Welcome back to Djalali Cooks Too. I’m Alex, Kelly’s husband. Turns out I missed my Saturday post last week. You’re probably not wondering why, but I’ll tell you anyway. Kelly was gone on a weekend trip with my mom. I thought time alone would be way more fun than it was. Like, I’d do all of these fun things I can’t do when she’s here, like turn up my music to 10. Turns out, I found new ways to do nothing. I did spend the weekend ruminating on one thing besides my wife’s return: six ways to improve your steak. And yes, I ruminate about not five; not seven; but exactly six ways in which to do it.
It turns out there’s a million ways to cook a million different cuts of steak. Kelly alone has shown you three different ways to cook a ribeye, as well as how to pan sear a New York strip. (Given my druthers, I’m cooking ribeye every single time.) So today, I thought I’d share some of the tips that have improved my steak cooking irrespective of method or cut. You may know one or even all of them, in which case apologies in advance. So here’s six ways to improve your steak you may or may not know. (Turns out it’s actually hard to contribute anything new in the present moment of constant content.)
Let it Sweat
Salt your steak at least 40 minutes, but preferably 1 hour per 1 inch thickness of meat prior to your cook. (In fact, you can salt your steak up to 4 days prior to cooking.) As others have attempted to show, that salting your steak less than 40 minutes leads to… Ok, it’s not the end of the world, but salting at least 40 minutes prior really does improve the quality of your cook.
Once you’ve salted your steak, let that bad boy sweat. By ‘sweat’, I simply mean let the salt draw out the steak’s moisture only to be re-absorbed by the meat. Why? Because someone somewhere told me, obviously.
Seriously though, the main reason to draw moisture out is to help facilitate that beautiful crust during cook time. I use a healthy amount of Kosher salt when seasoning, mostly because I have been accused of under-seasoning too many times at this point not to. But if you do under-season, finish your steak with sea salt. Finally, I add freshly crushed pepper right before cook time.
The 8 Minute Sear
All of the tips in this post are method agnostic except this one, because well, it is a method. I picked this up from my man Malcolm Reed. And if you don’t know who he is, get in the know. I absolutely love him.
Here’s how the 8 minute sear works. If
- you’re a backyard griller like me; and
- you’ve got a grill that can get up to searing temp between 600-700 Fahrenheit; and
- you’re cooking a steak at least 1.5 inches thick (preferably 2); and
- you’ve got a pair of grill grates (though not essential)
- throw your steak on the grill;
- after two minutes rotate it 90 degrees; and
- another two minutes flip sides;
- after which, you’ll leave it for two minutes more and then rotate 90 degrees;
- for a final two more minutes before you’ll pull it.
In sum, 8 minutes total: 4 minutes per side: 2 minutes per quarter turn.
After 8 minutes, give or take a 1 minute or so, you’re left with a pretty darn near perfect medium rare steak with a set of beautiful grill marks.
What’s this ‘give or take business’ you say? Well…
Use a Meat Thermometer
Say it with me: cook to temp, not time. Again: cook to temp, not time. And one more time: cook to temp, not time. Sadly, it took me a lot of time to internalize the most basic tenant of grilling: time is a flat circle. Or is it time is relative?
Feels like I’m totally contradicting myself given that I just advocated for the 8 minute sear above. Turns out that that 8 minute sear is sometimes a 7 minute one; or a 6 minute one; or, well, an 8 minute one. That’s why I use a meat thermometer. There are too many variables when cooking meat to use time as a reliable judge for when that meat is done. External temp, wind, grill type, meat thickness, meat cut, fat content, etc. etc. etc., can all affect the time your meet spends cooking.
A surface thermometer is important because your grill’s thermometer is going to lie to you every.single.time. No, not really, but it’s given you the ambient temperature when in reality you want to know the grates’ temp.
I’ve been using the MEATER for my probe. (It feels like every internet chef is hawking one, so I broke down and bought it. I basically like it with a few gripes I’m happy to share in the comments.) We generally like to eat our steaks on the rare/medium-rare-side-of-things. So we’re looking about 125-130 Fahrenheit fully rested. This means when that probe reads 118, I’m pulling the steak, because I expect a 5-7 degree run up during rest time.
So however you like to eat a steak, from rare to well-done, just make sure you use a meat probe to give yourself a sense of where you are in the cook. ‘Cause even the 8 minute sear isn’t totally accurate every single time. And remember, pull that steak 5-10 degrees short of where you want the final temp.
As I learned from my mom watching Ina Garten: everything is better with butter baby. (Sorry, I’ve got Frank Costanza in my head.) But seriously, a little melted butter with fresh herbs goes a long way, not just for adding a little more flavor but also building that illusory crust you’re planning on snapping a picture of and putting on IG. Cause that’s the point of cooking, right? Wrong? Who can keep track anymore…
Pro-tip: save a little as a finishing sauce.
Let it Rest
You’ve come this far, maybe you’d come a bit further and let your steak rest for 10 minutes. Yeah, it’s tough to wait. I get it. But the goal, here, is to reduce the amount of juices lost during the cutting process. Less juices lost, the juicier the steak is. Almost tautological.
General rule of thumb: let a steak rest at a minimum for 5 minutes but as much as 20 if you’ve can hold out. The thicker the cut, the longer the rest time, again up to 20 minutes.
Slice Against the Grain
Five down. But I did promise you six ways to improve your steak. Here’s
Johhhhhhhhhhnnnnnnnnnnyyyy number 6. I said it two weeks ago weeks, and I’ll say it again: slice your meat against the grain. Why? Because it results in a more tender bite. No one likes chewy meat. Not me. Not you. Not anyone, as far as I can tell.
Sometimes, it’s hard to identify which way the grain is running, in which case you can make a pilot cut by slicing the steak in half and then cutting your individual slices from there. I kid you not: I’m always second guessing myself on what should be the simplest of tasks. So if you’re struggling with the basics, I promise you, I am and will continue to struggle too.
Six ways to improve your steak
Well, that’s it folks: six ways to improve your steak. If you’re not like me, and I hope you’re not, then you were probably doing all of these things all of the time. But for the people out there kinda sorta like me, I hope these tips help you help yourself to a better cooked steak. And if you’ve got leftovers, check out how to make the very best steak sandwich with ’em.
Finally, on a completely unrelated note, I just wanted to say, RIP Norm Macdonald. I’ve said this to a couple of people, but I’ll throw it out there one more time: When I was 13, Norm introduced me to what’s really funny. I didn’t always understand all of his jokes, but I knew then he saw life in a way I wanted to too.
So, if you’ll allow me, I’d like to do Norm doing David Letterman.
What a tremendous luxury, if you think about it, to be tucked in at night by Norm Macdonald. Until next time, Djalali Cooks Too.