I love steak. I just do. T-Bone, Ribeye, New York, Prime Rib, Fillets… I love ’em all.
I love steak so much that I find it frustrating to order in most restaurants because too often your “hot off the grill steak” actually came off the grill 20 minutes ago and has been sitting under a heat lamp ever since, ensuring your medium-rare order is now a hard, chewy, grey, well-done piece of leather.
–Attention Steak Lover–
This can happen at any restaurant at any time, even in those places it most definitely should not. A couple years ago I dined at the very expensive, very famous Bofinger Brasserie in Paris. It was a splurge kind of meal, and, being a steak lover in the epicenter of the land of steak and frites, I decided to go large and order the chateaubriand, which is a cut from the beef tenderloin akin to fillet mignon served with a béarnaise sauce. I ordered it medium rare as I always do in the hope of ensuring that melt-in-your-mouth goodness present in all quality steaks not overcooked.
And yet, what did I get? From Bofinger Brasserie in Paris? A grey, overcooked chateaubriand that I could barely slice through let alone chew. Mon Dieu! Is there no quality control anywhere? I sent it back but shamefully the impatient, slightly sour waiter did not push my order to the top of the queue, so my meal was only (properly) ready 45 minutes later.
Thus my one and only experience at Bofinger Brasserie faded lackluster into the “I Expected So Much More” category of past dining experiences. Le sigh.
In the face of such wide spread disregard for the high art that is steak cooking (not really — mainly proper timing and a hot grill) and the disrespect shown to steaks worldwide, I had no choice but to perfect my own technique.
And now, with no further adieu (except a firm adieu to Bofinger Brasserie) I shall share my steaky secrets with you.
I. Thou Shalt Not Salt Thy Steak:
Never, ever, under any circumstances, salt your steaks before grilling them. You may season them with other herbs and spices to your heart’s content, but none of those seasonings may contain salt. Salt draws moisture out of everything it touches, from meat and vegetables to your own skin. When moisture is drawn out of a steak before grilling, it cannot stand up to the flame while retaining what’s left of its moisture.
Also, when your steak is on the grill, the side away from the flame will continue to pool moisture, which will then evaporate, steaming your steak. As we all know, steaks must be seared by intense heat, caramelizing their protein sugars in order to get that savoury steaky flavor you’re imagining now. Steaming just does not cut it.
I grew up amongst the unabashed used of meat tenderizer seasoning on every steak, every time. Trust me when I say you will do yourself an enormous favor by both throwing out those kind of seasonings and taking stock of the kind of meat you are buying. If it needs tenderizer in order to chew, buy something a little more expensive and a little higher quality. You and your jaw will thank me later.
II. Thou Shalt Use a Very, Very Hot Grill:
Use a very hot grill. If using charcoal, which always tastes better, wait until the charcoal is white with ash and heat. If using a gas grill, turn that puppy all the way up. I’ve never enjoyed a steak cooked under the broiler in the oven, so if that’s your method, you’re on your own.
III. Thou Shalt Not Overcook
For large, thick steaks like the ones pictured, cook for 4 minutes on each side for medium rare – medium. If they’re a little smaller and less than 1 inch thick, go for 3 minutes. Obviously if you like them more well-done, extend the cooking time another 30 seconds- 1 minute but please be aware that with a little courage, you can quite easily train your tastebuds to love pink steak, which is better tasting and better for you. Be brave!
If you have a meat thermometer, which I highly suggest on another commandment-themed page, take your steaks off the grill when their very centers read 125F for medium rare or 130F for medium. Remember, your steaks will continue lightly cooking for about another 5F once they’re resting off the grill, which is enough to push ’em up into another category of doneness.
It’s well known in the restaurant industry that when someone orders a steak well-done, the chef uses the oldest, toughest steak in stock. No matter the method or chef, a well-done steak is a tough steak.
–Drumroll– You may now salt after cooking! Optimally after you’ve given them time to rest for 3-5 minutes to reabsorb all those delicious juices.
For these New York Steaks, I chopped up a handful of fresh oregano and 4 cloves of garlic, then massaged that into the steaks and allowed them to marinate for about two hours. You might also consider these flavor combinations: garlic powder with ancho, cayenne or chipotle chile; finely chopped garlic and rosemary; ground coriander and ancho chile; ground coriander and ground cumin; freshly chopped thyme with lemon zest; ancho chile and cinnamon, jalapeño and garlic or just plain ole’ black pepper and salt (afterwards, bien sûr).