My favorite food, I would have to say. I am a big fan of a big juicy steak. And yes, I could eat a steak everyday. I love it, period.
My favorite steak is the rib steak. Bone in or boneless, it has the most flavor. My next favorite cut would be the striploin steak. I usually order them about 1 1/2 -2” thick, 12- 16 oz each and brought to room temperature before I even begin. Seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic and cooked blue rare, about 90 seconds per side; delicious!
I like my steaks cooked differently based upon the cut. Tenderloin, raw or blue rare to rare. NY Striploin, blue rare to rare. Rib Steak, medium rare to medium, to allow the internal fat to render a little, which adds lots of flavor.
When buying steak, here are a few rules that I live by:
Rule 1: Buy the best quality of steak that you can afford.
Not all good top cuts (ribeye or striploin) are always tender. There are many grades of meat. In Canada, the grades are A, AA, AAA, with A being the worst quality and AAA being the best. Keep in mind that usually the more expensive the cut of meat is, the better quality it is likely to be. There are other cuts to look out for: CAB (Certified Angus Beef) is expensive but delicious. USDA choice is reasonably priced and you can often get a very tasty piece of meat. Then of course there is PRIME, which is the best quality of meat you can get in the US. It’s expensive, but providing you can afford it; it’s worth it. There is also Japanese Kobe Beef. It’s loaded with internal marbling and fat and it’s very expensive. But again, if you have the means, I highly recommend it.
What makes a great steak? Simply put, marbling. The more marbled a steak is, the better the steak will taste. This brings me to Rule 2….
Rule 2: Fat = Flavor.
The more internal fat, the more flavorful and tender your steak will be.
Rule 3: Find yourself a good butcher.
I like my steaks to be cut about 1 1/2 -2” thick and weigh about 12- 16 oz each, depending on the cut. A thicker steak will cook more evenly and give you a little wiggle room in case you get distracted. You can’t go back once its overcooked but you can always throw it back on the grill if it’s underdone. It will have far less chance of drying out on the grill. Keeping the juices in your steak will yield better flavor and satiation value.
Talk to your butcher about dry aged vs wet aged beef. Dry aged is meat that is aged for a period of time (usually 3-6 weeks), depending on the abattoir or butcher. Dry aging allows the meat to release any excess moisture and become more tender. To tell you the direct truth is to say the meat is rotting, but rotting in a controlled environment of cool, dry air.
Wet aged means that it is aged in the vacuum sealed bag. The meat can be aged either way but I find wet aged beef sometimes tastes a little too bloody because it sits in its own juices. So talk to your butcher and see what kinds of beef are available to you. Taste them both and make the decision.
How to Grill the Perfect Steak:
When it comes to grilling a great steak the debate begins with Gas vs. Charcoal.
Once you have spent some serious dough on some great steaks, you do not need to marinate them to tenderize. Only marinate if you want to add flavor. Personally, I like to take a big ol’ rib steak or porterhouse and marinate it for a couple of hours in a bottle of dark ale. Season your steaks at the last minute with lots of coarsely ground sea salt, black pepper and lots of garlic. For cooking a great steak, I prefer to use charcoal since it gives the best flavor, but use whatever grill you have. But make sure you get it hot, 600 degrees F plus if you can. This is where a grill with a searing burner comes in handy. Once you start cooking the steaks, remember: high heat, lid open, be patient, never leave your grill, don’t poke, cut or stick your steaks, and have a beer. Place steaks on a hot grill on a 45 degree angle at 11 o’clock. Grill for 2 to 5 minutes to sear, depending on thickness and doneness you want. Turn steaks 45 degrees to 2 o’ clock and cook for another 2 to 5 minutes. Flip steaks over and baste the grilled surface with your favorite baste, like my King of the Q BBQ Sauces or whatever brand you prefer. Continue to grill for 2 to 5 minutes on a 45 degree angle. Turn steaks 45 degrees and cook for another 2 to 5 minutes. Flip steaks and baste again. Now you have that fancy chef/steakhouse diamond pattern. Remove steaks from grill and let rest for 3 to 5 minutes before serving.
Of all of the steak cuts, the tenderloin is the most tender. The tenderloin comes from the short loin of beef; it lies between the rib and the sirloin and never really does anything but lie there and be tender. The tenderloin may be cooked whole or cut into wonderfully tender steaks. Be careful not to overcook this cut. It does not have a lot of fat, so it tends to dry out and become tough the more it cooks. Quite often steak joints will wrap it with a strip or two of bacon to keep it moist and succulent.
The striploin steak is one of the most popular cuts of beef. It comes from the top loin muscle in the short loin of beef. It is best grilled to medium-rare and is often served with a peppercorn sauce. This steak is known by many names, the most popular being the New York strip steak and Kansas City steak. A bone-in striploin steak is known as a shell steak. My favorite way to eat a NY Striploin steak is blue rare: nicely seasoned and brought to room temperature.
