After somehow hearing of my bison woes (https://timemachinetastetester.wordpress.com/2012/09/10/meat-millionaire-the-27-grocery-store-single-steak/), Executive Chef Chris Raucci from Ted’s Montana Grill sent me an email offering to help. Chris is a super nice guy and in charge of what gets put on plate at the 40+ locations of Ted’s Montana Grill (http://tedsmontanagrill.com/) nationwide.
As you may know, Ted’s Montana Grill features the largest bison menu in the world and has helped make bison a more popular dining choice. So, yeah, Chris knows a thing or two about how to rock some bison in the kitchen.
I asked him to show me the ropes and he generously agreed. Of course, I’m not quite sure he wouldn’t have liked to take back that offer when we started our lesson and he said “pretty much keep in mind that you prepare it like beef, but since it has a lower fat content you’ll cook for less time” and I said, “let’s start at square one because I’m not sure I know how to cook beef correctly either.” Uh oh (for him).
Bison comes in many of the same cuts as other proteins you are familiar with: strip steaks (preferred by the fellas), rib eyes (both genders enjoy) and filets (ladies love – including this one). Bison short ribs are popular, as is ground bison (which is used just like ground beef, except be careful not to overcook it!). I usually order bison pot roast when I dine at Ted’s – you get it… I don’t need to Bubba Gump you on all the ways you can use it.
I asked Chef Chris if he ever made Bison sausage because I had seen a demo by Miss Chicken Sausage herself, Delia Champion (http://www.thesausagestand.com/), the night before he reported that it was not so great. He had tried making it and while it was extremely tasty, but because you need to cook it to a medium level, it threw people off who thought it was too loose compared to other sausages they were familiar with.
Biggest take aways from our time in the kitchen for me were:
- Start with a medium/high hot heat grill (or pan on your stove).
- Put olive oil in RIGHT before adding the meat to the pan (burger or steak).
- Season the meat JUST before adding to the pan (yea! Chris gave me a little of his seasoned salt blend to take home!). If you’re making a burger, don’t overwork the meat. You can touch/twist it three times only – don’t slap it around.
- You want to get a nice SEAR on the meat and then leave it alone to cook. Chris encourages home chefs to not cook with tongs because they encourage you to play with the meat and turn it more often than you should.
- For the level of doneness I prefer (medium well), it should be about 4 – 6 minutes per side.
- Optional: top with a lemon compound butter when you take it off the grill.
Also, I know a lot about how great a restaurant Ted’s Montana Grill is – but spending time with Chris checking out the kitchen and how they prepare their food, I have to encourage you to try it if you’ve never been. Their burgers are all 8 ounces (ask around, that’s BIG), they are hand portioned to order and very fresh. Steaks are hand cut in the back for each meal period. Fries are hand cut to order. There are no freezers and nearly everything is made in the restaurant (including the salad dressing!). If you don’t have a restaurant career background, you might not fully appreciate how different this is from your average restaurant – but it’s a big deal.
Also, on a closing note – I asked Chef Chris was his favorite thing to make at home was (always looking for ideas from the best of the best….) and he loves to cook food that takes a long time like smoked barbeque meats, but also shared he loves fried salami on a cream cheese bagel (YUM!!! Stealing this).
Hubster took this bison inspiration and made some tasty bison chili this week. His secret ingredient? A can of beer! I’m excited that we’re exploring bison more at home.
I feel so lucky that I was able to learn from the bison expert. I’m feeling more confident cooking it in the kitchen and look forward to making more! With that said, my family headed to Ted’s Montana Grill this weekend to enjoy someone else cooking it. Here’s a pic of baby boy looking adorable right before a melt down.