(Albert wrote this piece)
This is not a recipe per se, but a collection of pointers to cook a perfect steak. (I’m always looking for new pointers – but be careful, Bern has a friend that gained 50 pounds in 6 months by eating steak every day)
- Get the best piece of meat you can. This can get as high as
$20 per pound or more (Omaha Steaks, primecutbeef.com etc…), so
practice on lesser portions first.
- Best is USDA dry-aged prime beef, but a good option to work with is a filet mignon for only $6/lb at Costco.
- A porterhouse has two steaks in it (a T-bone is like a small porterhouse) one side is the filet mignon; the other side is the strip steak. Both good but very different – I prefer the filet.
- I read that Prudhomme looks for a pale cherry-red color and lots of visible marbling.
- Store carefully, wrap each steak separately and refrigerate in the coolest part of the refrigerator. Take steaks out an hour before cooking (really!).
- Trim the steak carefully. If your steak buckles it is because you left some fat or gristle on one side.
- Dry the steak with a paper towel before continuing.
- The whole goal of this exercise is to keep the juices INSIDE
the meat. Capture the natural juices. If juices come out, your
steak will be dry.
- DRY marinate your meat. KISS applies to steaks as well as engineering. Cracked black pepper and kosher or sea salt is good. Lawry’s is good too. Do this just before you cook or else the salt will draw moisture from the steak.
- A bit of oil or butter on the steak to help the searing process.
- Use tongs or chopsticks, DO NOT use a fork. Keep the juices inside. Grab the sides of the steak.
- You MUST sear a steak to keep the juices inside. It is important to make the perfect crust.
- The steak will start to sweat, turn it over right away to sear the juices in. Crackling is juice escaping. DO NOT turn too much.
- Grilling is ideal, but pan-roasting is also wonderful,
especially for a filet. The idea is the same. Total cooking time
is around 10 minutes, but this is an art:
Part I: Searing
You want a nice brown crust. Your steak has more flavor with the crust.
Grilling (gas or coal, your choice)
Pan Broiling (a gas stove is preferable for the hotter flame)
- On a grill this means the hottest part of the grill (usually the middle).
- When the meat starts to sweat, flip it over to sear. Make sure you have a nice crust.
- For the pan roast (which is wonderful), heat a cast iron or restaurant quality pan (oven safe, no rubber or plastic handles). Heat the pan with butter to a very high heat. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.
- This is different. Sear the “bottom” of the steak for one minute. Sear sides if possible. Flip and sear the “top” (heavier pepper and salt side) for two minutes so there is a brown crust.
Part II: Cooking
Pay close attention to the meat here, this is not a science.
- Put the steak onto the “cool” part of the grill to “slowly” cook the inside of the steak.
- Take the whole pan and put it into an oven at 450o. Around 10 minutes.
Part III: Knowing when it is done
- Okay, conventional wisdom says use a meat thermometer. The rule is 125o for rare, 135o for medium rare and 140o for medium well – NEVER well done (unless your mother asks you for it).
- Here is something I read from Prudhomme: Make a fist and press the muscle at the base of your thumb, that is medium rare. Open the fist and press the muscle relaxed, that is rare. In an open hand in the middle of the palm is well done – NEVER … you get the picture.
- Err on the side of undercooked. Meat
continues to cook even when you take it away from heat and you
can always re-cook.
Part IV: Resting and Cutting
- You MUST let meat rest. The juices have made their way away from the fibers, you have to let the steak reabsorb the juices inside the steak or else when you cut into it all your juices will flow onto the plate – wasting the steak. Minimum of 3 minutes.
- Let the knife to the work cut back and forth, do not push down on the knife or you will push juices onto your plate – wasting the steak. I prefer a Spyderco 6” though you can use any sharp serrated knife.
- Cut against the bias (the grain), a sharp knife is key. This
will make the steak even more tender when you bite into it. This
is texture and taste. I prefer thin slices to savor the taste.
Part V: Savor and Enjoy
- You can make rosemary potatoes or roasted garlic mashed potatoes or some sort of side. Grilled mushrooms, asparagus (olive oil, salt and pepper and broil or grill) or a salad are good too. Pick your sides as you will. If you are into presentation, remember that height and color are the hallmarks to good presentation.
- A good red wine is essential. My favorites are:
- Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars (Stag’s Leap, Napa Valley) Cabernet Sauvignon $40 for a recent release (it is the wine they brought to France unlabeled to compete and won all the awards making the French mad at us) – the Fey, SLV and Cask 23 are even better but they range in the $100s. 1997 was great, but since they blend, almost any year is good (see below for good years). Smooth, oaky, does not need to breathe as much.
- St Supery (Napa Valley, Napa Valley) Cabernet Sauvignon $20
for a recent release. $16 at Costco. May need to breathe a
little, but a nice red. Avoid the 1998 if possible.
- Here is the easy way to be a wine snob. I really don’t know that much about wine but in Napa Valley (and surrounding areas) 1995 – 2001 were wonderful years for wine with the exception of 1998. SO all you have to know is the Stag’s Leap Wine Cellar’s trivia above and that 1998 was a bad year and you will sound like a sommelier.
- Catamayor (San Jose, Uruguay) Cabernet Sauvignon $7.95 for a recent release. I was looking for a cheap wine and so I picked a place that is not renown for wine hoping to get a better value. I liked this one a lot, better than the Hawk’s Crest (bottled by Stag’s Leap Wine Cellar) $9.95 which was too harsh. Like any red wine, let it breathe a little.
- A single malt scotch is also good. I am not into peaty
scotches yet and understand that Johnny Walker and Cutty Sark
are blended scotches – not what I am talking about. My friend
Artie introduced me to The Macallan 15-year, which was
wonderful, like cognac in its smoothness. I tried a 12-year, but
it was much harsher. I am looking to try an 18-year or more. A
bottle runs around $50 but lasts for a very long time. A drink
is one finger and is 43% alcohol (86 proof) so sip with care and