22 June 2010

My Take On Trad Dad's Steak - A Love Song

Dad in Madras- Vietnam 1967

My old man would grill steaks every Sunday night. I remember T Bones in the '60s turning into NY strips in the '70s. My father was and still is fond of marching to a different drummer. While I've followed his tradition of the Sunday steak grill out - I have adhered to his out of the box thinking.

The siren call of the Summer grill grabs something deep in all men. But the outdoor gas or charcoal grill is the last place to cook a big steak. They're great for vegetables, fish and flank steak but not for a 2" bone in rib eye.

I start with turning off my smoke alarm and using a good butcher. If you're idea of a great steak is Outback Steak House - leave right now. Many years ago some smart guy, no doubt a CPA, came up with the idea of shrink wrapping steaks in plastic film and calling it 'wet aged.'

That cretin should be shot. Wet aging seals in moisture to keep steak from rotting in transit and in your grocers refrigerator section. But you want controlled rot. That's dry aged and the process ain't cheap.

For almost a month, dry aged beef is dehydrated in an all wood locker where it loses water. What may have been a four pound rib eye, mostly water, turns into a pound a half rib eye 25 days later. That's why dry aging is expensive.

If you decide to go with dry aged - take another step. Tell your butcher you want a 1 1/2" to 2" thick steak. You're paying top dollar for the dry age. Might as well go all the way and do it right. You must have a thick cut or you're gonna over cook the steak. By the way, if you like your steak well done...please join the Outback lovers headed for the exit.

Your grill is $12 worth of cast iron. Why? Because it'll get Hades hot. Cast iron holds heat and that's the key to getting the hard exterior crust. I bought a thermometer gun a few years ago at an auto parts store (where they're cheap).

Highest reading off my Weber gas grill was 575 degrees. Most outdoor grills can't get north of 700 degrees. You need at least 900 degrees (1,200 is ideal ) to sear a steak and get that crust that a steak house is only too happy to bend you over for.

Season with lots of salt and pepper. The old man was fond of a soy sauce and Wild Turkey marinade and that's fine for a flank steak but not dry aged. Lottsa salt + high heat = crust. If you're on a low or no salt diet - head to the exit with the well done and Outback folks.

This is a good time to decant. It helps to have a glass for yourself to ensure the wine isn't corked. I usually need two to make this difficult determination.

You're doing this at home and so your free from 100, 200 and even (in NYC) 300% wine mark ups. Also, try and stay away from a big California Cabernet. They're just too much in the Summer and remind me of sitting in a hot tub on a 100 degree day.

Hitting the side of the decanter with the wine gives you a 'spank' decant. It helps open the wine up and sounds better too.

The cast iron is hot enough when you see it smoking. We're gonna talk about smoke in a minute but I don't wanna scare you off.

I used to pour olive oil (Claudio's unfiltered from Philadelphia) on the cast iron but no more. Cover the steak in a light coat of oil and you'll cut down on the smoke. Did I say not to do this on an electric stove? DO NOT DO THIS ON AN ELECTRIC STOVE! Not unless you like fire and cast iron sticking to coils.

Slap the steak on the cast iron and you'll get a beautiful sounding sizzle and some smoke. Actually, you'll get a lotta smoke. Is your smoke alarm off? A good time to check is about now.

Trust me. This is worth it.

I like my steak rare to medium rare. That's why you need such a thick cut with this intense heat.

I take 'em off at 120 and...
...tent in foil for five minutes.

If you didn't turn off the smoke alarm, this is a good time to wonder what that beeping noise is. This is usually when neighbors appear at your door asking questions.
Shoo the neighbors away because you don't want this getting cold. Take a bite and savor that taste. Earthy and pure. A sip of Pomerol is a contrast against the steak with an elegant mouth feel that cuts right through the fat. Did I mention fat? If you're on a low fat diet, you need to head to the exit with...


13413k4 said...

check the recent alton brown epsiode on cooking a porterhouse - it is an awesome technique using just a chimney starter. that'll get it crusty - and no smoke!

Jmags said...

Your accompanying pictures really made this post come alive! Gotta love your food/liquor posts.

K.S.Anthony said...

Damn, that's about all anyone needs to know.

Great post.

