There are a few things men should know how to do. Drive a manual car, mix a martini, use a chainsaw, and cook a steak. We’ll work on the chainsaw skills some other time. But today, we are going to review how to make a great, nay, a PERFECT steak at home.
We spend a grip of money on cooked cow at amazing dining places and wonder how these places could make beef taste like heaven. The crazy truth of the matter is that steak is really not that hard to do well. How, you ask? How? I’ve done the research for myself, and now you, faithful reader, will benefit from all of my hard work (read: 10 minutes on the internet, and asking a friend of mine that is a chef).
First of all, most steakhouses will not cook a steak on the grill. They will use a cast iron skillet, or something equivalent. The brand of choice is called Lodge, and a 12″ skillet will set you back a whole $20 at most places. Now let’s go get some meat!
Considering the cut, there is tenderness and there is flavor. The most tender meat is not necessarily the most flavorful. Rib-eye and sirloin seem to be the perfect combination of tenderness and flavor, which comes from the fat, or what those in the know call marbling. If you can find Prime grade and you want to shell out the money, well then go big. Otherwise, Choice should do us just fine. Make sure that the meat is thick. The thicker, the better.
We need to bring the meat to room temperature so that it will cook evenly. Pull it out of the fridge and let it sit covered with plastic wrap for a good 30 minutes, maybe less if it is warm out. Next, we need to preheat the oven to 400 degrees. OK, now preheat that skillet for 10 minutes before we put the steak in it. This may cause some smoking, so turn on the vent fan and open a window. Turning off your smoke detector may also be a good idea. You can tenderize the steak if you want at this point. Let’s put a little canola oil on it since it has a high smoke point. Our seasoning will be sea salt or kosher salt, and coarsely ground black pepper. You can also add a bit of brown sugar to the mix for a nice crust. Great.
Your oven is preheated, as is the skillet, and the process is quick so we have to have everything ready. A pat of butter, 2 cloves of garlic and if you want, some thyme or other herbs should be on hand. Lay that bad boy into the skillet and set the timer for 2 minutes. Smoke, sizzle, whatever, just leave it alone for 2 minutes. When that side is done, you flip it over with tongs and NOT with a fork or anything else that will pierce the meat and let the juices run out of it. Riiiiiiight, that’s it. After those 2 minutes, get a hot pad and get ready to transfer the skillet into that oven. Put the pat of butter on the steak and garlic and herbs in the pan, and into the oven it goes. The meat should be checked every 2 minutes or so. You can check doneness by pressing the meat with your finger, or by using a meat thermometer.
Note: The meat of your hand between your thumb and your pointing finger is how we gauge tenderness and doneness. If your hand is open and relaxed, and you touch that flesh, that should be a medium rare steak. Now if you were to squeeze all of your fingers together and press that meaty part again, that would be medium well. If you’re using a meat thermometer, 130-135 is medium rare, 140-145 is medium, and 150-155 is medium well. REMEMBER to take the meat out 5 degrees BELOW your desired doneness since it will continue to cook even after it is out of the oven.
Almost there, and mmm, that smells real good. Mm hmm, REEEEAAAAAL guuuuuuuud. Take it out of the oven and out of the skillet and onto a plate to rest for 5 minutes. If you want to do something while the meat is taking a moment to itself, you could pour just a bit of balsamic vinegar into your skillet and use a wooden spatula to scrape off all the good badness to make a little gravy. If you want to get a little saucier, pun intended, you could add 1/2 a cup of shallots, 2 cloves of crushed garlic, a cup of red wine (port does well) and some dijon mustard to make a mean reduction. Just combine it all on the heat and then pour it over the top.
If you are going to cut the steak, cut against the grain. Some people do bleu cheese crumbles on top, others just eat it straight up. Whatever you choose, be proud. You are that much closer to being a complete man.