Barry's International Kitchen

August 17, 2009 

Steak House steak at home

I am far from an expert on steak, in fact for 30 years I didn't even eat it.  It wasn't really my decision but I went along with it and about a year ago I just wanted a nice steak and I have been having about one a week, that isn't that bad.   I had a lot of catching up to do, I didn't even know the cuts and still struggle a bit with that,  I guess they all have their purpose.  I generally go for the NY Sirloin or NY Strip, not sure I even know the difference but they both have nice flavor are economical and are fairly tender, I will give up a bit of tenderness for flavor.   I have two sources for the way I prepare my steak at the moment.  Cook's Illustrated that I subscribe to and I actually think their Cook's Country is where the steak issue came from and this post on Steamy Kitchen
As it turns out there are a couple of things that stop you from having the kind of steak you get at a Steak House.  First is your Supermarket doesn't carry Prime cuts of meat, at best Choice and Walmart carries mostly Select which is down from Choice and Choice is down from Prime.  This grading has to do with the fat content, the more the fat within the meat,  not around the edges, they call this marbling, the better the cut and the more flavorful and tender it is.  I am told it is possible to find Prime cuts among Choice and Select if you know what you are doing and I clearly do not.   The second issue is one of a commercial grade grill that sometimes will be in the thousands of degrees.  The reason this is important is that this type of heat evaporates the moisture immediately where a home grill will steam your steam, I think anyone could imagine that a steamed steak just isn't going to be as good. 

Cook's  Illustrated solution to the moisture problem :
They go through all the whys and wherefores but freezing drys things out and this works to your advantage for a steak.  They recommend putting a light coating of salt and corn starch and put it in the freezer for about 30 minutes.  I tried this and it was pretty good.  But for me I almost always am going to have a steak from the freezer so I figure that freezer job has already been done.  This yielded a nice grilled steak, worth trying you may like the results.

The people at Steamy Kitchen have a slightly different approach:
Their solution is salt and at first it does sound like this can't work and will yield a completely un eatable result, but read on.   They suggest heavily coating both side of the steak with a course salt,  I use Kosher salt and I do mean coat.  This will all be rinsed off after the desired time.  Use a paper towel and thoroughly dry your steak, I usually turn it 3 or 4 times making sure it is as dry as possible.

If you use this technique they have all kinds of numbers to help you to get the timing right.  This is about a 1" steak and I leave the salt on for 15 minutes, if I am lucky enough to get a 1 1/2" steak I do 20 minutes.  You can also season with this method but I don't, but if you go to their site you can learn how to do it.  The whole concept is salt will infiltrate the meat and in so doing will relax  the proteins ergo a much more tender steak and it really does work.  You also have a nicely flavored  steak all the way through,  you will have to play with the timing to get the one that best suits your taste, I don't like anything over salted and the times above yield for me a pretty perfectly flavored steak.    This does solve the moisture problem but I still use an ever so light coat of steak marinate to help get a nice char on the outside.  I do mean light, 3 or 4 drops on each side is all you need, I suspect a BBQ sauce would work or even sugar and water, I have never tried either.  If you don't have one of those silicon brushes you might consider getting one, they work so much better than a pastry brush.

I use a meat thermometer  for most meat but not for steak, a couple of pokes and you land up with a dry steak.  My grill gets to 600 degrees and I preheat it for about 15 minutes so it sizzles when I put it on.  I can tell now when it is medium rare but it is about 3 minutes on one side and about 2 on the other, for me I would rather have it undercooked than overcooked.

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