With about a month left in grilling season let’s talk steaks. And more importantly how to grill them. But first I want to tell you how to select the perfect steak. You have to start with a good piece of meat. I look for three things here: a bone-in cut with moderately abundant marbling that is about an inch and half thick.
As most of you already know marbling equals flavor. What many of you probably don’t know is that there are grades within each grade of meat. For prime meat that means two grades: moderately abundant marbling and slightly abundant marbling. But I look for steaks that have more than just moderately abundant marbling. I also want that marbling to be evenly distributed in the cut of meat because there is good marbling and there is bad marbling. Good marbling is dots of fat throughout the cut of meat, like in the picture at the top of this post. Bad marbling is clumps of fat in the same area. With that being said, I don’t necessarily go for a particular cut of meat, just the one with the best marbling. So one day it might be a rib steak, the next a strip steak. If you are buying a steak that is on sale most likely there will be a mix of steaks with moderately abundant and slightly abundant marbling so don’t be afraid to select the one you want. Unfortunately most steaks that are on sale do not come on the bone.
I like my meat on the bone. By cooking it with the bone, you will keep in more juice and flavor. When cooking any type of meat it is always better to cook something that is as whole as possible. That is why roasts are always so delicious. The more you break down a piece of meat the more flavor you are going to lose. Obviously you are not going to be roasting a whole rib everyday so the next best thing is to have your steak with the bone.
If you want a nice crust I recommend having your steaks cut at least an inch and a half thick. Otherwise you’ll end up with a well done steaks.
Lastly, most primary cuts don’t need any extra help from marinades. All you need to do is finish with a little sea salt. But the off-cuts, which are perfectly fine to use by the way, especially if you are serving a large number of people, need to be marinated. This will help them be less tough and add more flavor. My favorite off-cut is the flank steak. I like to marinate at least 6 hours, but overnight is best. On to the grilling.
Now, most people probably don’t realize that what you do before and after grilling your steak is as important as how you cook your steak. First and foremost you need to get your grill hot. That will help you get the proper sear on your steak. Turn your grill on to a high heat and close it. I wait until my grill gets to at least 400 degrees before starting my steaks. While you are getting your grill nice and hot make sure you take your steak out of the refrigerator. I like my steak to get to room temperature before I grill it.
Remember your grill will lose heat once you open it. I start with the heat on high for a few minutes before turning it down to medium. This will help you create a nice crust on your steak. Personally I like this added texture and flavor but if you don’t it’s not a problem, just start with the grill on a little lower heat. I cook my steaks with the grill open. If you keep it closed you’re going to steam the steak (have you ever seen steamed steak on a restaurant menu?) and it most likely won’t cook evenly since you are hitting it with both direct and indirect heat. You either want one or the other, not both. That is why it is okay to roast a steak in the oven (just indirect heat) but not with your grill closed. It will take longer doing it my way but it is well worth the wait. The same goes for burgers. You don’t want to cover you’re burger on the grill or close the grill.
When your steak is finished let it rest for 7-10 minutes before cutting it. You want the juices from the steak to be absorbed back into the meat before you carve it. If you cut into your steak and the juices run out you’re letting flavor out of the steak.
Here’s this week’s tip: When finishing a steak you should finish with sea salt. I recommend Maldon. Its crystals are thin flakes that dissipates quickly when exposed to heat so you don’t get left with a clump of salt in one place. It is costly but a little bit goes a long way. Once you try this one you’ll never use anything else.