Friday, June 10, 2011

Technique: Grilled Steaks

Grilling steaks seems like a relatively simple concept: hot coals meets slab o' beef, let it cook and voila, a perfectly medium cooked steak, just like your favorite steak house, right? Well how many times has it worked out for you? If you're like the Witch, that answer is not nearly enough! Usually the outside is beautifully seared, the milliard reaction done to perfection and yet the inside is raw, beyond rare OR cooked so well done that a shoe could be made from your steak. Neither of these is acceptable. Nothing is more frustrating than spending a lot of hard earned money on steaks just to mess them up in the cooking process.

Recently the Kitchen Witch purchased some beautiful thick cut top sirloin steaks. These babies were THICK, 1.5 inches or so!! Honestly I've never cooked a slab of beef this large, except in a braise, so the idea of throwing it onto hot coals and hoping for the best wasn't too appealing to me. By the time the internal temp was up to 130F (med rare) the outside would be charcoal. Not what I wanted for my beautiful thick cut top sirloins! Whats a Witch to do?

That's when I remembered a technique for cooking steaks that I heard about from America's Test Kitchen. For cuts of beef that should never be cooked beyond medium, which is pretty much everything except commercially ground beef, they suggest starting the meat out in a slow oven (250F) until the internal temperature is with in 20 degrees of your final desired temperature. So if your target temp is 135F then pull the meat out of the oven at 115F. Then you take the meat out of the oven and sear the exterior for the crusty browned deliciousness you'd expect from a good steak.

The gentle heat of the oven does a few things for your meat.

1. The internal temperature of the meat is slowly brought with in 20 degrees of finished product target temp, so when you put on the grill all you're really doing is searing the outside and getting lots of color and flavor. The heat from the grilling will bring the meat up to the proper temp, awesome sear on the outside, keeping it tender and juicy inside, since the bulk of the cooking has been done in the oven.

2. The relatively low temp of the oven also helps desiccate the meat, which may sound counter productive but, believe the Witch, it works. When you evaporate some of the surface moisture you are able to get a good sear and brown color on the exterior. Desiccating the meat also acts as slow aging process in fast forward. Removing some of the moisture concentrates the beefs flavor and jump starts the enzymes that break down the beef tissues resulting in tender and flavorful meat, much like your favorite steak house.

This technique works best on thicker cuts of meat. If your steak is less than 1 inch thick then you should be fine just grilling it directly because there is less mass to heat through. This is also a great technique to use on London Broil, a relatively inexpensive cut (it goes on sale for $2 a lb often here) and needs to be cooked to med rare/medium at the most.

Technique: Grilled Steaks
thick cut steaks (1.5 inches thick)
kosher salt
cooling rack that will fit into a sheet pan

Pat the steaks dry with paper towel. Remove as much surface moisture as possible.

Sprinkle liberally with kosher salt and pepper and allow steaks to rest at room temperature for an hour.

Place steaks on the cooling rack set inside a sheet pan and place into a preheated 250F oven. Allow meat to cook until internal temperature is 110-115F (time depends on the thickness of the meat, how long it sat at room temp, etc). Remove from oven and place immediately onto a heated grill or skillet to sear.

Cook meat until the outside is browned and the internal temperature is 135F for medium. Remove from heat and allow to rest for 5 minutes so the juices can redistribute themselves with in the meat.


Michelle J said...

Drooling now. :P

Thanks for the tips! We've been very hit-and-miss with out grilling. Now I just need one of them there fancy probe thermometers and a big old hunk of beef. Yummmmm!

Jay said...

that looks super good...fantastic clicks..
Tasty Appetite

Cranberry Morning said...

I really needed this great advice! Thanks for posting it. Nothing like spending money on steaks and then ruining them. Now I've got to try this!

StephenC said...

Some years ago we tried a Test Kitchen technique that called for putting the steak right onto the coals. It was remarkable. I don't do outdoor cooking anymore, but that was a special thing.

Jenn said...

Welcome back :)
The steaks look perfect! I think from now on, instead of following those great tips, I'll just come have dinner with you!!

Care's Kitchen said...

Mmmmm! Ok first of all what an excellent informative post! It's the perfect way to cook thick cuts of meat! They're cooked perfectly too! Now I have a serious craving! Happy your back!!!! :) XO

Dom at Belleau Kitchen said...

well now i'm bloody starving!... thanks for the tips... i will try this way next time im after perfection!

The InTolerant Chef said...

My favourite cut of steak is the Cattle Man's Cutlet- a rib eye cutlet that's nearly 2 inches thick. I use the same method as you, but I do it backwards! I sear the meat well first to get a good crust, then pop it in the same pan into the oven until it's the right temperature, then rest it.
I wonder if it makes a difference? I'll try your way next time and see!

Foodycat said...

Those steaks look amazing! I am very lucky to be married to a South African man - what they don't know about meat and fire isn't worth knowing - so I've never actually grilled a steak myself!

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