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Who doesn’t love a good steak? There is a science and art behind a perfectly juicy and medium rare steak. Don’t worry with a just few easy steps and a bit of knowledge you can easily produce a restaurant quality steak at home.
What Is This Business About Grades?
The first step in cooking perfect steak is purchasing the best cut for your budget. There are several grades of beef: Prime, Choice, and Good.
- USDA Prime is the best cut; it is prized for it’s fat to meat ratio. This grade is usually sold directly to restaurants and specialty markets, like your local butcher. USDA Prime is typically the most expensive grade; you pay for the quality. It is worth it if you love a great steak, sometimes I splurge on Prime, but most often I go with USDA Choice.
- USDA Choice, is also an excellent cut – it usually has small imperfections or less fat to meat ratio, but it is still an excellent cut of beef and is my favorite grade when I am making a steak that will have little to no sauce, and I want to taste the pure beefy flavor and goodness. Choice can be easily found in your larger grocery stores.
- USDA Good is a good cut, it is a medium grade and offers a lot of flavor for the price point. If you are going to be saucing your steak, choice is a great cut also if you are looking to stretch your grocery budget without sacrificing flavor.
How Do I Choose The Right Steak?
A good steak is bright in color, firm to the touch, and moist not dry. Ideally, the steak should be well-marbled (you should streaks of white fat throughout the cut), remember fat is flavor so don’t disregard a steak because of the marbling – you might be missing out a delicious cut of beef. The less marbling that a steak has, the less flavor and it will be dryer – if you do choose a lean cut of meat, I would recommend saucing it to make up for some of the lost flavors.
Should I Buy Bone-In or Not?
This is mostly this is a point of preference – I love a bone in steak, they tend to be a bit more expensive because of the weight of the bone, but the bone imparts extra flavor and is worth the few extra dollars.
If you are looking to stretch your budget, find a big and beefy steak, a New York strip is a great choice, it is boneless and has the bold flavor that steak lovers crave.
What About Dry Aged?
Aged beef is a rich, deep darker color. Aging is a highly desirable process for intensifying the flavor and making your steak much more tender. These steaks are generally a bit more expensive, and you can find them at specialty markets or high-end supermarkets. If you can afford the extra cost, it is worth it.
Should I Marinate Or Not?
I am torn here, I don’t often marinate my steaks. I love the pure beefy flavor; I usually use a Chicago Style Spice Rub (I liked it before I moved to Chicago, but now I feel I must help promote this lovely blend.) If I do marinate my steak, it is often a cut with less fat, and that could use a flavor boost. If you do marinate I would recommend something simple like this easy marinade recipe.
When I marinade, I do so in a resealable plastic bag and allow it marinade overnight, or even freeze it for later use.
How Should I Cook My Steak?
When cooking your steak, make sure to use as little oil or butter as possible. You never want to fry your steak in too much liquid, instead of searing or broiling steak, you end boiling. That is precisely what you don’t want. The goal should be to sear the steak as fast as possible and not fuss with it. I have a rule, I only turn my steak once, and I always cook in a cast-iron skillet or on my indoor grill pan. The cast iron is a great skillet and distributes the heat evenly. It is literally my favorite skillet. When you are done cooking your steak, make sure to let it rest for a few minutes, this allows the juices get absorbed back into the steak if you cut it to soon you will end up with dry steak.
Here are some great tips that I use when I am cooking a steak at home:
- Preheat your cast iron skillet or indoor grill pan to it is smoking. This will ensure you get a hard sear and all the juices are trapped in the steak.
- Add just a splash of vegetable oil right before you cook the steaks.
- Make sure to turn on your range hood and open your windows – your kitchen is going to get smoky.
- Make sure don’t crowd your skillet – I only cook steaks two at a time. I have 2 12-Inch cast iron skillets so I can cook for steaks at a time.
- Make sure to baste your steaks with any rendered pan sauce as they are searing – this will add extra flavor.
- Feel free to finish your steaks off with a pat of butter – as the steaks are resting this butter will get absorbed into the steak and impart huge flavor.
- Make sure to build your sauce if you are saucing, in the same cast iron you cooked the steak in – don’t waste all that great flavor.
How Do I know When My Steak Is Done?
Sometimes it is difficult to tell exactly when your steak is done, I can do this by the feel of the meat but there is no shame in using a instant read meat thermometer.
- Rare: Soft texture to the touch, and an indent remains when pressed, or about 140 degrees
- Medium Rare: Soft and Springy texture, about 145 degrees (this is the perfect steak temperature in my not so humble opinion)
- Medium: Springy Feel to the touch and about 160 degrees
- Well Done: Firm to the touch and about 170 degrees
What Sauce (If Any) Would I Recommend?
While your steak is resting, you can prepare a flavorful sauce using the pan drippings. Even if you don’t sauce the steak itself, any of the sauces below will make an excellent sauce for potatoes or other vegetables. Here are two great sauces that I do LOVE.
Happy Cooking, and make sure to post your recipes on social media with the tag #ICookedThisRecipeSavants
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