This steak is cut from between the rib and chuck section. The bone-in rib steak is also known as the cowboy steak. The rib steak is an extremely tender cut of beef. This steak is heavily marbled with fat, giving it maximum flavor. It is best to grill this steak to medium-rare, which allows the internal fat to melt and bring out the natural juices and flavor. I remember having a rib steak at the Chicago Chop House. It was so good that I woke up in the middle of a delicious steak dream just drooling about this steak. It rocked! Thank god for the leftover piece in my hotel mini bar.
This steak is named after the shape of its bone, a large T that separates the striploin from the small tenderloin. Cut from the center of the short loin, this is a large steak, often best shared, but if you’re truly hungry it is a real meal for one. I like to serve this steak with lots of sautéed onions and mushrooms and topped with crumbled blue cheese.
A porterhouse steak is cut from the large end of the short loin and also has the same T-shaped bone as the T-bone. It has a larger tenderloin portion and is truly a meal for two—it’s sometimes called the king of steaks. It is often cut into 2-inch-thick portions weighing approximately 36 oz. Rub this steak with garlic, black pepper and fresh rosemary and grill it over medium-high heat.
Cut from the area between the short loin and round, the sirloin has three main muscles. Cut into steaks, they are quite flavorful but require marinating to make them a little more tender. A teriyaki marinade is the most popular marinade used on sirloin steaks. This cut gives you the best of both worlds; the strip and the tenderloin. Delicious! A steak for one or more, if ya feel like sharing.
The flank steak comes from the lower hind region of beef. It is a tougher cut of steak that requires marinating to make it tender. As it does not have a lot of internal fat, so be careful not to overcook it. Marinated in an Asian marinade, this steak will have great flavor. It is best sliced thinly when served and is a great steak for a salad or steak sandwich.
This piece of meat is the diaphragm muscle that is cut from the flank steak. It’s a tough piece of meat that needs to be well trimmed of its fat and sinew and marinated for a long period of time to flavorize and tenderize the meat. I go usually 24 to 48 hours. I also like to tenderize this cut with either a meat mallet or a needler meat tenderizer. A needler is a meat instrument that has 48 little stainless steel blades that when pushed into the meat, cut through the flesh and membrane to make everything tender.
The hanger steak hangs between the rib cage and loin cage. Hanger steaks have a little stronger flavor than regular steaks and need to be very fresh. Ask your butcher for this tender cut of beef, which isn’t usually found in grocery stores. Marinate it with stronger-flavored herbs and spices and lots of garlic. It is best cooked rare to medium and sliced thinly.
How Do You Like Your Steak Cooked?
- Blue Rare: A blue rare steak is quickly charred on the outside and barely cooked on the inside. For best results, bring the steak to room temperature before cooking.
- Rare: A rare steak has a cool red center.
- Medium-Rare: A medium-rare steak has a warm red center.
- Medium: A medium steak has a pink center and the juices are clear.
- Medium-Well: A medium-well steak has a hot pink center and the juices are clear.
- Well-Done: A well done steak is gray throughout without any trace of pink and the juices are clear.
- Super Well Done: This steak is weighted with a brick until heavily charred on the outside and without any trace of pink and no juices inside.
How to Test for Doneness for Your Perfect Steak
The best way to test for doneness on a steak is to use a meat thermometer.
- Blue rare: 130 degrees F
- Rare: 130 to 140 degrees F
- Medium-rare: 140 to 145 degrees F
- Medium: 145 to 150 degrees F
- Medium-well: 150 to 160 degrees F
- Well-done: 160 to 170 degrees F
- Super well done: 170 degrees F plus
The next best method to test for doneness is the Hand Touch Method.
- Shake one hand loose so that it is completely relaxed. With your other hand, touch the soft fleshy part of your relaxed hand at the base of your thumb. This soft texture is similar to the texture of a blue rare to rare steak.
- Now touch your thumb and forefinger together and again touch the base of your thumb. This texture is similar to a medium-rare steak.
- Next, touch your thumb to your middle finger. This firmer texture is similar to the texture of a medium steak.
- Next, touch your thumb to your fourth finger. The semi-firm texture at the base of your thumb is similar to a medium-well steak.
- Lastly, touch your thumb to your pinky finger. The very firm texture at the base of your thumb is similar to a well-done steak.
- This method of testing for a steak is relatively easy and you will never find yourself looking for a thermometer while grilling.
One last note:
Never cut the meat to test for doneness. Cutting the steak lets all the natural juices escape, leaving you with a dry and tasteless piece of meat.
Ted Reader is a Grilling is Happiness sponsored writer.