Your Steak Would Taste Better if Grilled With Molten Lava

Slate’s design blog.
Aug. 1 2014 9:02 AM

Forget Charcoal Versus Gas. The Best Way to Grill a Steak Is With Molten Lava.

140731_EYE_03
Grilling steak with 2,100 F lava.

Courtesy of Sam Bompas

British designer duo Bompas & Parr, who designed the world’s first edible fireworks and are best known for their ambitious and sometimes monumental jelly-based sculptures, traveled to Syracuse, New York, this summer to try out their idea for the world’s most extreme barbecue session—grilling meat over 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit lava.

Sam Bompas said he first experienced cooking with lava on a visit to Sakurajima, an active composite volcano (stratovolcano) in Japan. “After climbing across the safety barriers, I was able to use lava to cook lunch,” he said. “This gave me goosebumps. The intensity of the experience meant that on returning to the U.K., I immediately sat down with Harry Parr to plot. We wanted to see if there was a way to create synthetic lava so a wider audience could experience the wonders of food cooked this way.”

140731_EYE_02
The lava barbecue included a side dish of corn on the cob.

Courtesy of Sam Bompas

The key to making that wish come true was Professor Robert Wysocki of Syracuse University’s Lava Project. Wysocki creates artificial volcanoes and bubbling streams of man-made lava by melting 1.1-billion-year-old basaltic rock in a rigged industrial bronze furnace. Wysocki and his team have conducted some 100 lava pours so far for the sake of science or art, but never in the pursuit of grilling a 10-ounce rib-eye steak.

Advertisement

So how did it taste?

Bompas told me in an email that it was “the best I've ever had. It might be [something] to do with the theatre of molten rock harnessed for cookery!” He added: “The intense heat meant that the exterior was sealed in seconds. There was an excellent char, but the inside was done medium-rare in about a minute alone. We feasted like ogres!

140731_EYE_06
Lava oozing into a bed of dry ice.

Courtesy of Sam Bompas

“We've found ourselves in every conceivable gustatory situation, cooking with lightning, building gin and tonic clouds you could step inside, and even flooding the roof of Selfridges to make a boating lake with float-up bar. This was by far the greatest culinary adventure so far!” Bompas said.

Cooking with lava is not for amateurs, obviously, and requires custom-made protective clothing that includes leather gauntlets, jerkins, and aprons. “The smell of burning leather provides an unparalleled early warning system,” Bompas explained. “When the leather starts to smell like burnt pork, it’s time to step away from the grill.”

140731_EYE_12
Lava-charred rib-eye steak.

Courtesy of Sam Bompas

Excited by the lava barbecue's success, Bompas & Parr are teaming up with Wysocki to offer bespoke lava banquets for ambitious party hosts in which they will ship a giant furnace to the site of the party so the rock can heat up for 70 hours and create a multisensory, lava-themed extravaganza that they say will be a “cross between a BBQ, art installation, concert, interactive theatre and the best party of your life.”  

140731_EYE_08
Man-made lava.

Courtesy of Sam Bompas

Check out this video to see the extreme grilling session in action:

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

Why Do Some People See the Virgin Mary in Grilled Cheese?

The science that explains the human need to find meaning in coincidences.

Jurisprudence

Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

What to Do if You Literally Get a Bug in Your Ear

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 17 2014 7:30 AM Ring Around the Rainbow
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.