Your initial thought is that I am probably writing about garlic again, isn’t it? Well, you’d be wrong. It’s another Favorite Thing Thursday, and it’s about something that is near and dear to my heart.
My Favorite Thing to Cook for Others.
Stake. Er…Steak, is the topic of this post. As any good carnivore, I love a great steak. A great cut of beef really only needs three components to be even better: kosher salt, black pepper, and heat. A lot of people have some misconceptions about cooking, and consuming steak, and maybe I’ll address them here. Maybe I won’t. I really have no idea… I usually write these with no plan in mind and just see how it all turns out in the end. It’s worked so far, right?
Anyway, steak is awesome. I love cooking it because it is so diverse, and I get to prove to people that a good steak really needs no real help in the flavor department. Sure, the pepper adds some of its’ own flavor, but the salt just elevates the steak. And the heat? Well the heat is the trick that creates a beautiful crust. You see; a properly salted piece of raw beef is the key to having a great crusty exterior (and a lot of great flavor). Typically, I salt my steaks maybe 5 or 10 minutes before they hit the grill, after they’ve come to room temperature. This allows the salt to force some protein-rich liquids to the surface of the steak, and that sears up nicely on the grill. Or on the heat, but if you’re gonna cook a steak, why not grill it! There’s a whole scientific explanation about what really happens when high heat hits the exterior of that steak, but I will spare you the lesson and simplify it into this: it is darn tasty.
So the meat is on the grill. Now what? Well, depending on the cut of meat you are faced with, and the quality that you think that it might be, you have a few options. Most steaks that I’ve cooked are in the thickness range of “I can cook both sides on relatively high heat and achieve my proper doneness.” The trick is, if you’re cooking a steak that is thicker than, oh say, 1.5 inches, you’re going to need to use a hybrid method. I’ve done this a number of times, and mostly with filet mignon, since they usually run on the thick side. Basically, I would super-heat one side of my grill and keep the other side at a relatively cooler temperature. I would then get a great sear on the outside of the steak on both sides, and then transfer it to the cooler side to finish the proper cooking.
Not all cuts of steak are meant for the grill, either! Because of where they are located on the animal, some cuts have too much fat to really work on the grill and need a different cooking method. I don’t dabble in these cuts too often, mostly because they are either too fussy, or not as much fun to cook. Mostly, we’re talking about braising cuts, stew meat and other slower cooking methods. Not that there’s anything wrong with those cuts, but when most people think “steak,” they probably imagine: rib eye, porterhouse, t-bone, strip steak, filet mignon and sirloin. To a lesser degree skirt steak, but really that’s only great for fajitas. Rib eyes happen to be my personal favorite. They are generally cut thick, and they are fatty. Oh boy are they fatty. They usually have a nice trim of fat on the outside along with heavy fat content on the inside. With this much fat, it’s almost impossible to dry out this cut of steak. Most times, especially when grilling, some of the outer fat needs to be cut off to protect against flare-ups, which could potentially scorch the meat and have it cook unevenly. Which would be bad.
The next point I’d like to bring up is the final doneness for a steak. If I cook a steak at home, I want it medium-rare. You get a great balance of beefy flavor, and it is so succulent and juicy. Properly rested, you simply cannot beat this temperature. When eating out, depending on the restaurant I will usually order medium or medium rare, just really depends on how I feel about that particular restaurant. Though I have not had it (yet), there is a dish known as beef carpaccio, which is basically raw beef tenderloin cut very very thin, topped very simply, usually with some extra virgin olive oil, shavings of parmesan cheese, and maybe a small salad. Beef like that can be served raw because a cow’s hide is thick and durable enough to block out pathogens. The main issue arises when the meat is ground in the factory, that invites little nasties, and that’s why the FDA recommends that all ground beef be cooked to 160º, or well done.
Doneness is a touchy subject to a lot of people. Personally, if someone served me a steak that was cooked more than a solid medium, I would probably have a hard time putting it down. Too far past that point, the meat is getting dried out, and there’s nothing to enjoy. Some people are put off by the “blood” that might seep out of an “under-cooked” steak. I can assure you that the red liquid you see is not blood. In fact, it is a mixture of mostly water, some fat mixed in there along with some of the myoglobins that give it that nice red color. And you know what? Myoglobin is a protein! So next time you see a steak in a pool of “blood,” ask yourself this question: Isn’t blood supposed to be thick? Yes! So without getting into blood talk (since I don’t want to offend any slightly-squeamish friends), just know that you can eat a properly cooked steak in complete happiness because you are not consuming cow blood. That would be gross. Furthermore, if a steak happens to be sitting in a pool of that liquid, well, the person cooking it did not do a great job of letting it rest properly.
So now I ask you, loyal reader. How do YOU like your steak cooked? I’m interested to see the responses. Feel free to comment if you wish to elaborate!Stay positive, love your life, and play with your food 🙂