by Brent Walton
“Steak is special” it was never a standard in our household growing up. Steak was a celebratory item when something good happened or a special occasion. That was steak.
I do not remember eating them at home much as a kid and not very good when we did.
My passion for steak began when I was 16 and was working as a dishwasher at a “Steakhouse” restaurant. To that point in my life I didn’t know much about meats. I was not aware of grades of meat or how that made a huge difference in the taste and tenderness in the variety of different cuts available. I ate steaks well done because I didn’t know any better. Education came fast and man could I eat! At first I could not believe how tender a Filet was or how juicy a sirloin could be and the New York Steak were the best flavor ever, never had I tasted something so good!
Americans are great meat eaters and have been that way for the last 3 centuries. Eating mostly pork in the beginning, cattle were not indigenous to this land and were used as mostly for dairy products. By the end of the civil war beef was rapidly becoming the preferred choice of Americans. The opening of America’s range land with the bison and Indians off the land and new technology, animal husbandry and barbed wire changed the industry forever. A Detroit meat packer G.H. Hanhammand brought refrigerated railway cars west, this again transformed the cattle industry as the slaughter houses were all in the Midwest and now could ship to the east where the appetite for beef was really developing. After world war two beef became a symbol of American prosperity.
To this day a steak is still special to me, I love ‘em all kinds of ways but nirvana to me is a New York strip loin grilled medium rare with a béarnaise sauce, Oh a filet, rib eye or a great sirloin are up at the top of my list but New York’s are the King of Steaks to me.
I’ve had my share of awful steaks along the way believe me some people think just because it is steak it’s good. Not true, that type of thought needs to be corrected “steaks are special” and I treat them like that. So I thought I would try to convey some knowledge and passion to you so you can enjoy a great steak like I do.
Shopping for Steaks- #1 make sure they look good to you!
There are basically three grades of beef you will see, PRIME- the best, highly marbled (marbling is the fat content with in the muscle itself, fat = flavor) not likely to find at you local store. CHOICE-very good quality modestly marbled. This is what to look for at your local stores. Then there is SELECT-minimal marbling, good but will be tougher and lack flavor.
Most big name stores carry this but check it out. Also watch out for injected beef mostly sold door to door packed full of water as much as 25% you will hate this.
There are some lower grades of beef and uninspected but you should avoid these in my opinion. Read labels and ask questions. There is some high grade beef called “wagyu” or “Kobe” not graded by U.S. D.A. but this are very well marbled, very expensive cuts of beef.
Steak Cuts the best ones to start with
Rib eye- everything a steak should be, popular, Buy and serve either way- bone on or bone off
Filet or tenderloin-Most Tender, Less Fat, Best served with a sauce or bacon wrapped
New York’s or strip loin, Delmonico, King of Steaks-- best flavor
Porterhouse - Filet and New York connected by a T- bone Good steak to share with a loved one
T-bone same as above with little or no filet attached
Sirloin steak—when you want a juicy steak this is it, good all around steak, economical too!
There are many cuts to choose from, they all have their special use from fajita’s to tri tip. Would suggest you experiment with them it will bring you years of enjoyment. I know it has for me!
Prepping your steaks – keep it simple
Remove from refrigerator and packaging; let them set to room temperature. Lightly coat with vegetable oil add salt & pepper before putting them on a hot clean grill. Same if you are going to cook them in a broiler oven or frying pan.
Let’s cook – be a perfectionist!
If grilling go for making perfect grill marks in a diamond or square pattern, you can do this!
Look at your steak and put the best side down first, you will turn the steak three more times rotating directions and sides each turn. Depending on your cut of beef and grill temp each turn will get about 3to 4 minutes. Steaks are the best at medium rare. If you eat steaks at higher doneness than medium I suggest you work your way down in doneness trying medium well then medium and then medium rare. Trust me on this, 2 or 3 steaks and you will agree.
RARE=130 Medium Rare=135 to 140 Medium 145to150 Medium Well 155to160
Well 165 = forget it! Get yourself a good thermometer so you can check by temperature and feel as you gain experience cooking steaks. NEVER cut open steak to check doneness. When cooking is done remove from grill or oven, broiler let sit for 5 minutes before serving. This is very important, your steak will redistribute the juices within the steak and continue to cook and gain about 5 degrees in doneness. If you cut your steak right away it will lose all the juices and be tougher and dry. As the steak rests this is a good time to season again with maybe some butter on top or a little Montreal seasoning or maybe an herb like rosemary.
If you have followed all my suggestions sit down with a good steak knife and fork and “Behold the Steak” in all its glory, enjoy!
Some recipe suggestion to get you started
1. Béarnaise Sauce- buy the package of premix seasonings and mix with milk and butter as directed. You will love this!
2. From Michael Jordan’s restaurant – 23- in Chicago, try this one
Use 4- Rib eyes, or Porterhouses, T-bones or New York’s
2- Portobello mushrooms
12-Sun Dried Tomatoes
4- Rosemary Sprigs
Steak sauce (like A1) ½ cup-beef stock 1 cup-balsamic vinegar ½ cup
¼ cup fresh ginger, 1/4 cup shallots, 1/4 cup carrots, ¼ cup celery- all finely chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste
Combine ginger, shallots, carrots and celery in a sauce pan with a little butter over a medium high heat. Caramelize-that means sauté until slightly brown. Slowly pour in balsamic vinegar stirring reduce by half then add steak sauce and beef broth.
Grill steaks as we discussed, throw on Portobello mushrooms with salt and pepper grill until tender, this will not take long. Remove everything from grill cut mushrooms into 1” pieces.
Skewer mushroom pieces and tomatoes on rosemary sprigs. Plate steaks with skewers on top; pour your sauce over steaks-serve proudly! You will be eating steak at the top of the game!