The Sardonicist said...

great post! i, also, am of the opinion that the dry aged process was stolen from the gods on mount olympus.

however, if i may make a few comments; for those of us who are more "economically challenged", you father's choice of flank steak (or even a london broil) on an outdoor grill with the soy/Wild Turkey marinade sounds good, too!

oh yeah, at the risk of getting too personal, that's a beautiful kitchen!!

Main Line Sportsman said...

With you on the dry-aged rib eye... however I still am a proponent of a charcoal grill for my steak...and you left out one important detail in the process....let the meat warm to nearly room temp before cooking. Bad move to slap fridge-cold meat on a grill or a hot pan...intereferes with proper cooking time etc.
Great post....made me hungry!

beerguzzlingdad said...

You should try the two tier coal method...that's the closest I've ever gotten to a steakhouse like results.

Anonymous said...

I got so tired of the smoke detectors going off in my kitchen that I replaced them with heat detectors. Now I can grill things -- or cook a steak as you did -- without the fire department showing up at my door.

P.S. To elaborate on something said above, if you're cooking prime beef, it should be left at room temperature for for three to four hours before you cook it.

Ben said...

Well done!

Har har.

Sean said...

Ditto on letting the meat warm up to room temp (or close too it) for about half an hour.

On other tip- after salting, set the steaks on paper towels. They paper will wick away moisture from the surface and make seering faster.

Pan sauces are good- while the steaks rest, saute shallots and garlic in butter, add white wine or red wine or sherry, maybe some mustard and or cream, the liquid from the rested steaks, and salt, pepper and parsley. And more butter.

Call me first and I will help anyone with that!

Family Man said...

Great post.

I, too, thought of Alton Brown, but I thought of his steak-on-a-cast-iron-skillet-done-on-the-stovetop-and-finished-in-the-oven episode, which prompted both me and my best friend, who was watching at the same time but at his home, to go out, buy a steak, and cook it a la Alton.

Though he recommends Canola oil, which has a higher smoke point and less flavor than olive oil.

Josh said...

Love the rhythm of the pictures and text in this post. Nice job. And dammit if I don't really wanna steak right now. Pretty sure I can smell it over here, Tintin.

Re the smoke: I have vivid memories of my Dad waving around a hank of vinegar-soaked paper-towels draped over the end of a yard stick whenever our house got smoky. It looked kinda goofy, but absorbed the smoke almost instantly.

brohammas said...

Wait, I'm thinking up some advice of my own to leave so I can particpate too.

I got nuthin, besides I'm a medium well man so I'm sure you will somehow question my taste or more likely my manhood.

I have learned that when in a restaurant of medium priced meals, it is best to order thicker cut meats a half step above how you like them as the cook is usually in a hurry to get yours off the grill to match the rest of your party and will inevitably send it out to you early and consequentially a bit undercooked.

O yeah, and wrap it in bacon. Bacon makes everything better.

Enzo AGC said...

Steak on Sunday? Didn't anybody ever tell you that the only beef you should be eating on Sunday is in the meatballs you have with pasta?

Looking forward to trying this...

initials CG said...

You have got to teach the Italians in Florence how to prepare "la Fiorentina"... the meat is something to cry for, but a bit too alive for me...

Apart from an artistic publication, this post was hormonally male...damn good writing.

Seriously, I'd trade some serious Italian cooking for a decent steak like this once in a while!

tintin said...

I love Alton. Will have to check it out.

JMags- Thanks. That's swell to hear. Maybe I should dump this clothing thing. But the old man looks good in that fine madras shirt.

KS- Another conversion.

Skorp- The old man's marinade rules. Maybe he'll pass the Top Secret potion to us here. The kitchen is a NYC kitchen. Looks great. Useless to work in.

Main Line- Two glasses of wine "while salt and pepper do their magic" usually means room temp. BTW, still waiting on your response to Schweppes Bitter Lemon on the Main Line. Everywhere you've suggested comes up zero. You really are an attorney.

beerguzzler- I'll give it a try. Not here in NY but outside the city.

anon 14:59 - Heat detectors...Great Idea! I'm taking it.

Ben- That's...rare humor.

Sean- Like the paper towel trick. However, nothing but S&P on dry aged beef.

