the time.
- Rotate each steak 90° and continue to cook for another 4 minutes.
- Flip the patties and cook until the internal temperature of their thickest part reads 150°F on a Thermapen Mk4, about 5 more minutes.
- Remove the steaks to a pan or dish and allow to rest, covered, for 5 minutes.
- Check the consistency of the gravy, warming and thinning it if necessary.
- Serve the steaks with the warm gravy ladled over the top. A crisp, vinegary vegetable like a cucumber salad goes well with this dish to help cut the richness.
In the BBQ world, Tuffy Stone has made a name for himself with innovative flavors and non-standard dishes. This delicious recipe is one example of how he has achieved that reputation. But no matter the unorthodox recipes you use or the cool flavors you combine, there’s no substitute for cooking your food properly, and the TimeStick and Thermapen Mk4 deliver the control and accuracy you need to finish your food perfectly.
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