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How To Cook The Perfect Steak

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Crusty and caramelized on the outer surface, but in no way burned, with a first mouthful that melts in your mouth as the flavorful, flawlessly seasoned essence of steak embraces your appetite.

A perfect steak is one that has all of these qualities. You do not have to leave the house and go to an expensive restaurant to taste a delicious steak. You can make it any night of the week in your own home by following a few straightforward and effortless steps.

Cuts of Beef

Shoulder

The first step is buying the steak. To recognize the types of meat at a butcher store, you must first know your cuts of beef. The first slice of meat behind the cow’s head is the shoulder. Although appetizing, the commonly used shoulder muscle is more often than not tough and filled of connective tissue. The meat from this segment of a cow is the least expensive and for the most part, used for slow-cooked roasts. However, if you are searching for a great deal, a top blade steak, known as a flat iron, is a tasty, fairly tender chuck steak to stick on the barbecue.

Sirloin, Short Loin, and Ribs

The next portion of a cow is what butchers call the sirloin, short loin and ribs. The meat from this top, middle area of the cow is the most tender, since the muscles move the least during a cow’s life compared to the other muscles. From these three bigger cuts come most of the steaks you will find at the store.

Sirloin Steak

The sirloin steak is essentially the cow’s hip. Sirloin steaks are typically rather big, but slim, and the meat is moderately savory and tender. Steaks from this section of a cow tend to be of a high-quality value. The most recognized among them are the top sirloin steak and the tri-tip, both without any bones. Lesser-known steaks cut from the sirloin are the round-bone, flat-bone, pin-bone, and wedge-bone steaks.

Flank Steak

Directly below the loin and sirloin, on the underside of the cow’s belly, is the flank. Flank steak is a thin, wide, boneless cut with a texture (grain) that looks very stringy. Cooked very quickly to medium-rare and sliced thinly against the grain, the chewy texture is less noticeable and you will be rewarded with rich flavor.

Loin Steak

A few people find a long, slender and slightly triangular short loin steak to be not as tender as a rib eye and want the additional parts of fat. Other people think that a top loin steak contains just the correct balance of taste and tenderness, without being too full of fat. When it contains a bone, a top loin steak is identified as a shell steak. When the bone is detached, it goes by many names, such as a strip steak and sirloin strip steak, but they are all the same cut of steak.

Tenderloin Steak

Also cut from the short loin piece of a cow is the tenderloin, the part of beef thought of to be the most tender. Tenderloins are easy to recognize in the meat case, due to an extensive, cylindrical figure that’s thicker on one end then tapers down. Tenderloin is cut into many special types of steak, which can all be expensive. The biggest part of the tenderloin is cut into a steak known as Chateaubriand. Filet mignon, another type of tenderloin, is cut from the meat behind the Chateaubriand and is somewhat less wide. Filet Mignon is considered to be the tenderest piece of the tenderloin, but the flavor can be sort of plain.

T-Bone Steak

Last, but not least, the short loin presents the t-bone, a steak named for a T formed bone that runs down the center. On one side of the bone is meat from the top loin and on the other side is a slim, narrow piece of tenderloin. Some people say that this steak combines the tenderness of a tenderloin steak and the rich, delicious taste of a top loin steak. If you’re really hungry, skip the t-bone and go immediately for the porterhouse, which is merely a t-bone steak with a larger portion of tenderloin attached.

Rib Steak

This steak is from a rib roast cut into tinier slices. A rib steak has the bone attached initially, but the more well-liked rib eye steak has had the bone removed.

The rib eye is also sold and called a Spencer steak, or a Delmonico rib steak, frequently having bulky pockets of fat, which include flavor and provide the steak with a moist, juicy consistency.

Seasoning the Meat

If a decent cut of meat is cooked in an appropriate manner, you really do not need much extra seasoning other than salt and pepper. It is recommended that you use a high quality, coarse-grain sea salt (or kosher salt) and freshly cracked pepper. Malabar black pepper is an excellent choice.

Salting beef many hours or even days before cooking breaks down the protein in it and makes it dry and chewy, like beef jerky. The salt draws out moisture, curing the meat. So don’t use it until right before cooking.

Salting early, however, may only work with larger slices of beef. For average steaks, salting about thirty minutes before cooking is best and seasoning right before cooking also works perfectly fine.

Before seasoning, always make sure that the steak is dry. Brush the steak with oil such as canola oil. It is best to avoid olive oil, which can become bitter at high heat. You can also use a combination of melted butter and canola oil before seasoning to help the outer surface of the steak brown. Season both sides of the steak evenly with salt and pepper. Keep in mind, you can always use more seasoning once the steak cooks, but you cannot get rid of the salt on the meat.

If you want to season more than with salt and pepper, marinades and rubs may be used on most types of steak, and are a particularly great way to add flavor to less-expensive cuts.

After seasoning, leave the steaks sitting out on the counter to bring them up to room temperature, approximately 30 minutes. You can cover them with plastic wrap, to avoid anything coming into contact with them.

