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The Truth About Cooking Steak!
Provided by Epinions.com
There are many ways to cook a great cut of steak.
While none are wrong many experts agree that the best flavor and texture are achieved on either a gas or charcoal grill with a large surface area. Barbecuing steak is an art that is seldom done correctly by the home cook. Many cooks have their own perks and techniques for delivering the final product. I've eaten steaks from many, many different cooks. Some were terrible, some were great, but most were somewhere in the middle. The difference between a great steak and a mediocre one is a simple matter of knowing both your grill and how to properly determine the amount of doneness. Let's talk about some of those ways and hopefully I can offer you some insight as shown to me by a few extremely talented steak house and backyard cooks.
Choosing the cut!
The first thing you want to do to create a great steak is to carefully choose the proper cut of meat. Everybody knows that the most expensive and tender of cuts is the filet however the filet may not be the cut with the most flavor. The filet can come in several different cuts such as a filet strip and tenderloin steak or as it is more commonly known, filet mignon. There are several other cuts that can be very tender and are apt to be more flavorful than the filet. The first lesson is that meat is muscle, and the relative condition of the muscle determines the taste and tenderness of the meat. A protected, little-used muscle such as the tenderloin will be tender and finely grained with a relatively mild flavor, while a stronger, well-exercised muscle will be tougher and more flavorful.
Several steak masters agree that cuts such as the Porterhouse, Flank, Rib and Sirloin generally offer better flavor and these cuts usually contain better marbleizing of fat content which lends both flavor and moisture to the steak. Steaks that contain largely fatty areas should be avoided and when purchasing steaks always request a premium cut of beef as opposed to select cuts. If possible attempt to purchase premium cuts that have been aged a minimum of twenty days and a maximum of twenty eight days. Cuts that have been dry aged will provide the best flavor and will almost always be very tender. Talk to the butcher or owner of your favorite beef provider to determine what will work best for you depending on what size, level of tenderness and cost you are looking for.
Determining when your steak is ready!
Choosing and using meat thermometers will largely determine the final outcome of your steak. Not only does using a meat thermometer enable you to properly determine the level of doneness of the meat but it can also help to ensure that any bacteria present have been acceptably destroyed. I personally prefer my steak barbecued to medium rare but many health authorities recommend cooking red meat to at least medium to kill bacteria that may be present. There are many different types of thermometers available to the aspiring steak master and your choice of thermometer may be determined by several factors including the type of grill you are using, your preference of cut and experience.
For individuals who use extremely large grills or grills that tend to experience a lot of flare up, you may want to consider purchasing a fork style thermometer since it allows for a greater amount of access to your meats while limiting the exposure of your hands to the flame and heat. There are standard piercing thermometers or digital ones that connect to LCD readouts via a cord. I prefer to use a piercing thermometer with the smallest external diameter as I can find to minimize releasing the internal juices which can lend a lack of flavor and tenderness to the steak. Fork style thermometers are dual purpose in that they are also used for tending the meat in addition to checking temperature. I'll talk more about them further down.
Choosing your tools!
Most home barbecue's are tended with the common barbecue fork and the best in the business will tell you that this is often a major contributor to dry and less than perfectly cooked steaks. Do what the pro's do, use tongs or a spatula to tend meat. You never want to cut or puncture a steak if you don't have to because what you are in essence doing is allowing all the natural juices to escape. Temperature probes may have to be inserted but the puncture created can be re-used if you have to check the internal temperature of the meat a second time. Your steak will certainly remain juicier and more flavorful if you are not repeatedly puncturing the meat with a fork or probe.
The average cook doesn't usually think much about their utensils or grill in terms of how it affects your meat but those with the proper amount of insight realize that even a bad cut of meat can become worthwhile with proper preparation and tools. Obviously you can use any grill to cook meat but optimal results will be achieved only with the use of an oversized grill or one with multiple tiers so that your steak can be placed according to grill temperature. Coals can, and should, be placed with a higher concentration in one area of the grill so that the highest level of heat will be present above that area. This enables the cook to achieve a good sear upon initial placement of the meat and it allows for the movement of steaks to cooler areas once that sear has been achieved.
The perfectly grilled steak!
There are so many excellent steak recipes out there that I won't bother to talk about the actual preparation of the meat or marinades in this article. I will however cover some of the more impressive ones in my next article. After your meat has been prepared however is truly the crucial point in how your meal turns out. The first thing you should do is pre-heat the grill to a temperature in the ballpark of 360 degrees. Once you have the grill heated you want to place your steaks on the hottest part of the grill so you can achieve a good, flavor sealing sear on the meat. Leave the steaks in place for about six minutes and then turn them over using your tongs or spatula and sear the other side for about six minutes.
After you have seared the meat, move it to a medium heat, turning them of course, and cook to the desired amount of doneness using your thermometer to determine when that time is. Remember to turn the steaks frequently, about every four or five minutes, keeping steaks that will be less cooked further from the peak heat and those that will be more well done closer to the hot spot. With a little trial and error you will learn your particular grill and how to position your meat to achieve the best sear and cooking spots. The more you try, the better steak master you will become!
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