Season Stepp: Prepare a steakhouse meal at home
You don’t have to venture out to a restaurant to enjoy a great steak dinner. Save a trip, save some money and enjoy a night at home in the kitchen.
Choosing the meat
When choosing beef steaks, opt for a good cut. A quality cut of meat should be tender when grilled or seared quickly without becoming tough. The most preferred cuts of steak are filet mignon (from a beef tenderloin), rib-eye, or New York strip.
A T-bone steak, which has a small part of the tenderloin and part of a strip steak, is also a popular cut, but often when cooking bone-in lean meats, the bone will hold temperature differently than is expected, and the meat will end up overcooked. Because of that, I suggest cooking with boneless steaks, pork chops and often even chicken breasts.
Perfecting your method
When cooking any type of meat, it is best to bring it to room temperature before cooking. It is perfectly safe to let a steak sit on the counter for two hours prior to cooking, but no longer than four hours. If you have forgotten to remove the meat from the fridge several hours in advance, at least allow 20-30 minutes. Cold meat will cook unevenly.
Steaks can be prepared on a grill, on a grill pan, in a skillet or under the broiler. I dislike the broiler method because often when something is out-of-sight, it is out-of-mind. Especially when it comes to cooking meat. Keeping a visual on it is of utmost importance.
Knowing the rules
When cooking any type of meat, there are a few rules one must follow.
First, make sure the cooking surface is hot. If it is on the grill, preheat it well in advance to allow for even heating. Once it is hot, rub with a kitchen towel dipped in oil. If cooking in a pan, such as a cast-iron skillet, preheat the skillet over medium-low heat for five to 10 minutes. Good pans need time to heat up, time for the metals to heat and expand. Don’t try to rush the heating by putting the pan over high heat; this will lead to hot spots and uneven cooking.
Once heated over medium low, increase to medium (this could vary depending on your cook surface), allow a few more minutes of cooking, then add an oil with a high smoke point. (Some oils will begin to smoke and burn at a lower temperature than others. I find canola oil to be a good all-purpose oil.) When the oil is hot and shimmering, or the grill is ready, add the steaks, leaving at least an inch of space between each. This might mean working in batches. If the meat is too close together, (this also applies to other meats, even searing beef for beef stew) it will steam rather than sear, and no one wants a steamed steak.
Second, place the meat on the hot surface and leave it alone. Don’t touch. Put down the tongs. We want the meat to cook completely undisturbed on one side until it is cooked more than halfway to the desired doneness.
In the case of chicken breasts, that means allowing the chicken to cook almost all the way on one side until only a small amount of pink remains on top before flipping.
In the case of a steak, if medium is desired, cook half-passed medium before flipping, and flipping only once. Watch the color of the meat change to indicate how much it has cooked. If cooking on a grill, leave the lid up so you can see the color change. If the lid is lowered, the convection heat created will turn the whole steak brown and doneness cannot be determined by color.
Lastly, let meat rest once it is removed from the heat. If you immediately cut into the steak and juices run onto the cutting board or plate, you might think “Ooh, what a juicy steak!” Well, maybe it was, but it’s not anymore. Allowing meat to rest allows for the chaos of cooking molecules to calm down and redistribute. At least five to 10 minutes of resting is proper insurance for a small cut of meat.
Now that we have gone over a few of the rules, have yourself a lovely steak night. Throw a baked potato in the oven, toss together a Caesar salad and enjoy a tender, perfectly cooked steak.
Grilled Steak with Roasted Garlic and Herb Compound Butter
1 head garlic
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
½ lemon, zested and juiced
1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves chopped
2 teaspoons fresh chives, thinly sliced into rounds
4 (6-ounce) steaks, such as rib-eye or New York strip
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut 1/4 inch off the top of the head of garlic. Place in the center of a square of aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil. Crimp the foil to make a closed packet and roast in the oven until the garlic cloves are very soft and the whole kitchen smells of roasted garlic, about 30 minutes.
Remove from oven and when cool enough to handle, press the head of garlic from the bottom, squeezing out the roasted cloves.
In a small bowl, mix together the roasted garlic cloves with butter, lemon zest and juice, parsley, thyme, chives, a generous pinch each of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix until smooth. Place in the center of a piece of plastic wrap and form into a log. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Preheat grill or grill pan to high. When the grill is hot, rub with a lightly oiled kitchen towel.
Season the steaks on both sides with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Place the steaks onto the grill, leaving at least 1-2 inches of space between each. Cook to desired doneness, remove from the grill and set aside.
Allow the steak to rest at least 5 minutes before serving with a few slices of the compound butter.
Season Stepp writes about food for The Spartanburg Herald-Journal in South Carolina.