Steak Cooking Methods

Stove-Top to Oven

What is great about cooking steak on the stove is how simple it is to get a crisp, caramelized outside layer on the exterior of the steak without over-cooking the center. More often than not, this is harder to accomplish on a grill. Using a mixture of the stove-top and the oven is an excellent and accurate technique for a perfect steak. The question is, which should you use to cook your steak first?

One of the most common methods is scorching the steak first on the stove, then finishing it in a hot oven. You can achieve this by:

Patting the steak dry and seasoning it, then pre-heat the oven to 450 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

When the oven is at the correct temperature, drizzle a little oil into an oven safe pan and heat the pan on the stove over a high heat for a few minutes until it just barely starts to smoke. Set the steak in the pan and let it sit without touching it for 3 minutes. Be ready to turn on your fan or open a window, as there will be smoke. If the steak is having a hard time being turned in the pan, it’s not done browning yet and requires a little more time. If it comes up moderately easily after 3 minutes, turn over the steak. Put the pan, with the steak inside of it, in the oven. Let it cook in the oven for several minutes, then test out the steak with a meat thermometer for doneness.

Grilling

In some people’s minds, however, the only way to cook a steak is over an open fire outside. Many of these same people believe grilling is an art form that cannot be mastered in one day. It takes years of experience with different types of grills, as well as heat levels, cooking times and a variety of seasonings and marinades. This may be true for some people out there, but you can get a perfect steak the first time if you follow directions.

The “charcoal vs gas” debate is one that has gone for years, and they both have their place. For simplicity and the easy ability to manage heat levels, a gas grill cannot be beat. For depth of taste, charcoal more often than not wins every time.

Charcoal

Either way, you in no way want to put a steak on a cold grill, so you need to wait until it heats up. For a gas grill, this is simple. Only turn the knob to medium-high and keep the lid shut for 10-15 minutes. For a charcoal grill, the type of charcoal you use will affect the heat level as well as the flavor of the meat. Briquettes are easy to light, hold a steady heat, and are inexpensive, but they are also made with questionable additives that can give meat a chemical flavor. Hardwood charcoal is favored for a natural, smoky taste. Hardwood charcoal can be a little bit trickier to light and once it gets going it burns hotter and more variably, which has a need of keeping a closer eye on the grill which is a small price to pay.

There is no point in using hardwood charcoal and then drenching it in lighter solution, which will make your meat taste like it was covered in petroleum. Instead, use a charcoal chimney starter to pile and light the coals. Once the coals are lit, wait until they transform from bright red to an ashy white, which typically takes at least 20 minutes. Spread the coals out, placing most of them on one side to make a high heat side and a few on the opposite side of the grill to make a low heat side. Cover the grill for about five minutes so that the heat climbs to medium-high. To test if the heat is hot enough, simply hold your hand a few small inches above the grill. If you cannot hold your hand there for further than 2 seconds, then you have high heat. If you can hold it there for 4-6 seconds without pulling your hand away, the heat is medium-high.

Now, the steak is ready to cook. Start by cooking the steak over medium-high heat for at least 3 minutes without turning. This is about right for a 1-inch steak, but thicker steaks will require another minute or two. Flip, and grill the other side for another 3 minutes, which should brown both sides and bring the steak to the edge of medium-rare.

To bring the steak up to desired doneness, move it to an area of the grill that has not quite as much heat. Shut the lid and cook the steak for another 3-5 minutes prior to checking if it’s complete.

Avoid Flare-Ups

Although flames add enjoyment to grilling, they do not a thing for the meat but burn it. Shift the steak away from flames almost immediately as they occur. Also, try to move the steak as little as possible while it cooks, because too much movement stops the steak from roasting and getting a crunchy, brown crust.

Acheiving Desired Doneness

A meat thermometer is the best way of having an accurate way to measure if a steak is done to your liking. Although your thermometer will most likely tell you that 145 degrees is rare for beef, any great chef you ask will tell you another way. Rare in a chef’s mind, signifying very pink, is nearer to 120 degrees; medium-rare is around 125-130; medium is about 130-135 degrees; medium-well, 135 to 140 degrees; and well is 140 and higher. You can also test a steak's doneness with a push with your finger. Rare is squishier, medium-rare is a bit spongy, and medium-well is tight. The steak will carry on to cook at least five degrees when it’s off the grill or out of the pan, so do not completely bring it to your desired temperature as it will do so while it rests.

Let It Rest

The final step, which ought to be incorporated no matter how you heat your steak, is letting the meat sit before cutting into it. As the meat cools, the proteins begin to firm up and hold moisture, so when you cut into the steak the entire juicy goodness won’t run out. About 8-10 minutes ought to do it, and a loose cover of foil or no cover at all is a much better choice than tightly sealing the meat up while it rests. That is how to cook the perfect steak.


Food | Cooking | Recipes


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