Though spring is still taking its own sweet time to arrive here in the Great White North, folks have started bringing their barbecue grills out of hibernation in preparation for summer. And one of the questions backyard grill masters ask me every season is, “How do I cook a perfect Steak?”
A post on one of my food news feeds this weekend reminded me that it’s time to start shifting to summer themes here on the FFB. And, as I’ve just said, one of the things folks most want to know is how to cook the perfect Steak.
This makes perfect sense, especially considering the pension-busting price one must pay to buy a Steak in the first place. You want to get the most out of your investment. And I’ve pulled together what I consider the most important tips for achieving that noble result…
Start with the right cut of Meat
Some cuts called steak are not meant for single portion grilling. I refer principally to cuts such as Flank, Skirt or Hangar Steaks (see photo, top of page). I prefer to cook these in the house, starting them off in a cast iron grill pan and finishing them in the oven. After about 5 minutes of resting time post cooking, they are usually carved across the grain in thinish slices to optimize chewability. Not the most tender cuts on the cow but they can be among the most flavourful.
What you want for single-portion grilling are well-marbled, reasonably thick cuts, such as Ribeyes or Striploins (see photo above). By ‘reasonably thick’, I mean at least 1 in. / 2.5 cm, or thicker.
“But what about T-Bones, Porterhouses, Flatirons and the other famous cuts?” I hear you thinking. They’re fine if you like a BIG steak and are wiling to pay a BIG price. And you’re paying for bones you’re just going to throw away. Regular readers of the FFB will also know that smart eaters who want to live longer, healthier lives eat less Protein and more Fruits and Veggies. The new revision to Canada’s Food Guide says at least half your plate should be covered by Fruits and Veggies, and a serving of Protein (any kind of Meat or Fish) should account for no more than a quarter of your plate.
To marinate or not to marinate?
The first thing you need to know is that, in spite of pervasive beliefs that marination tenderizes meat, that is not the case. It only flavours the meat. Many pro grillers insist on flavouring their meat with a rub of dry herbs and spices. It’s your choice. But always use a generous amount of Salt and Fresh-ground Pepper, if nothing else.
Care and handling
Always take your Steaks out of the fridge at least half an hour before putting them on the fire. Room-temperature Meat is key to a great, flavourful Steak.
If there’s any moisture on the surface of the Meat, pat it off with a paper towel. This will help ensure a great sear.
Now, rub on your seasonings and flavouring agents.
On the grill
Steak experts insist you grill over very high heat – 500 F to 550 F. Don’t grill below 45o F or cooking times will run longer and the Meat will get tough.
You only want to turn your Steak three times, rotating it 45 degrees each time. That will give you the perfect crosshatch grill markings that never fail to impress guests and family alike.
Always handle your Steaks with tongs. Never, ever, press the Steak with a spatula or your tongs. That will just force the juices out of it and make it tough.
Cooking times for various states of doneness (Rare, Medium, Well, etc.) will depend on the thickness of the Steak. Settle on a thickness and cut of Steak that makes you happiest and experiment with grilling times. The best way to judge doneness is to go by the internal temperature of the Meat as measured with your Meat thermometer. For Rare, take your steak off the grill at 135 F; for Medium, 140 F; for Well, 145 F – 150 F. Use the thermometer; no use messing around with guesstimates. Even the cheapest Steak is too expensive to ruin.
Off the grill
When your Steak is properly cooked, remove it from the grill to rest. This is a crucial step, if you want the tenderest, juiciest Steak you ever had. Resting gives the Meat a chance to bring the tissues and the moisture in your Steak to come to equilibrium. You don’t want to lose all those wonderful juices by cutting into the Steak too soon! Most chefs say 5 minutes is sufficient to rest the average Steak. Tent the Meat with foil to keep it hot.
On the plate
Once placed on the plate, your Steak should not be bleeding juices. That means it hasn’t rested enough.
If you want to get really fancy, you can top it with a pat of Chef’s Butter (also known as Herb Butter) and a sprig of fresh Parsley or Cilantro.
Is your mouth watering?
~ Maggie J.