I know this is probably going to cause a lot of controversy, especially here in Texas where grilled steak is king, but I’m tellin’ ya, you gotta try this cooking method at least once! You might just surprise yourself and like it……a lot! Not only that, when the thermometer outside says really, really cold, it’s nice to have an alternative way to cook a Saturday night steak, open a bottle of your favorite wine and have a romantic night with your honey without popsicle toes under the covers later on!
Now I have to give y’all a few tips on buying your steak, so here’s where the persnickety chef comes out in me. The USDA grades beef depending on quality. Beef steak is graded Prime, Choice or Select. Any beef graded lower is used for other food products. If I’m buying steaks at the supermarket, I usually buy Choice. There’s a couple of reasons for that. First, at the supermarket level the difference between Prime and Choice in taste and quality is minuscule, but the difference in price is not. Second, it’s hard to find Prime in the supermarket. Most don’t carry it because it doesn’t sell well. If I’m going to buy Prime, I go to a high quality meat market and buy dry-aged Prime beef, usually ribeye steak. Why ribeye? I like the fat to meat ratio of a ribeye. It just happens to be my favorite cut. Oh, and “Certified Angus Beef” means nothing other than it came from a steer or heifer with black fur. It’s a marketing ploy designed to get a higher price. Don’t be fooled.
This brings up aging. What is aging and why does it matter? What’s the difference between dry aging and wet aging? Seriously, I hope I’m not getting too tedious here, but steak is a serious matter in Texas. You don’t slop it on the grill and hope it turns out great. If you’re having people over, it better BE great! We have steak contests and festivals down here. I mean it gets serious! Fights break out!
So here goes. All meat has to age to some extent. Aging allows the microbes and enzymes in the meat to act on the meat and break down the connective tissue resulting in a more tender piece of meat. Not to put too delicate a point on it; it gets rid of rigor mortis! Ewww, I know! But, I still can’t bring myself to go vegetarian or vegan! Anyway, you’ve got to let the meat age, it’s a fact of life. Most of the meat you get at high-end steak houses is dry aged. That’s why it’s melt-in-your-mouth tender and oh so beefy tasting. Dry aging is tricky. I wouldn’t try it at home. Wet aged beef is what most of use are used to. I personally like buying the vacuum sealed steaks. I leave them in the fridge up until their “use or freeze by” date and then cook them. They are nice and tender by then!
Anyway, enough of the food porn stuff that really turns us chefs on, here’s how to cook the darn thing!
I started with a Choice grade ribeye a little over a pound and about 1-inch thick. I always bring my steaks to room temperature. There’s controversy over that, too, but I just find I get the best caramelization when I bring it to room temp before searing. Drizzle the steak on one side with good quality extra-virgin olive oil and flip it with tongs to coat both sides. Don’t ever pierce your meat with a fork, before, during or after cooking it! Now salt and pepper that sucker with kosher salt and course ground black pepper on both sides and when you think you have done it enough, do it again! Generous amounts of salt and pepper are essential for flavoring the steak, plus after searing and basting, a lot of the salt and pepper will be removed from the surface.
Now, put it in a screaming hot iron skillet that’s been heating on high heat until it’s literally smokin’ hot! Once the steak is in the pan, immediately turn down the heat to medium-high. That’s between a 6 and 7 on my burner dial.
During this phase of cooking, I use my tongs to push down on the steak all over to make sure the entire bottom surface is in contact with the iron skillet. You want a really good, brown seared crust. It’s okay to peek by lifting with your tongs after a couple of minutes, just make sure when you lay it back down you push it down a little to ensure good contact.
Now once your steak is good and caramelized it’s time to flip it over and add all the goodies to the pan.
I always use unsalted butter (about 3 tablespoons) to baste and this time I used crushed garlic cloves and fresh rosemary. Sometimes I eliminate the garlic and use fresh thyme sprigs instead. It just depends on my mood. You always want to use a hardy herb like, rosemary, thyme or tarragon. Wimpy herbs like basil won’t hold up to the heat. Now, tilt your skillet and start to baste your steak with the herb and garlic flavored butter. Alternate lowering the skillet back down to your heat source and tilting it to baste until your steak cooks to the desired doneness.
I try to never cook past medium-rare, but you cook your steak however you like it, even if I think you’ve committed the ultimate steak sacrilege by overcooking!
Once your steak is done, remove it to a cutting board, pour the pan drippings over and let it rest for at least 7 minutes. This allows the juices to stay in the meat when you cut it instead of pouring out all over the cutting board.
Oh, and I do all my cooking on a electric ceramic cooktop. Not my preferred choice, but that’s what I have to work with right now. I have heard that it is damaging to use cast iron on a ceramic cooktop. Mine is about 10 years old and I’ve never had a problem. I make sure there are no burrs on the bottom of my cast iron and I don’t scrape it across the surface. I suggest you read your owner’s manual if you have a ceramic cooktop, however, and follow those directions.
I hope y’all try this out and let me know how you like it! It does take some practice to get it right. So if you over cook your steak the first time, just readjust next time. If you under cook it, just throw it back in the skillet for a few and take another swig of wine!