Cook A Restaurant Quality Steak At Home
Anyone with a grill can prepare a sizzling cut of restaurant quality
Wednesday, April 22, 2009 2:56 AM
By Robin Davis
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
For a fraction of the price, why not treat yourself to the same meal at home?
“The big thing is to start with something good and prepare it right,” said John Williams, owner of Weiland’s Gourmet Market in the Clintonville neighborhood.
Buying a high-quality steak is key, but finding the best cut isn’t always easy. Cuts from the loin and rib section of a cow — strip steaks and rib-eyes, for example — make the best steaks. Yet other factors, too, should be considered.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture grades meat based on the age and marbling, or internal fat. The top cuts — Prime, Choice and Select — are clearly marked on the packaging. The grade is nearly as important as the cut, said Jamie Purviance, author of Weber’s Way To Grill.
“Most of the steaks you’ll find in supermarkets are graded Choice or Select, and the steaks you’ll find in the best steakhouses are Prime,” Purviance said. “I recommend staying away from Select steaks, as they are just too dry for grilling. And not all Choice steaks are necessarily great.”
Steaks can be further “branded” to suggest quality.
Williams, for example, sells a brand called Swift 1855 at Weiland’s that’s all Choice and top-quality, he said. Another brand commonly found at supermarkets is Certified Angus Beef.
The look of meat, Purviance said, can hint at its quality.
“Choose the ones with a coarse marbling of milky white fat,” he said. “The flesh should be a rich pink or light cherry color. If you see any with a deep red or brown colors, it could mean that those steaks came from older, tougher animals. And the surface should be moist but not wet or sticky.”
Once the meat has been selected, the preparation becomes crucial.
Forming a good crust on the steak is all-important, Purviance said.
“One good habit that separates steakhouse chefs from many home cooks is that the chefs spend more time searing their steaks,” he said. “They understand that searing develops literally hundreds of flavors and aromas on the surface of steak, so they let their steaks sizzle over direct heat until the surfaces are dark, dark brown.
“Don’t let anyone tell you that searing ‘locks in the juices.’ That’s a myth. But searing sure does make steak tasty.”
Other recommendations from Purviance:
• Let the meat stand at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before cooking.
“If the steak is too cold when it hits the grill, the interior might require so much cooking time to reach that perfect doneness that the steak overcooks deep below the surface, turning gray and dry.”
• Season the meat for 20 to 30 minutes before cooking. Salt draws out some of the moisture, then dissolves into it.
“When the steak hits the hot grate, the sugars and proteins in the moisture combine with the salt and other seasoning to create a delicious crust,” Purviance said.
• For those who like a really thick steak — steakhouse steaks are often 1 1/2 inches thick or more — try the “sear and slide” method.
“After you have seared both sides, slide the steaks to a part of the grill that is not so hot, perhaps over indirect heat, and finish cooking them safely there,” Purviance said.
He also noted that many restaurant chefs sear steaks on the grill, then finish them in the oven so the surface doesn’t burn while the inside reaches the desired temperature.
A great steak, of course, needs suitable accompaniments. Our suggested side dishes: a baked potato, Romaine Salad With Blue Cheese Dressing and crispy Oven-Baked Onion Rings.