Grilling in the Snow

Grill master Steven Raichlen left behind sunny Miami on Saturday for cold, windy, snowy State College. But he made the trip for a very worthy cause. The star of PBS’s Primal Grill and Barbecue University hosted WPSU’s 19th annual Connoisseur’s Dinner and Auction.

Raichlen brought his knowledge of the world’s barbecue trail – from whole roasted lamb in Argentina to kangaroo kebabs in Australia – to central Pennsylvania. And before the main event that night, he cooked for a live audience at WPSU studios. Nick and I were honored to attend as guests.

Raichlen moved between the studio’s kitchen set equipped with electric griddles to the sidewalk outside where he had set up two charcoal grills. With help from my colleagues and several volunteers, he demonstrated five courses and served samples of each.

We started with a South African grilled cheese sandwich that included aged cheddar, mango chutney, onions, and tomatoes. It was sweet and pungent and tasted faintly of the charcoal over which it was cooked.

Next up was a shrimp kebab simply spritzed with extra-virgin olive oil and dry Spanish white wine and finished with sea salt. Alongside the shrimp, Raichlen served Cambodian corn (off the cob) sautéed in a sauce of coconut milk, palm sugar, and pandanus leaf. (You could also substitute heavy cream, brown sugar, and bay leaves.)

Then came the moment we were all waiting for: the caveman T-bone steak. Raichlen took three 2-inch cuts of meat and seasoned them liberally with coarse salt and black pepper. Then he carried them outside and threw them directly onto the hot charcoals. No grate needed.

They cooked to medium-rare quite fast, then he brushed off the ash from both sides of the meat before parading it back inside. The smell was intoxicating – if you’re into rustic meat cooked over a fire, which I am. On top, he added a hefty scoop of sauce made from garlic, jalapenos, and cilantro.

The meat was tender on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside with an undeniable smoky flavor, and the sauce added the perfect layer of heat.

Since we had all already been served our pre-prepared plates of meat, the three T-bones posed pretty for the camera. Until someone said, “Steven, you should auction them off!” Brilliant idea!

Each steak went for over $100, with all proceeds benefiting WPSU, of course. I’m not sure if any of the cuts of meat made it past the studio doors, though. I know that at least one was devoured in true caveman fashion – no utensils necessary.

Finally, Raichlen grilled a whole pineapple coated in cinnamon, sugar, and clove. The Brazilian dessert was served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and was the perfect, sweet ending to a delightful morning.

Before guests left, they lined up to buy copies of Raichlen’s latest book, Planet Barbecue, and have them signed by the grill master himself. We brought our own book from home – Beer-Can Chicken – another worthwhile purchase from Raichlen’s collection.

Later that day, Raichlen prepared another feast for locals. It included Singaporean beef sates with peanut sauce, American planked salmon with juniper berries, Uruguayan filets mignon wrapped in bacon with a Scotch whiskey mushroom sauce, and Catalan crème brûlée. Sadly, we did not attend the dinner (we hosted our own dinner party instead), but I heard it was a huge success.

Thank you to Steven Raichlen for spending the weekend with us. And a big thank you to the supporters who helped to raise over $50,000 for WPSU! The biggest auction item – the tie JoePa wore for his 400th win – brought in $10,000 alone.

Please consider making a donation to your own public broadcasting station because your support is more important now than ever. (Learn more at I would thank you all with a caveman T-bone steak, if I could!

(All photos provided by Greg Petersen.)

8 thoughts on “Grilling in the Snow

  1. This event looked fantastic. Lucky you. I love Raichlen’s cookbooks .. .. .and after this winter of continual snow I am so in the mood for grilling!

  2. True German style, and let’s be honest the one and only way to do it anyways, I am strongly hoping that you own a charcoal grill on your own, so you can try some of the recipes you heard about…

  3. He really is the master of the grill. It is from his books that I not only learned how to make perfect grilled ribs, but also tons of other little tricks that make it possible to have entire meals come off one grill at the same time. It’s awesome you got a chance to meet him!

  4. Hey there!

    I just came across your blog and I am so happy I did! I am a PSU Hospitality Management senior and am currently planning my July wedding. I’m looking back through your wedding photos and projects and am finding we have very similar style! I’m going the retro-DIY route, obsessed with the color red, and am quickly trying to transform from my cooking from quick and easy college student meals to newlywed wife real food.

    My fiance and I were at Harrison’s at the Hilton Garden Inn for our anniversary right around the time this event happened, and were sitting at a table just a few feet away from Steven Raichlen. Crazy!

    Anyway, I just wanted to say hi. Love the blog, love the photos, and love the food. Best of luck to you both!


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