April 17, 2012

The 'At Home Cook Series,' Installment #5: 12 easy steps to perfecting the art of grilling steak!

Grilling season is just around the corner, so as my fifth installment in my 'At Home Cook Series' we will cover grilling basics, specifically as it pertains to steaks. Be sure to check out Installments 1~4 as well:. Mise en Place, Knife Skills, Searing and Sauteing and Mother Sauces.

Also, don't miss my article on all things Barbecue.

1~Be sure to purchase the best quality meat available. Know your source, and check packing and "use by" dates. I’ve found that the local butcher and even Costco carry premium meats to use at home. If you have a friend in the food service industry, find out if they’d like to attend your next BBQ or maybe let you buy some steaks from the restaurant!

2~Turn the grill on with the lid closed for about 20 minutes before using. It is extremely important that the grill is very hot, and also clean. Use a wire brush to clean off the grates before using.

3~For extra smoke flavor, try buying some mesquite or hickory wood chips to burn over the coals or gas flame. Be sure to soak the chips in water for about an hour; this will help them smoke and smolder, rather than just flare up and burn away.
 
Smoking Wood Varieties
Alder , Apple, Bourbon, Cherry, Grape, Hickory, Mesquite, Wine, Oak, Peach, Pecan, Persimmon, Sassafras

4~Some chefs like to bring the meat up to room temperature for 20 minutes or so. It helps cook more evenly when cooking further than a medium rare temperature. Personally, I suggest that steaks be grilled to a medium rare, so I leave it in the fridge until I’m ready to throw it on the grill.

5~Oil your meat before grilling! I use vegetable oil or even soybean oil. You want something that’s fairly neutral in flavor and also won’t burn too fast on the grill. Extra Virgin Olive Oils should not be used to coat the steak for grilling, but you may drizzle some over the steak or incorporate it in a sauce if you wish.

6~Seasonings can vary from simple salt and pepper, to a five peppercorn blend and crushed sea salt, to a variety of steak salts, seasonings and rubs. Depending on how adventurous your palate is, the options can be endless. I tend to steer away from too much seasoning and just let the ingredients speak for themselves. If a steak is cooked properly, the natural sugars are caramelized and form a crust which yields an amazing flavor.

7~Start Grilling!! Every grill has its' hot spots, so practice makes perfect. Find an area on the grill that gives off a pretty even and constant heat. Place the steak carefully on the grill and LEAVE IT ALONE for about 1 ½ - 2 minutes. This is where most people make their first mistake. They try to move or flip the steak too early, and it sticks to the grill. It takes a few minutes for the steak to release from the grill as the heat penetrates through the meat. You may close the lid or leave it open at this point, it's up to you.

8~To create those perfect diamond grill marks that you see on TV, is pretty simple. Rotate the meat about 45 degrees for diamonds and 90 degrees for squares. Then flip it over and repeat on the other side.

9~How to check if it's done? Because each grill's fire is different and cooking time depends on the size and shape of the steaks, it's difficult to give exact times. But there are four basic ways to determine doneness. The first two of these methods are best for novice cooks, while the last two can be learned through experience:

A. Cut into the steak in an unobtrusive place, and examine the interior to check the doneness.

B. Slide an instant-read thermometer through the side of the steak into the center to check the temperature.
 Keep in mind that the temperature of meat will increase 5 to 10 degrees after resting.

C. Use the touch test. A rare steak will feel fleshy, like an un-flexed muscle; a rare to medium-rare steak will just begin to bounce back to the touch; a medium-rare to medium steak will feel firmer still. I tend to use the hand test: Make a loose fist and press the part of your hand between the index finger and thumb. When using a relaxed fist; this will indicate rare. Slightly tighten fist and repeat touch; this indicates medium. Tightly close fist and repeat touch; this is well done.

D. Look for juices on the steak's surface. A rare steak doesn't release any juices. As the steak approaches medium rare, you'll begin to see red juices forming on the surface (you might also hear them sizzle as they drip over the coals). As the steak approaches medium, it releases more juices. As it approaches medium well and well, the juices will turn brown.

***Note: Remember, you can always put a steak back on the grill if it's too rare, but you can't un-cook a well-done steak.

10~LET YOUR MEAT REST! This is the most important step when trying to achieve a flavorful and more importantly, MOIST steak. I cook the meat to about a half a temperature lower than my desired temperature (for example if I desire a steak cooked medium, I would bring it to a medium rare and then let it rest). All the flavorful juices that have been stressed out by the heat, need to relax and distribute themselves throughout the meat again. Steaks should rest for about 5 minutes before being reheated and served. If you serve the steak right away, those tasty juices will spill out all over the plate after you cut into the steak.
 
11~One of my favorite things to do is brush the steak with some whole melted butter before it goes on the plate. The butter really adds great flavor to that crust and helps soften up the outside of the meat a little.

12~LET'S EAT!

Many different types of sauces may accompany your perfectly grilled steak, but whatever your pleasure, be sure to make enough for everyone!

Bon Appetit!
Lou

Sources
smokedsalmon Brian Holm

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