A perfectly cooked steak may be one of the most perfect foods. However, like all proteins, if it is not cooked right, the magic is lost. Everyone has a preference when it comes to how well done a steak should be. Most professional cooks will tell you it’s a crime to cook it any more than a perfectly pink medium-rare. Whether or not you agree, there are some tips to follow to ensure the most flavor and the best results every time.
Choose your cut. Fat equals flavor. The more marbleized your steak is, the better it will taste. A bone-in cut helps keep the moisture. The steak should also be between 1 and 1½ inches thick. Choose a steak like a bone-in rib eye. It’s a tender bone-in cut with plenty of marbling, so it’s full of meaty, juicy flavor. The New York strip steak is also good for the grill. It’s slightly leaner and a little firmer, but still well marbled, with excellent flavor.
The secret. If you take away only one thing from this lesson in cooking steak, let it be this: Temper your meat! Let your steak come out of the refrigerator and come to room temperature before you cook it, about 45 minutes. When meat is cold, the proteins tighten up and your steak will not cook evenly. A tempered piece of meat will marry with the heat to produce a perfectly seared, delicious steak. Pat it dry as well, because the moisture will prevent the steak from achieving that beautiful charred crust. You can also season the meat when you take it out of the fridge to draw out more moisture, intensify the meaty flavor, and achieve a better crust.
Season it right. A good steak is great on its own just seasoned with a good amount of salt and pepper. To enhance the flavor you can also use a spice rub. Coat the steak only on one side so you don’t overpower the flavor of the meat. Grill it spice-rub side down first to get a nice crust before flipping it to finish cooking.
Sauce it. If you like your steaks slathered with BBQ sauce, go for it. Just make sure it’s a good one. If you want to make your own, add the stock of whatever protein you’re cooking into the sauce, like chicken stock for chicken. It will marry well with the meat you add it to.
Cook it right. You might have the best cut of meat you can get your hands on, but if you overcook it you’ll never know it. If you are cooking your steak on the stovetop, use canola or another vegetable oil with a high smoke point. Use a cast-iron skillet for best results, but a stainless steel pan will work as well. Make sure your steak is dry and place it in a very hot pan just as it’s about to smoke. Don’t move your steak around too much—only when it needs to be flipped. A meat thermometer is key to reaching the perfect temperature. If you are cooking on the grill, preheat the grill to high. You want to achieve a nice sear on the meat. Use tongs to move the meat around, not a fork. Leave it alone and flip it only once. After you sear the steaks, lower the temperature to medium or move steaks to the other side of the grill for indirect cooking.
Let it rest. Once you remove the steaks, don’t cut the meat right away or all the juices will come pouring out, leaving your steak juiceless! Let it rest for five minutes covered in foil to allow the juices to redistribute. v
Seared Rib Eye
1 rib eye steak, about 1½” thick, at room temp
freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp. canola oil
unsalted butter substitute
5 sprigs fresh thyme
Dry steak very well. Season liberally with salt and pepper. (Steak should rest, either before or after seasoning, out of the fridge for about 45 minutes.) Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat. Add oil to the pan. Pat steak with a paper towel again and place steak, using tongs, into pan carefully. Let cook for 2 minutes without touching. Flip steak to brown other side. Continue to flip every 2 minutes until steak reaches internal temperature of 120°, about 8 minutes total. (Use a meat thermometer inserted diagonally so tip is in center of the steak to test for temperature.)
Turn flame down to medium and add 3 tablespoons butter substitute. Allow to melt and bubble a little, then add thyme. Baste steak by tilting the pan forward and spooning melted butter over it repeatedly. This will give the meat more flavor and get a better crust. When steak reaches 130°, it is done (medium-rare). Remove to cutting board and let rest for 5–10 minutes. Remove meat from the bone, slice against the grain, and serve.
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