Family Man - I tried canola oil. I get it. Less smoke. But I tried it. Less flavor.

Josh- I'm trying the Vin paper towels. Great idea.

Bro- Give the rare a try. You may never go back to dry and chewy beef.

Enzo- The Foxtrot throws me pasta on Saturdays. You back from the land of my home boys?

Anonymous said...

Great post Tintin - so I expect the next time you are in town you will be cooking dinner?? DMW

tintin said...

DMW- You gotta fan?

GSV JR said...

Really enjoyed this, T.

I like the cast-iron trick AKA "a la plancha," too, but I usually top the steak w/ a smaller cast-iron pan and set a brick in it, which makes for quicker firing times -- and much less smoke. Old Steak & Ale wisdom, no shit.

You can get the same Hades heat from a grill, you just have to know your way around a chimney starter and not be fond of your eyebrows.

Anonymous said...

I am a longtime reader, but I have never posted a comment. This was a great post. I was already planning to cook a dry aged tonight, but this provided me some ressurrance about my technique.

Easy and Elegant Life said...

Perfect. I've achieved the same results by using a cast iron griddle on my gas grill outside. I just leave it on with the cover down until it's smokin' hot and then slap on the steak. Maybe it helps that the temps are hovering around 100ºF at dinnertime? I hate to heat up the kitchen.

"... hot tub on a 100 degree day." Wish I'd written that.

Anonymous said...

I just bought a big green egg...you are able to get them to 900.

Lila | Thanh said...

Love your writing and the pictures are perfect. I'd have liked more pictures of the steak texture afterward - one is not enough. I guess you want to leave us with imagination.

I've always asked my server for the steak to be "medium rare, and more on the rare side please." After reading this I think it's time to just make a bold move and go rare.

JRS said...

Pan fried - the way God intended.

Anonymous said...


Try marinating your steak overnight in this:
2 TBS light brown sugar
1 TBS Coleman's dry mustard
2 cloves garlic -pressed
1/3 C cheap bourbon
1 cup Kikkoman low-sodium soy sauce
1 cup water.

Put dry ingredients in a bowl and add bourbon. Whisk to dissolve sugar and mustard. Add rest of ingredients. Keeps for a week or two in the fridge. Marinate beef overnight in the fridge with a half-cup or so in a ziplock. Marinate chicken for 3-4 hours in a ziplock in the fridge. Puts a nice carmelized crust on when you grill it. Dee-lish! -Hedgehog

Jovan said...

What happens if I have an electric stove and I can't unplug my smoke detector? Am I just S.O.L.? :P I don't have much of a choice since I rent... as it is I have to open like every single window and turn the vent fan to full. Even then the smoke alarm will inevitably go off when cooking a steak. I like the idea of the ribbed, cast iron pan. I'll have to find one.

Montreal steak rub is good but I love salt, pepper, and minced garlic too. A lot of my family use the morning's leftover coffee to marinate their steaks. Sounds weird, but it's quite good.

Did I mention I love your blog and wish mine was nearly as good? Keep it up.

tintin said...

Jovan- Use this:


Portable butane grill. Used in brunch lines everywhere. Best to use outside. Cheap and they work well if you have an electric stove.

Easy and Elegant Life said...

Jovan, as a renter I used to use a portable gas grill built for camping. Worked great.

Brian Gossett said...

Great effin post man. You should have a secondary blog just covering your food and drinks posts!

tintin said...

Thanks, Brian. I can't wait to check out your mixes.

tintin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tropic of Youth said...

Great Post. Agree with the Cabernet comment. Go with a Shiraz from Australia (great Summer time red pairing). I don't own a cast iron, but I cook my steaks with lots of salt&pepper in a non stick pan with olive oil. If you like it rare, on the pan is just fine, but if you're going for med-rare throw it in the oven to cook for a bit, otherwise trying to cook 1.5-2inch steak is gonna be next to impossible and you will just burn your steak. PLEASE PLEASE do not cook to medium and beyond...seriously.

Anonymous said...

strange that i missed this one- proves me right for strolling through the archive- funny timing too, just had steak this sunday night with my son... my daughter is a (shame, shame) vegetarian, and when she's at her moms, well you can imagine...
great post