Have you ever bought a nice piece of meat and when you got it home you weren’t too sure how to season it or the best way to cook it? Most people, especially in summer months, just carelessly throw their slab of beef on the grill and overcook it, in addition to zero attention paid to seasoning. If you don’t have a grill or you don’t feel like firing it up, how do you achieve the perfect tenderness and temperature of a steak inside your kitchen?
First off, let’s talk about selection of meat. Since we are discussing steak, relatively quickly prepared, I will limit the discussion to quality cuts that do not have an abundance of connective tissue. In other words, lean cuts such as sirloin, strip, ribeye. There are 3 things to look for when selecting a piece of meat. Color, texture and marbling, which is the fat distribution throughout the meat. Color should be red and evenly vibrant. Texture should be firm with a slight softness on the surface, similar to the feel when you press a finger into the palm of your hand. Most important is the marbling. The more fat you see evenly across the surface, the more tender your steak will be. You will be able to see the difference between a tough chewy white tendon and the “good” fat that will tenderize the meat and give it flavor. No fat no flavor. The best meat markets, like Epicure, will have a butcher who can assist you on your meat selection.
The next 4 steps after choosing the best cut are crucial. Seasoning, cooking technique, temperature and resting.
Let’s talk seasoning. It is almost impossible to over-season a piece of meat but very easy to destroy the flavor of the steak after its been cooked. The best way to season a piece of meat is with generous amounts of salt and pepper and a touch of olive oil or melted butter. The salt pulls the proteins to the surface and helps caramelize the meat creating a perfect sear. We’ll get to that in a minute. You can marinate meat if you like but I don’t recommend this for quick steak. Marinating works best on slow cooked meats that need a lot of help. The other seasoning method I use the most is a dry rub. Dried seasonings blended together and rubbed all over the surface of the meat. Try equal amounts of kosher salt, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder and dried thyme.
The best indoor technique is pan searing with a finish in the oven. If you are fixated on grilling, get your grill marks on both sides and then either turn down the heat to finish or transfer to your oven to cook to temperature. This pan sear technique can be used for fish and chicken as well. One tip before cooking: let your meat sit for at least 15 minutes out of the refrigerator before cooking. Never place a cold protein in a hot pan. By the time you get the meat browned on both sides, it will be overcooked and tough.
Start with a hot pan, add olive oil until almost smoking and then carefully place your meat in the pan with tongs, not a fork. Leave it. Don’t press it, don’t move it, don’t pretend you are a hotshot and play with it to impress your friends. After 2 minutes, turn it. Add a tablespoon of butter and tilt the pan so the juices and melted butter form a small pool of bubbling liquid. Using a spoon, baste the steak over and over, drizzling the liquid on the surface of the meat.Once the second side is seared and brown (about 2 minutes), place the pan in a 400 degree oven for 8 minutes, for a 2” steak or 10 minutes for a 3” steak. This will finish your steak at medium rare. If you prefer medium to medium-well, cook it for an additional minute or two.
One of the most important steps in cooking any type of meat is resting. Once you remove your meat from the oven, take it out of the pan with tongs and place it on a cutting board. Don’t cut into it. Let it rest for at least six to eight minutes or else the juices will come pouring out, not only making a mess but leaving you with a dry lifeless steak.
Once your steak (yes, now you can refer to it as steak) has rested, you can slice it and serve. Make sure you slice against the grain and on an angle, which is called “Slicing on the bias”.
Feel free to finish your steak with a touch of flavored sea salt, some freshly cracked black pepper or my new Epicure Steak Sauce.