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Thursday, June 25, 2015

How to Cook a Steak

Good morning! 

I've been getting requests on how to do the basics...no complicated stuff, just good, easy, step-by-step basics with lots of pictures! So here we go, a step-by-step tutorial on how to sear a good steak.

First off, if your steaks have nice big fat strips like this, score them. You'll often find a bit of silverskin underneath, and score that, too. Scoring this fat will mean that the silverskin and fat won't shrink and curl up at the heat of the pan, so your steaks won't curl, either.

Another tip is to let your steaks come up to room temperature, if you can. At very least, don't have it straight from the fridge. Cold meat seizes when it comes into contact with your screaming hot pan/grill, so just have it out for 10 minutes, at least.

When cooking steaks, chickens...mostly any meat, really, you'll want to set them on paper towels, or a nice clean tea towel, so you can dry them off. If you don't dry meat, it won't brown. This is because of steam.

If you have a moist piece of steak hitting your hot pan, what'll happen will be that the layer of water on the meat will boil and evaporate on a micro scale, thus giving you a tragically grey color on an otherwise gorgeous steak.

Seasoning? Of course! You can use a dry steak rub, if you like, but I prefer freshly cracked black pepper. If you have a pepper grinder, grind on the largest setting you have. And make sure to press in any seasonings you have. Dab, again, with the paper towels, if you like.

As far as salt goes, I like kosher salt. You can use sea salt, but don't use the fancy salts. Himalayan pink salt, grey salt, fleur de sel...just don't. Those are garnish salts, and very expensive. There's no actual health benefits to eating salts from far away places; the effect is purely psychological. Sure, table salt/iodized salt and kosher salt are different, but salt is salt is salt. All salt comes from the ocean. Even those pretty pink rocks? Yeah, they were once in the ocean. Remember when a good portion of the planet Earth was covered in the ocean? Nah, that's too far of a #ThrowbackThursday for many of us to remember.

There's a bit of debate on this part, but I don't like to season my meat with salt until the very last minute. Salt, like sugar, is hygroscopic, which means it absorbs moisture very easily, from things around it, especially the air. Remember our frienemy, steam? We don't want him rearing his ugly head when the salt draws moisture out of the meat.

Man, check out the color on those!

I'm going to sear these steaks in the pan with butter. I'm not only using butter, but a tiny drizzle of some canola oil. I honestly prefer grapeseed oil, for both its neutral flavor and extremely high smoking point, but I was(tragically) out of the stuff at the moment. It's a little pricey at the grocery store, but you can find it at most bulk stores like COSTCO for a pretty reasonable price. Make sure your pan is really hot by heating the tiny dab of oil in it first, on high, and watching how it slicks across the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-high, and add the butter. See how mine is bubbling up? I had to take that photo fast, as it was melting really quickly.

I got that Calphalon pan for my 22nd birthday. She's a well-worn beast, but I love her!
 Those bubbles there are a sign that the water in the butter is boiling away quickly, leaving the delicious fat. Get your steaks and give them one final pat-dry before putting them in the pan. Be quick about it, though, as you don't want your butter to brown!

 Now, then, don't just slap your steaks into the pan. That's dangerous. Lay them gently in the hot pan, and lay them away from you, not toward. This prevents you from being burnt by grease, which does not feel good. I don't want you setting any fires, especially when there's steak to be had.

See the space between the steaks? You need that.
Remember our buddy, steam? We're combating him, still, by leaving a little space between the steaks. Don't crowd your pan when searing. Steam is still happening, and it needs somewhere to escape from. You know how your stew meat sometimes turns out gray-brown in the pan? That's probably because you just dumped all of your meat in all at once. It's much better to cook in batches, so that way you'll have a nice, crispy, wonderful crust on the outside of your steaks. 

I like my steaks medium rare, so I cooked these for three minutes on the one side before flipping over to cook for just 2 minutes more on the other side.

And another thing:

Don't f#ck with your steaks while they're cooking.

Leave them alone.

Seriously, leave them alone. Put a timer on, and leave them alone. Go work on the salad, or clean up a little, or take time to set the table. You want that crust to form, right? You've taken so many steps thus far to ensure that you get that sexy crust. Let Maillard do his work. Just leave it be, let it sear, let it cook.

Let it cooooook...let it coooook.... Don't move the steaks arooou-uuuunnd! Let it coooook. Let it Cooo-OO-OOOOK! You will need it golden-brow-ow-owwwwnnnn! HEEEERE they SEAR! And HERE THEY'LL STAYYYYYYY. Let the steaks cook on....the wait never bothered me anyway.

*ahem* Sorry.

Now, then, I like my steaks medium-rare. Instead of checking for temperature, which you can do, I don't like to use probes. They just...poke holes in meat that allow the juice and flavor to escape. Instead, look at your hand. Yeah, that's right, look. Oh, here, look at mine.

Are you guys totally jealous of my MS paint skills?
Now, your hands are the best tools you were given. You can use these lovely tools to check the doneness of the steak. Or chicken. Or, really, any meat! See that flesh between my thumb and index finger? The one that's circled? Let your hand go limp, then feel that on your own hand. That's the feeling of raw meat.

See that? It's A-Okay to order a steak,
Now, flex your hand, like how I'm doing in the photo above; that same flesh now feels like rare steak. By touching your index finger to your thumb, and feeling that same bit of flesh, you can feel what a medium-rare steak feels like. Now touch your middle finger to your thumb; that's medium. Medium-well is ring finger to thumb, and well-done is your pinkie finger to your thumb. But, honestly, if you're going to have a steak well done, you shouldn't be eating steak; order chicken.

When your steaks are done, shut off your heat, remove the steaks from the pan, and let rest for at least 5 minutes. This will give you the time to finish up your side dishes. Don't worry about it going cold; carry-over cooking is a real thing. This will also give you some time to create a nice pan sauce from all the goodies in the bottom of the pan, which is called the fond. Just deglaze it with some red wine, beef stock, beer...whatever. Let it reduce and finish with a tiny dab of butter. Serve with your steak and sides, and thank me later. And don't take a picture of your steak. Eat it. This down here was the last picture I took before I devoured these little mo'fo's.

Well, not both of them. The other one was for my boyfriend. Happy cooking!

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