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Firefighters’ Challenge: Who Can Tame Fire to Grill the Best Steak?

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The Walmart Steak-Over Challenge begins at noon Saturday.

The Walmart Steak-Over Challenge begins at noon Saturday.

Grilling meat is second nature to most Texans, but that doesn’t mean everyone knows how to handle charcoal safely. Yet it’s something to bear in mind, especially in drought conditions.

So, who better to ask than a firefighter, one who loves to grill?

Larry Jansky, a firefighter with San Antonio’s Rescue 11, will be demonstrating some of these skills when he heads up a team of men taking part in the Walmart Steak-Over Challenge at noon today in the parking lot of the Walmart at 5555 DeZavala Road.

The first thing visitors will notice, as they approach the cook site with aromas of grilled meat filling the air, is that the grills are situated away from anything else. Jansky recommends at least 10 feet from a building, if possible.

What you might not notice is that plenty of water is available in case an ember from one of the charcoals — and charcoals will be used because the event is co-sponsored by Kingsford Charcoal along with Dr Pepper and A.1. — flies out of the grill. “An ember getting away could cause a grass fire,” he says.

That could prove disastrous if the grill is ever left unattended, Jansky says. An unattended grill could also cause problems if any children are playing in the area.

“Oh, yeah, and don’t barbecue indoors,” he says with a laugh. “That’s another good rule to remember.”

Jansky, 32, has been grilling for about half of his life. It’s one of the reasons his fellow firefighters chose him to lead the Rescue 11 team, which will be competing against Rescue 51 in the Steak-Over. Each team will be preparing about three dozen steaks, using Walmart’s Choice Premium Beef. They will be using their secret seasonings, which, according to the rules, can’t be more than five ingredients.

The winner will face the winners from Steak-Overs in seven other cities, including Jacksonville, Fla., Tampa, Charlotte, N.C., Atlanta, Kansas City, Mo., Houston and Indianapolis. They will go head-to-head in a final competition set for Los Angeles during the week of May 20. A grand prize of $20,000 will presented to overall winner.

Spread the charcoals evenly once they're lit.

Spread the charcoals evenly once they’re lit.

At Rescue 11, the team’s recipe was developed after each of firefighters grilled a steak his way, and they tasted what everyone had to offer. “We took notes on the favorites,” he says, “and then turned that into the recipe.”

When it comes to the grilling, Jansky likes to build his charcoal fire in the traditional pyramid before spreading the coals out evenly beneath the grill so that it gets good and hot. Then he likes to cut an onion in half and rub the cut side over the grill, which “seasons the grill,” he says. You can then grill the onion or toss it in with the coals to add to the aromatics.

Once the grill is sizzling hot, he likes to cook each side for about 5 or 6 minutes, if the cut is thick, to get the steak to his desired medium.

Jansky’s gotten plenty of practice grilling for the men at the firehouse, which is on South Frio. Grilling is usually the Sunday fare, while rest of the week is made up of themes such as Wicked Pasta Wednesdays and Street Taco Saturdays.

“A lot I learned from trial and error,” he says of his grilling skills. “I also learned a lot in the fire department. These guys are blunt. They’re very honest about what they want to eat.”

 

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