So you've brought home some good looking steak. Maybe it's not dry-aged, but let's say you have 2 pounds of grass-fed meat in a cut you like from your favorite source. Great. Now what? What are some of the things you can do to make sure it tastes as good as you want it to when you sit down to take the first bite?
1. Take it out of the refrigerator at least an hour before you plan to cook it. Salt it liberally with kosher salt and let it come to room temperature. Never cook cold meat!
2. Rub the steak all over with olive oil before cooking it. This will get rid of any moisture on the surface (from the salt). Your steak will brown nicely and evenly and yet you'll have the flavor that comes from some of that salt penetrating the outer-layer of the meat.
2. If you're grilling over wood or charcoal (be sure to use lump hardwood charcoal) you want hot embers, not leaping flames. If you cook on a gas grill, pre-heat it and turn it up to high so it's truly hot before you put the steak on. Sear it hot and fast for about 3 minutes a side or until you get that nice caramel-brown exterior (not black!). Once that's done, move it to a cooler part of the grill (or turn your grill down) to finish cooking it. That way, you don't risk over-cooking the exterior and the layer just beneath it over high heat. Think: Sear hot and fast but finish cooking the center gently and slowly.
3. If you're cooking indoors, use a big, heavy frying pan. Cast iron is ideal. Heat it up, add a splash of peanut oil, and put the steak in. Don't crowd your meat! Sear the meat on each side using your strongest burner turned all the way up. Once you have a nice brown exterior, turn down the heat and let the steak finish cooking more gently. If smoke in the house is a problem, stick the whole thing, pan and all, in a 400 F. oven and let it finish cooking there. If you do this, watch the steak closely since it cooks faster than you might think. Again: Sear hot and fast but finish cooking the center gently and slowly.
4. If you like your steak rare, but not very rare, then you probably want to take it off the grill when a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the steak reades between 125 and 130 degrees. Keep in mind: the meat will gain another 5 degrees or so at the center while it rests (see below). If like me, you like your steak seriously rare, pull it off at 120 F. If you're more of a medium person, maybe let it go 135 F. To my tastes, that's a very cooked steak. Of course, you can also cut into the meat to see if it's done. Or, poke it with your finger. Rare meat is very soft, growing progressively firmer as it cooks. If you do it often enough, you'll get a feel for what you like. Don't overcook your meat! You can always throw a steak back on the grill but there's no going back once you've overdone it.
4. However you cook your steak, don't forget to let it rest for 5 minutes in a warming oven (170 F.) or on the counter, under a loose tent of foil. Resting the steak is an important step that many cooks skip. Truth is, it allows the heat from the exterior to penetrate and melt the fat in the interior while also allowing the meat to relax after coming off the intense heat. Always rest your meat!
5. Make a great sauce! You spent all that money on your beautiful steak, why not take it a little further and make a sauce to bring your meal together. How about Sherry-Chanterelle Sauce? Green Peppercorn Sauce? Herb Butter? Salsa Verde with French Feta? Tomatillo Relish? Tequila-Avocado Sauce? Anchovy Butter? Orange Bell Pepper Puree....These and more are in The New Steak.