Charcoal’s all well and good, but imagine if, the next time you had your mates round for a barbecue, they sizzled their own steaks on lava quarried from the foothills of Mount Vesuvius.
As well as being a showstopper of a talking point, cooking food on hot stones – or in this case lava – seals in the nutrients and flavours and means you can cut and cook every mouthful exactly as you want it.
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‘I got shouted at by an angry French chef for ordering my steak how I wanted it and not how he dictated’, recalls Nick Metcalf, managing director at SteakStones. ‘I figured there must be a way to cook your food how you like it, live at the table, and to eat it piping hot.’
And indeed there is: Nick discovered that the solution was to cook on lava.
When heated to 280-350°C, in an oven or on the hob, a lava ‘stone’ will retain a sizzling heat for 20-30 minutes. You can cook your own steak, scallops, sausages, spring onions or just about anything else on your own personal sizzler – on the table, right in front of you – to your own taste and without the drawbacks of cooking on a traditional barbecue.
The most common problem with barbecuing is that the outside of the food can burn before the inside has had chance to cook. Cooking on lava transfers the heat without the flames; your food’s cooked right through and you don’t risk mistakenly believing it’s ready just because the outside’s browned.
While you have to wait for the flames to die down before you can cook on a charcoal or wood barbecue, the lava stone in the SteakStones Kamado Smoker & Grill, which has cooking times similar to those of a conventional grill, allows you to start cooking as soon as the fire is lit.
‘You still get a beautiful sear and the tasty caramelisation on the outside of your steak, sausages or vegetables, but none of the unpleasant charring’, Nick explains. ‘Of course if you want a little flame there is still room around the outside of the stone to add this.’
The dry, searing heat seals in the natural flavours and juices of your food so you don’t need to use extra oils and fats. ‘Rather than losing all the goodness into the fire’, Nick explains, ‘all the flavours, tenderness and moisture are seared inside the meat, fish or vegetables – without anything getting overcooked.’
The Hot Stone Cooking Association (HSCA) advises that volcanic rock is the only natural stone that can withstand direct and sufficient heat to provide a ‘pleasant cooking experience’.
Following a volcanic eruption, molten lava cools extremely quickly and forms an incredibly tight bond that makes it very resilient. ‘Our lava is the only stone that can be heated directly on a flame without any risk of cracking’, Nick said.
The compact stones are set in a bamboo board as a personal platter or a sharing plate that can be used in homes, gardens or restaurants. The stones are simply lifted out and heated to the required temperature before being reset when they’re ready. Alternatively the stones can be frozen and used to serve chilled fruit platters or ice cream.
The lava used in SteakStones products comes from the foothills of Mount Vesuvius in Italy, and the company plants olive trees for every cubic metre of molten rock used.
‘Essentially, our product is given to us by the very Earth we live on in one of its most spectacular displays of volcanic eruption’, Nick told PQ. ‘We make sure we don’t just take but that we also give back.’
Click here to see the full range of SteakStones products and recipe ideas that will help you make the most of them.
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