Mike Rowe is a hands-on kind of guy. He didn’t sit back when given the chance to assist a turkey inseminator, and he hardly batted an eyelash before stepping in as midwife on a dairy cow farm in Indiana. In fact, for eight years, this Dirty Jobshost has tried his hand at more than 300 manual labor jobs across all 50 states. This fall, he plans to dig even deeper into people’s obscure professions and hobbies with his new series called Somebody’s Gotta Do It premiering this September on CNN.
Rowe has made a career out of a willingness to try just about everything—except when it comes to grilling. Why? It’s a heck of a job. Allow Rowe to explain.
Guy Gourmet (GG): What’s your first grilling memory?
Mike Rowe (MR): When I was a kid, my mother convinced my father to build her a new kitchen. He agreed, and started the renovation by driving a bulldozer through the old one. The remodel went on all summer, and we grilled out most every night. It was The Summer of the Perpetual Picnic.
GG: How often do you grill at home?
MR: Once a month, but it’s risky. Home is an apartment in San Francisco: Land of Rules and Regulations. I have a forgettable grill in a storage closet up on the roof that I’m not supposed to use. If I’m caught, I face big fines and public shaming.
GG: A “forgettable” grill?
MR: You know, the kind we all grew up with. With plastic wheels on the back and red paint on the dome. I bought it for thirty bucks at a Walmart. My friends laugh at me. They all have those green ceramic things. My buddy in Oakland has something called The Kamado. I think it cost him four grand. It sits on his patio like a hot-water heater. He’s very proud of it.
GG: Do you have grill envy?
MR: It’s possible. But the truth is, I can’t taste the difference. The Kamado is faster, and The Big Green Egg is greener, but the same steak off my piece-of-crap-grill looks and tastes identical. To me, anyway. I’m pretty sure it’s not about the grill. I think it’s about buying good meat and cooking it right. You don’t need state of the art tools to cook a great steak. You just need a great cow and a heat source and some common sense. Manage the flame. Drink the beer. Rest the meat. Drink the beer. Eat the meat. Drink the beer. Repeat as necessary.
GG: Do you think grilling is becoming a lost art?
MR: Grilling is an activity, not an art. You can approach any activity with an artistic sensibility, but in the end, we’re talking about the business of chewing and swallowing things. No matter how enjoyable we make it, or how good we get at doing it, cooking is too fundamental and too important a thing to be confused with art. Of course, I’m grateful for the passion that drives diehard grillers, and committed to surrounding myself with people who like to feed me.
GG: What tools are always in your grilling arsenal?
MR: I have one of those long forks. It hangs from a piece of twine from the side of my forgettable grill.
GG: Ever grilled with any of the people you’ve met on the show?
MR: Too many to list. My favorite, though, were some oyster fishermen in South Carolina on Shem Creek. At the end of the day, we found ourselves with a bushel of the biggest and sweetest oysters I’ve ever tasted. I would have happily eaten them raw, but one of the locals showed me the error of my thinking. He built a fire in an open pit, and put a steel plate over the flame. The oysters were then dumped onto the steel, and a sheet of beer-soaked burlap was draped over the oysters. Twenty minutes later, we dug into something partly steamed, partly simmered, partly grilled, and totally delicious. Four of us ate the entire bushel, and the consequences of that are another story