Now that you’re familiar with the most popular steak cuts, learned the different grades of beef, know the difference between dry-aged and wet-aged steaks, and can confidently tell the waiter how you like your steak done, here are six tips on eating the perfect steak.
1. Make Sure The Steak Is NOT Frozen!
Temperature is crucial for the perfect steak.
The steak should be as close to room temperature as possible before it’s cooked. This will ensure that the meat is cooked evenly.
If the meat is cooked frozen, you’ll be guaranteed a horrible looking (and tasting) steak. The outside will be overdone and tough, while the inside will be really undercooked or even still raw.
If you see the chef throw the steak on the grill or cast iron skillet after pulling it from the freezer. RUN.
Before cooking, steaks should be thoroughly patted dry with paper towels. To get that perfect brown crust on the steak, the surface must be seared at over 150°C (300°F) to lock in flavor and maintain tenderness. If there is surface moisture, the water boils and turns to steam which prevents the meat from browning.
If your steak doesn’t have a crust, it probably wasn’t pat dried or even worse, it was cooked frozen.
Surface moisture is the enemy.
2. Check For Color And Thickness
Color: You don’t want a zombie steak. Look for bright red coloring on the meat. A good steak should look full of life and vigor, not pale and bloodless or grey and dull looking. The meat should come from the dead but not the Walking Dead.
Thickness: You don’t want a puny steak. Steaks will be juicier and hold their flavor better if they are cut a little thicker. A thicker cut steak will also have less of a chance of being over cooked.
Choose a steak that’s at least an inch thick, ideally even an inch and a half thick. A good guideline is if you like them on the rarer side, go thicker. If you like them more on the well done side, go thinner.
3. Make Sure It’s Done Right
If cooked properly, here’s how your steak should look like.
Pay attention to the color. Whether it’s red, pink, or brown, the inside color is pretty consistent throughout. This is what you want.
Here’s what you don’t want.
Notice the “striping” or different layers of colors inside of each slice?
This is what happens if your steak is too cold (or frozen) before searing. You get terrible uneven cooking. Steaks should NEVER be striped on the inside.
That’s why it’s good to let the steak stand at room temperature for 10 to 30 minutes (depending on size) to help take the chill off.
If you need to wait, order some appetizers and have a long discussion with the people at your table on whether the White Lady could beat the Tikbalang in a fight.
4. Let Your Steak Rest
When your steak finally arrives, don’t immediately cut into it. Wait.
Let your steak rest for 5-10 minutes.
When the steak is cooking, the juices concentrate into the center. If you slice into the steak right away, the juices will escape and spill out on your plate. There goes the flavor. Your steak will now taste dry.
Allowing your steak to rest will allow those juices to spread back out from the center and redistribute keeping your steak juicy and flavorful.
Allowing the meat to rest before eating enables the juices to redistribute and be reabsorbed.
Your steak will not get cold.
Ask your server if the steak is fresh from the pan. If it is, wait.
While you wait, if you were served bread and butter earlier in the meal, and you still have some butter left over, try smothering a little on top for some extra flavor.
5. Slice Thinly Against The Grain
The direction you slice your steak matters.
Slice it the right way and the meat is oh-so-tender.
Slice it the wrong way and the same meat is chewy.
Lines are running from right to left down the length of the steak.
If you look closely at your steak you’ll see little lines running down the length of it. That’s the grain. For tender slices, look at the meat to determine the direction of the grain.
If you slice parallel to the grain, you end up with long muscle fibers that are tough to chew.
If you slice thinly against the grain, you end up with short pieces of muscle fiber that are much easier to chew.
6. Skip the Steak Sauce or Gravy
If steak is prepared properly, seasoned properly, and cooked properly, you shouldn’t need to use sauce or gravy.
Gravy is used to help make tough meat more enjoyable. Sauces will just prevent you from enjoying the natural flavor of properly cooked premium beef.
If you’re going to pay a lot of money for a steak, why mask the flavor?
A quality steak requires little more than a very generous seasoning of coarse salt and cracked black pepper. If you want to get fancy, you could rub the meat down with garlic and rosemary smashed to a silky paste with olive oil, but you shouldn’t need marinades.
Fancy restaurants usually frown upon asking for steak sauce, ketchup, or salt and sometimes, this is even seen as an insult to the chef. You’re basically saying that the steak doesn’t taste good enough on its own and needs extra flavor.
That said, this is just a recommendation so you’re able to experience the tenderness, juiciness, and flavor of your steak to the fullest extent.
At the end of the day, you are their customer. You are the one paying for the food and you’re entitled to eat your steak however you like.
Want to learn more about steaks?