How to Grill the Perfect Steak

Welcome to Steak 101. I know it seems pretty basic. Most people would say that there’s nothing to cooking steak.  Just throw it on your grill, or in a pan, and cook till done, right? No, no, no! There’s a science behind a perfectly cooked steak. Want to get that perfect char and a juicy, medium-rare interior? Just follow a few simple steps down the path to great steak.

Before we even get into the kitchen, let’s talk about purchasing your beef. There are many magnificent cuts out there – porterhouse, New York strip, rib eye, shell steak, just to name a few! Whichever cut you prefer, your steak should be one-and-a-half to two inches thick. This will allow you to sear the exterior to a perfect crisp while leaving the interior pink. What was that? You prefer your steak well done? Blasphemy! Nothing, and I mean nothing, is more succulent than a medium rare rib eye. Don’t dare tell me otherwise! But, if for some reason you encounter someone who wants their steak well done (like your mother-in-law who insists she likes her steak to resemble a little nugget of charcoal), use a thinner steak so the outside doesn’t burn while the interior has a chance to fully cook.

Once you’ve purchased your steak and brought it home, cradled in your arms like a newborn, it’s time to prep it. If you’re planning to cook the steak the following day, make sure to refrigerate it. Take the steak out of the fridge about an hour before cook time. Lightly sprinkle both sides of the steak with kosher salt. That’s right, I said kosher salt. Put away the iodized table salt. In fact, just throw it away. That has no place in your kitchen! Table salt is extremely salty. Nowadays, most recipes call for kosher salt, so substituting table salt can have disastrous results.

Allow the steak to sit out for about half an hour to a full hour, bringing it to room temperature. It may look like your steak is merely resting, but the salt is actually amplifying the flavor. It helps the cells of the meat retain water, which will make it tender and juicy. Allowing the steak to come to room temperature will activate enzymes that also tenderize the meat. Just before cooking, pat the steak dry with a paper towel. Season the meat again with kosher salt and some freshly cracked black pepper, then drizzle it lightly with some vegetable oil. Press the salt and pepper into the steak, making sure it adheres.

Once your grill is flaming hot, place the steak on the hottest part of the grill. Do not walk away! Close the lid on your grill. This will reduce flare-ups. After about 3 to 4 minutes, use tongs to flip your steak. Please, don’t use a fork. Poking holes in your meat will only result in the loss of juices. We definitely don’t want dry steak, do we?? After flipping the steak, continue grilling for an additional 3 to 4 minutes with the lid closed.

If you don’t have a grill, or just prefer cooking indoors, you can definitely cook your steak in a cast iron pan or large skillet. Just be sure to get the pan nice and hot to ensure that perfect sear!

Transfer the steak to a cutting board. Do not cut into it! If you do, all those precious juices will come flowing out. Allow about 5 to 10 minutes for your steak to rest. This will give time for the juices to distribute throughout the meat. Find something else to do to pass the time. Pour yourself a drink. Rearrange your DVD’s. Whatever. Just don’t cut into that steak!

Most of the time, I like to keep things simple and eat my steak as-is, with just the salt and pepper. In some steakhouses, steaks are served with a dab of butter on top. Sometimes, I like to create a flavored butter, like the blue cheese butter shown above, just to change things up a bit. Want to do the same? Just combine a few ounces of crumpled blue cheese with some softened butter and a sprinkle of salt. Seriously, though, 99 out of 100 times, I prefer my steak with just salt and pepper. No fancy marinades. No secret spice rubs. Just a nice char on the outside and a gorgeous, juicy, pink interior. Yum.

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Grilled Skirt Steak with Chimichurri

What a gorgeous day. After a winter of record-breaking snowfall, and a recent torrent of rain, we were finally blessed with a weekend filled with sun and 50 degree weather. The huge block of ice on our back porch thawed to reveal a neglected Kenmore grill. When I realized the propane tank was nearly full, I could almost taste grilled steak in the near future.

I can still remember the first time I ate skirt steak. I was in my mid-teens, and Papi the Butcher had brought home the strange-looking cut of beef for dinner. If you’ve never seen skirt steak before, it’s a long, flat cut of beef. When I asked what it was, he replied, “Skirt steak.” At first, I thought he was joking. I mean, why would someone name a cut of beef after an item of clothing? He explained that skirt steak is the diaphragm muscle of the cow, which is attached to the ribs. It tends to be tough, but is extremely flavorful when cooked properly. Skirt steak is the cut of beef traditionally used for fajitas and is commonly called arrachera or churrasco. Many people commonly confuse skirt steak with flank steak, but they are actually two different cuts.

Years ago, skirt steak was one of the cheaper cuts of beef. Nowadays, it averages about $4 a pound, which is on the pricey side. Many people discovered that despite it’s toughness, when grilled or pan-seared, skirt steak can be tender and delicious. It’s also a great steak to braise or marinade.

For weeks, I’ve been anxious for the opportunity to make my own chimichurri. Chimichurri is an Argentinian sauce used as a marinade or condiment for meat. It’s most commonly made with parsley, garlic, oil, and other seasonings. From what I’ve heard, Argentinian’s use chimichurri like Americans use ketchup.

When I heard the weather forecast for a gorgeous weekend ahead, I brought home some skirt steak and went to work on making my sauce. When you make this chimichurri, you’ll want to lick the spoon.

When you buy skirt steak, be sure to have your butcher remove the membrane and trim a good portion of the fat, unless you’re feeling adventurous and want to attempt that at home. Before grilling, I seasoned my skirt steak simply with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper. No fancy pants here. The star of the show is the chimichurri.

Chimichurri

1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons water
8 cloves garlic
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1 bay leaf

Toss the parsley in a small food processor with the vinegar, water, garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and olive oil, then give it a whirl. Add the bay leaf, then let the sauce stand, at room temperature, for at least an hour. This will allow the flavors to come together.

If you don’t have a food processor, be sure to finely chop your parsley and garlic by hand. Stir together the vinegar, water, garlic, bay leaf, salt, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until combined, then whisk in the finely chopped parsley. Be sure to discard the bay leaf before serving. Serve this sauce alongside grilled beef, chicken, shrimp, chorizo, or whatever your heart desires. Enjoy!