Why Screw Around, Pt. 4 - Steak
Just made the best steaks of my young life. It's all about commitment in seasoning...you can't be shy.
I've eaten at some great steakhouses. Manny's in Minneapolis, Pappas Bros in Houston, Bob's Steak and Chops in Dallas, Mike Shannon's in St. Louis, Mahogany here in town, Andria's in O'Fallon IL, numerous Ruth's Chris; this procedure is one that yields a steak every bit as good as those, without the hassle of dry aging. I kid you not.
1. Buy whichever steak floats your boat. Works well with KC/NY Strip (same thing), Filet (Mignon), and Porterhouse (combination strip + filet mignon). Some people like the ribeye; me, not so much. A T-bone is NOT a Porterhouse. Know your cuts of meat.
2. Trim off the fat thicker than 1/8" or 1/16" inch along the sides & ends. Nobody likes to eat chunks of fat and gristle, and it's not melting off on the grill. The flavor in steak comes from other places; read on.
2A - KEEP A COUPLE STRIPS/CHUNKS OF FAT FOR LATER. YOU'LL USE THIS TO 'OIL' THE GRATES OF YOUR GRILL.
3. No more than about 30 - 45 minutes before cooking, coat the steaks LIBERALLY with coarse/kosher salt and slightly less fresh, coarsely ground black pepper. Both sides. Put them in the fridge.
4. Start your fire. Don't fuck around with propane unless you can generate a fire approaching 800 degrees Fahrenheit. And don't expect Kingsford to get there. Hardwood lump charcoal for the win. No starter fluid; use a chimney. They're $3 a Wal-Mart. Man up and buy one.
Using charcoal, make sure the coals are spread fairly evenly. Add some more if you have weak areas, and make them as even as you can before putting the grates over the fire. Let the grates get good and hot.
4A. Take out some stick butter; not margarine. Salted butter. Set it on the counter. You'll need roughly 1/2 tablespoon per person. See below.
5. You'll need tongs. (Don't puncture steaks while cooking, or to check doneness; you'll lose the flavorful juices for good.) Bring them out to the grill along with your steaks out of the fridge.
6. Using your tongs, grab some of the fat you cut off, and rub it on the grill grates. It should make all sorts of nasty noises and probably catch fire a bit on the grill. No biggie, no cause for concern. Do this liberally, but don't spend more than a couple of minutes on it. If using charcoal, pay attention to where the hot/cool spots of the grill is. Put thinner cuts of meat on the cooler spots, and thicker ones on the hotter spots.
7. Put the steaks on the grill. Enjoy the sound of the sizzle. Do not even think about spraying your fire to reduce flames; use your cover for that, if you must. Count about 90 seconds, and rotate the steaks 45 degrees on a slightly different part of the grill - it puts that real cool burned-in hatch pattern on the meat. Cover the fire to get more of a smoke flavor, and to keep the heat minus the damaging flames, but not for long.
8. Wait until you see blood juices start to emerge from the top of the steak, then turn them. Don't hurry - this isn't ahi tuna. It will possibly happen at different times for each steak. Fret not. On a 1" thick steak, probably between 5 - 8 minutes depending on how hot your fire is.
9. After you turn it, repeat the 45 degree rotation thing 90 seconds in. Let it cook at least 5 minutes (unless you bought a Dr. Scholl's insert for a steak, in which case, don't even bother trying this). At that point, using your tongs (or finger if you're especially brave), apply very slight pressure in a circular motion to the steaks, paying attention to how much resistance you get in each direction (down and laterally). Compare doneness to this scale, using your face (unless you're John McCain):
Cheek/jowl - rare
Chin - medium
Forehead/eyebrow - well
10. When it reaches the doneness you want, again, don't hurry; move the steaks off the fire but keep them warm. A microwave works if you don't have this ability on your grill (say on a Weber kettle). Count two minutes, then plate the steaks.
11. Once on the plates, re-season with some more coarse salt and pepper; just a little bit. Apply a pat of butter (1/2 tablespoon, or more if you're not concerned with your health), directly to the steak.
I served this with mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus (olive oil, salt, pepper, on the grill about 6 minutes). Wine accompaniment was a 2006 La Crema Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast), and matched well for those who don't like velvety / tannic reds. If your palate can handle it, then bring out the big dogs...full-on Cabernet Sauvignon.
Guaranteed to get you some.