It is a warm spring evening and you are barefoot on a freshly cut lawn. In front of you is dinner: a beautifully cooked steak, so juicy that it is running right into your potatoes. The spices and smoke from the BBQ tease your tastebuds in an almost carnal fashion. You pick up your knife, and it slides through the steak with ease, showing the bright pink within. This description may seem borderline inappropriate, but this is the type of experience we expect from our steak dinners, if only because of the costs involved. Would you spend $500 on a BBQ just to cook burgers? Too often, the next scene of this story is a frustratingly long chew, the ultimate letdown. A few little tricks, combined with some experience, can vastly improve your ability at choosing and cooking the perfect steak.
The first question should be what type of steak do you want to eat? We are all aware of the steak lore: the illustrious T-Bone, the good value Sirloin, the tender Tenderloin. It’s almost like choosing what brand of car you prefer, based more on style and image preferences than actual test drives. But what are the real differences we can expect from the most common cuts of beef?
- Sirloin – A good value steak because of its slightly lower quality combined with the large number of sirloin steaks that can be cut from the cow. There is much variability from sirloin to sirloin, inevitably leading to inconsistency in the quality of the final product. The steak pictured at right is a cross section of the whole sirloin roast, and would typically be cut into 3-5 individual steaks. Sirloins tend to be a leaner steak, and usually have a rich ‘beefy’ flavour. Because of its leanness the sirloin is usually best at medium or medium-well to heat the meat all the way through. A good steak for marinating.
- New York Striploin – Perhaps the most typical of all steaks, meaning that it has a good mix of rich flavour, tenderness, consistency and a fair price. The most recognizable aspect of the New York is the fat cap along the top side of the steak, which is crucial to help keep the steak moist as it cooks. The striploin’s weakness is its preponderance to dry out on the grill; mostly this is because it is often cut too thin and then overcooks quickly. As a rough rule try for at least 1 inch thick. Striploins are best at medium or less to lock in the juiciness before it has a chance to dry out. The best steak to stand up to your best wines.
- Filet Tenderloin – True to its name, this is the most tender, and for many the pinnacle, of all steaks. At its best the Filet does not even need a knife to be cut, and melts in your mouth. These steaks are so soft that if over-aged they will fall right apart on the grill. Cooking them requires a trained grill man, or at least a stop watch, since a medium well tenderloin feels the same as a medium rare one when pressed down on. However anything less than well seems to produce a good result with these fantastic steaks. The weakness of Filet is its relative lack of flavour, and its high price. Wrapping the steak in bacon or providing a sauce to dip in can help with the flavour. Filet can be worth up to twice as much as New York, or four times as much as Sirloin. The steak you use to impress a guest.
- T-Bone Porterhouse – A bit of a sheep in wolf’s clothing, the T-Bone is notoriously hard to cook properly and is most cases proof that adding two great steaks together is not better than each steak individually. The two steaks that are wedged together on one bone are the Filet and the New York, the Filet being the smaller side of the T-Bone. This creates a monster sized steak, expensive to boot, and is usually cut way too thin as a result to get the weight and cost down to earth. As soon as these hit the grill, the real problems start. Going over medium rare means you probably need to go right to well done because of the variation in cooking times between the two sides, as well as variations from the meat on the edge of the steak going towards the bone. A medium T-Bone will be red against the bone. However, for a real meat-head, a thick cut T-Bone (or the best T-Bone cut, the Porterhouse) cooked rare can be a great showcase of the best that beef can do.
- Rib Steak – If you like your steak juicy, the heavy marbling of the rib steak or rib eye is the way to go. While rib steaks and rib eyes can appear quite different, featuring variations in the fat running through the steak or even a bone affixed to one side, the meat itself is really the same in character. It has a slightly sweet, gamey, earthy flavour, and so much marbling that some steaks cross the line and are just plain fatty. When cooking the steak much of the fat melts into the meat creating a situation where the steak is saturated in juice. Overcooking can eventually suck out the juice entirely leaving an insipid steak behind. However undercooking will leave a overly fatty steak that approaches unchewability. Stick with medium-rare.
- Flat Iron Shoulder Steak – A bit of an odd duck, many butchers do not feature this steak in their portfolio but it can be exceptional when aged correctly. As you can see in the picture, the marbling is similar to the Rib Steak, and often this steak is best if it is sliced against the grain after being cooked to break up some of the fatty streaks in the meat. The flavour is a complex earth flavour, not as juicy as a rib steak but with the tenderness of a Filet. The texture is a bit rougher, similar to a sirloin. Because of its tenderness combined with rich marbling the steak is good from medium rare right to medium well, but not a pure rare or well.
The Big Thaw — Safe Defrosting Methods
As soon as raw or cooked meat, products begin to thaw and become warmer than 40 °F, bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to multiply.
Perishable foods should never be thawed on the counter or in hot water and must not be left at room temperature for more than two hours. There are safe ways to thaw food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave.
- Small amounts of frozen food — such as a pound of ground meat require a full day to thaw
- Food will take longer to thaw in a refrigerator set at 35 °F than one set at 40 °F.
- After thawing in the refrigerator, items such as ground meat and stew meat should remain safe and good quality for an additional day or two before cooking.
- Red meat cuts should remain safe and good quality 3 to 5 days.
Cold Water Thawing
- This method is faster than refrigerator thawing but requires more attention.
- The food must be in a leak-proof package or plastic bag. If the bag leaks, bacteria from the air or surrounding environment could be introduced into the food. Also, the meat tissue may absorb water, resulting in a watery product.
- The bag should be submerged in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes so it continues to thaw.
- Small packages of meat — about a pound — may thaw in 1 hour or less.
- A 3-to 4-pound package may take 2 to 3 hours. For whole turkeys, estimate about 30 minutes per pound.
- Once thawed food must be cooked immediately. Foods thawed by the cold water method should be cooked before refreezing.
- After thawing in the microwave, always cook immediately, whether microwave cooking, by conventional oven, or grilling.
- Holding partially cooked food is not recommended because any bacteria present wouldn’t have been destroyed and, indeed, the food may have reached optimal temperatures for bacteria to grow.
- Foods thawed in the microwave should be cooked before refreezing.
- Also, never thaw foods in a garage, basement, car, dishwasher or plastic garbage bag; out on the kitchen counter, outdoors or on the porch. These methods can leave your foods unsafe to eat.
Cooking Without Thawing
- It is safe to cook foods from the frozen state.
- The cooking will take approximately 50% longer than the recommended time for fully thawed or fresh meat and poultry.
Remember: Even though the center of the package may still be frozen as it thaws on the counter, the outer layer of the food could be in the “Danger Zone,” between 40 and 140 °F — temperatures where bacteria multiply rapidly.
- Your biggest culprit for tough grass fed beef is overcooking. This beef is made for rare to medium rare cooking. If you like well done beef, then cook your grass fed beef at very low temperatures in a sauce to add moisture.
- Since grass fed beef is extremely low in fat, coat with virgin olive oil, truffle oil or a favorite light oil for flavor enhancement and easy browning. The oil will, also, prevent drying and sticking.
- Grass fed beef has high protein and low fat levels, the beef will usually require 30% less cooking time and will continue to cook when removed from heat. For this reason, remove the beef from your heat source 10 degrees before it reaches the desired temperature.
- Use a thermometer to test for doneness and watch the thermometer carefully. Since grass fed beef cooks so quickly, your beef can go from perfectly cooked to overcooked in less than a minute.
- Let the beef sit covered and in a warm place for 8 to 10 minutes after removing from heat to let the juices redistribute.
- Never use a fork to turn your beef precious juices will be lost. Always use tongs.
- Never use a microwave to thaw your grass fed beef. Either thaw your beef in the refrigerator or for quick thawing place your vacuum sealed package in water for a few minutes.
- Bring your grass fed meat to room temperature before cooking do not cook it cold straight from a refrigerator.
- Always pre-heat your oven, pan or grill before cooking grass fed beef.
- When grilling, sear the meat quickly over a high heat on each side to seal in its natural juices and then reduce the heat to a medium or low to finish the cooking process. Also, baste to add moisture throughout the grilling process. Don’t forget grass fed beef requires 30% less cooking time so watch your thermometer and don’t leave your steaks unattended.
- When roasting, sear the beef first to lock in the juices and then place in a pre-heated oven. Save your leftovers roasted grass fed beef slices make great healthy luncheon meats with no additives or preservatives.
- When grilling burgers, use caramelized onions or roasted peppers to add low-fat moisture to the meat.
- Pan searing on the stove is an easy way to cook a grassfed steak. After you’ve seared the steak over high heat, turn the heat to low and add butter and garlic to the pan to finish cooking.
Grilling is one of the most exciting ways to enjoy beef. Whether cooking on a gas or charcoal grill, in the backyard or at a tailgate, this cooking method provides maximum flavor and optimal tenderness.
Check out these simple grilling guidelines below to help you reclaim the meals you love with the beef cuts that count this grilling season.
1. Let the meat reach room temperature before cooking.
The meat will cook more evenly if it is the same temperature throughout. Professional kitchens that have super high-powered grills, like Porter House NY’s 1800º F grill, can cook a frozen piece of meat just fine. But if you are cooking on your home grill (which probably maxes out at around 500-600º F) letting the meat reach an even room temp will help you control the temperature of your meat better as you cook it.
2. You want your grill (or other cooking surface) as hot as possible!
Heat is the key to cooking your beef grilled right. A hot grill will char the meat and seal in the flavor. It will also enable you to cook your meat quickly and properly. You also want to avoid flipping meat over and over again.
3. No oil on the grill or the meat.
Top quality, meat needs no additions. Oil can cause fire flare ups and change flavor. If the cooking surface is hot, the steak should not stick.
4. Simple seasoning is best.
Just before cooking, thoroughly season your meat with simple, wholesome ingredients. Fine quality beef does not need too much seasoning.
5. Rotate your meat; don’t just flip it.
Most grills have different heat levels at different spots and depending on the cut of steak different parts might cook differently. So it is important to rotate the meat to ensure that every part gets cooked evenly
6. Let your meat rest before you eat it.
If you’ve followed the advice provided you now have perfectly cooked, tender, and moist beef coming off the grill. The last thing you want to do is let that juice out. So don’t. Let your beef sit for about 5-10 minutes after it comes off the grill and before you cut into it. This will allow the juices to settle and the meat to reach its final tenderness as the temperature evens.
Gordon Says “don’t be afraid to cook a steak on the big night. If you follow these simple rules, it will be easy. Let the pan get nice and hot. If there’s no heat in the pan, there’s no color. If there’s no color, there’s no flavor”. Make sure the steak is relaxed, meaning it’s at room temperature. A relaxed steak will cook quicker, and won’t be stone cold in the center. Ingredients needed to cook a perfect steak couldn’t be simpler, so grab your Crescent Foods steak, and treat yourself to a delicious meal.
Spices & Herb Rubs: