Back to previous post: Our Worldcon schedule

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: AT&T pokes a beehive with a stick

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

July 28, 2009

How to Cook the Perfect Steak
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 10:25 AM * 71 comments

First, you’ll need the best steak you can afford. Sow’s ears need not apply.

Next, you’ll need a stovetop, an oven, a black cast-iron frying pan of a size sufficient to take your steak flat, oven mitts, a surface you can put a hot skillet on without ruining either the surface or the skillet, a kitchen timer, a clock with a sweep second hand, tongs, and an instant-reading meat thermometer.

Preheat the oven to 500°F. Preheat the frying pan until water dropped on it dances. Salt and pepper the raw steak to taste, then rub with olive oil.

Put the steak into the frying pan. Sear for thirty seconds, turn it over, and sear for another thirty seconds.

Put the frying pan with steak into the oven. Time three minutes. Turn the steak over. Time two minutes, then test the temperature in the center (insert the thermometer from the side for best results). If the core temperature is 120°F or above, the steak is done. Remove from frying pan and serve it forth. If the temperature is under 120° return the frying pan to the oven until the temperature is 120° or above.


Cooking With Light (Recipe Index)
Comments on How to Cook the Perfect Steak:
#1 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 10:59 AM:

Yaay, another rare steak lover. Om nom nom.

#2 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 11:05 AM:

#0, Macdonald

I don't remember if I've posted this before....

Soup with the office microwave:

Utensils and ingredients:
- knife
- microwave-safe bowl
- paper plate
- Trader Joe's lemon pepper grinder with lemon pepper mix in it
- perhaps some oil
- hot water dispenser
- a carrot
- a small onion
- optional stalk of celery
- leftover meat or fowl (can be from grocery store with in-store rotisierre from yesterday's rotissiered chicken or such....)
=============

Cut up the carrot, the onion, and the celery stalk. Apply oil if using oil, put in bowl, grind lemon-pepper over the vegetables. Cover with paper plate and microwave for up to 3 minutes.

Remove bowl from microwave, carefully take plate off top. Add cut up leftover fowl or meat. Add water to cover, put plate back on top, stick in microwave for 2 - 3 minutes.

Remove from microwave, let sit for a couple minutes before drinking to cool off a bit and to have flavor blend a bit, etc.

One can also add other vegetables... be aware that what looks like modest amounts of vegetables when entire, can rapidly overflow the bowl....

#3 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 11:31 AM:

Best steak I ever had was one that I cooked on a gas grill at a clothing optional pool party in the SF Bay area. Basted with butter, seasoned with salt and pepper, and shared with a crowd of happy naked people. It wasn't an expensive steak, but the party was one of the best I've ever been to, I was hungry, an I got to feed people I liked.

#4 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 11:47 AM:

That would suit me just fine, but my partner would find it unacceptable; he likes his steak Well Done, TYVM. I don't see how he can eat it that way, but chacun à son gout...

#5 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 12:08 PM:

This is roughly the inverse of the method we saw this morning on "America's Test Kitchen" while getting ready. Theirs was somewhat higher church, using the oven and broiler rather than the stove, and they did the baking first. Personally I'm inclined to stick to using the grill outside.

#6 ::: Jim Kiley ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 12:09 PM:

Even if you think you can't afford a great steak, you might be able to afford a surprisingly good steak. We've been eating tri-tips for a couple of years now and they're surprisingly good. For whatever reason, they're cheap. You won't find them in most grocery stores (and I don't understand that either) but a butcher might have 'em (we get 'em at the local liberal hippie warehouse club).

#7 ::: Lone Sloane ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 12:12 PM:

I take mine medium-rare-to-rare, myself, but I've had to learn to cook like Jim for my spouse. I'm convinced she was a dragon in a previous life - hoards precious stones, and likes her meat seared on the outside, just warm in the middle.

From her I've learned the terms "black & blue" and "Pittsburgh style", both meaning essentially "just cut off the hooves and the horns, trot it past the grill, and bring it to the table". Seared on the outside, bloody in the middle, and woe to the cook who gets it wrong.....

#8 ::: David Sucher ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 12:23 PM:

Don't your timing instructions ignore the possibility that steaks come in different thicknesses?

#9 ::: Jörg Raddatz ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 12:27 PM:

The best steak I can remember was a regular pepper steak i had warmed in the hot sunshine, cooked an an ordinary suitcase gas stove, accompanied by fresh maize bread and Aldi's caesar salad. Very far from fancy, but served with a wonderful view of the Veluwemeer, on a warm summer day, with the scent of recently mowed grass in the air and birds singing in the trees above. And in the company of a curious peewit eagerly kibbitzing.

In any case, in my experience even a cheap 10-Euro-gas stove will produce better steaks than any electrical stove.

#10 ::: Jim Kiley ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 12:33 PM:

David @#8 -- thus the 120-degree check.

#11 ::: Jörg Raddatz ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 12:43 PM:

Oh, and regarding the buying of steaks:
A few miles away is a farm spezializing in raising cattle. Outside the old manorhouse they have a freezer; filled with all cuts of steak, beefburgers and other meat products. You can go there any time, since all you have to do is take the meat you want, add in your head the money you have to pay and put it on the small plate that stands beside the freezer. There is meat for approximately 200 to 300 Euros in the freezer and often there is about 50 Euros on the plate. And still it obviously works without any security measures.
But then, the same principle works for the strawberry-and-asparagus-cart near the road or the cheese and ice cream at the dairy farm.

I liked living in a city, but I love this "backwards" rural area more.

#12 ::: Teancom ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 01:06 PM:

That's what I call "Good Eats"-style steak. I know he didn't originate that style of cooking a steak, but I first learned it at the foot of the great Alton Brown (first episode, even!).

#13 ::: meredith ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 01:06 PM:

But ... but ... where's the charcoal grill in this equation?!

I was raised to (rightly, IMNSHO) believe that no steak may be deemed "perfect" unless it was cooked outdoors on a grill. Preferably the charcoal variety, though a good gas grill will do in a pinch.

Growing up, my mother wouldn't consider it Sunday until she'd had her steak dinner. I have many childhood memories of my poor dad running outside in the middle of a Maine January (often while the snow flew) to check the status of the steak on the grill...

#14 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 01:06 PM:

Jim Kiley @ 6:

Some cuts of meat are regional. It's my impression that tri-tips are (or were) more of a California thing. They're very easy to come by in the grocery stores here.

#15 ::: Mark Dennehy ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 01:15 PM:

Someone's been watching the first episode of Good Eats :D

#16 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 01:23 PM:

120° isn't a cooking temperature; it's a bacterial incubation temperature.

#17 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 01:27 PM:

The problem with this method is that it wastes the pan drippings. For God's sake, deglaze the pan with red wine, white wine, brandy, bourbon or stock, reduce and stir in softened butter to make a sauce.

#18 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 01:54 PM:

First question: What thickness of steak is this recipe intended for? These things vary quite a lot.

Meanwhile, as for quality of steaks -- IMO, the quality of a cut of steak has little relationship to its price. The price of a steak is generally proportional to its tenderness and fashionability, as far as I can tell, but to some extent flavor tends to go inverse to tenderness, and any steak can be made tender with a thorough massage. So lately I've been buying chuck steaks, which are tough as leather if ill-prepared but delicious, and tenderizing them.

More importantly, I guess the point is that different cuts of steak have quite different flavor levels and textures and so forth, and that this is something that is a matter of taste and preference, not a matter of some absolute scale.

Here's my "recipe" for tenderizing a steak: Mash flat with heel of hand, pressing hard. Once the steak is flat, squeeze it in one horizontal direction to make it thick again. Then squeeze in the other horizontal direction. Repeat until you get about a 2x dimensional change for each direction of squeezing. (Focus on the firm bits when squeezing it flat.) Spice rub -- salt, pepper, etc. -- should be applied before the tenderizing. Cook the steak in the "thick" configuration, with the horizontal dimensions evened out.

I usually cook my steaks under the stove broiler, with a good coating of McCormick's "Montreal Steak Seasoning" (coarse salt, black pepper, dill seeds, and a handful of other things). Start with a cold oven to avoid overcooking the middle, and cook the first side twice as long as the second.

#19 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 02:12 PM:

David Dyer-Bennet @16: even the most hazardous foods are considered safe if not held for more than two hours at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees F. (Well, they changed those temperatures slightly, recently, but those will work.) And a steak is a less hospitable breeding ground for bacteria than ground beef -- less surface exposed and in contact with things that might have held bacteria. A rare stake is a mild risk, but only a mild one, and I think it's worth it.

#20 ::: Paul Lalonde ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 02:24 PM:

Jim Kiley @ 6: Sirloin tips are one of my favorite "cheap" cuts. They are an accident of butchering technique. When cutting up an animal with a bandsaw you cut near the point of the hip because it's least wasteful of the various rump roast parts, and makes a big animal manageable. But the loin continues from the back a little further, and so its tip gets left in the leg part. Typically you can get 1-2 decent steaks or pork chops out the tip, but it's not generally worth the labor to separate it and bundle it down the line to the guy doing up the loin, so it gets packaged out separately, or ground.

If you care about this sort of thing, look up Merle Ellis' _Cutting up in the Kitchen_ (out of print, but widely available used), which gives a great overview of meat cuts and marketing names. Enough that you can save a lot on your meat budget but wind up eating higher on the hog than you would have otherwise. He even explains that "higher on the hog" thing ;-)

#21 ::: Godfree ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 02:38 PM:

I also recognized the Good Eats recipe. We tried it for awhile, but thought it was just too smoky and over-produced. We're happy with a light dusting of Monterey Steak seasoning, then 7 minutes on a side on a medium-hot electric grill. Perfect medium-rare every time.

#22 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 02:49 PM:

Paul Lalonde @ 20:

I'm not an expert by any means, but a word of warning on getting your meat cut names from older books. Lots of cuts haven't changed names over the years but some have, some are regional, some aren't as popular as they once were, and some are new or changed slightly.

That said, I'll have to look that book up.

#23 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 02:53 PM:

I've been considering trying sous vide cookery; that would seem to be the best choice (in terms of getting everything cooked and nothing overcooked).

Has anybody here tried it? Any advice?

#24 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 03:21 PM:

How to cook a perfect steak:

Get steak. Give to Evil Rob. Wait a bit.

Seriously, best meat I've ever had. And the first time, he presented it to me at the end of a long work shift, so bonus points for timing.

#25 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 04:23 PM:

I used to embed little chunks of garlic inside the steak before cooking; I haven't done it in quite a while, because I switched to user friendly garlic powder. I also like to use a generic Cajun spice mix as a steak rub.

One restaurant steak I've lately is a flat iron steak, which was pretty nice. From what I understand, it takes a bit of work to pre-process, though.

I haven't used my George Foreman grill in a while, but I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to use it inside a 500 degree oven. heh.

I'm certain I will indulge in at least one steak dinner during ArmadilloCon this year....

#26 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 04:29 PM:

...I am now really hungry.

#27 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 05:02 PM:

I didn't have any steaks lying around, so I made do with sow's ears and whipped up my version of sisig. It probably tripled my LDL cholesterol levels but made me very happy. All that was missing were my college drinking buddies and cold beer.

#28 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 05:26 PM:

Seth Breidbart #23: Well, Google offers some pretty promising links:

An amazingly geeky guide by David Baldwin, A couple of blogs, a book, and stray articles galore. (All that from the first page!)

One concern I didn't see mentioned, which is pretty new, is that of pthalates (artificial estrogens) in the plastic bags. It does come up in the comments in this article about SVing steak -- the author says hi-temp bags are OK, normal Ziplocks and such aren't. (The blog, Khymos looks pretty cool, too -- molecular gastronomy!) It also comes up in this eGullet thread about SV cooking, where they comment that Ziplocks probably don't have pthalates (wrong kind of plastic) but probably shouldn't be cooked in anyhow.

(This comment is so totally getting held for moderation! But I'm blown away by the number of blogs and such dealing with scientific and otherwise-geeky cooking.)

#29 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 05:45 PM:

P&H Truck Stop (Wells River, Vermont) does some really good flatiron steaks.

#30 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 06:09 PM:

Ahem, I've got a link roundup on sous-vide in the moderation queue.

#31 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 06:59 PM:

I still don't want meat cooked rare.

But I've found myself cooking meat for much less time than my parents did. And using spices more.

#32 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 07:31 PM:

So here's what I'm doing these days after falling off the vegetarian wagon. Top Sirloin, from grass fed local happy animals is where I start, since it's a steak and I can afford it. Better cuts might come If I wind up doing it in volume and buy from the neighbors when they harvest.

Defrost in the fridge, this takes a day or two. Salt it heavily on both sides for an hour, letting the steak come up too room temp. Rinse, pat dry, Pop in a 200 degree oven for 20 minutes or so. This gets it to about 105 or so with the thickness that I'm getting. Then 3 minutes +- per side on my electric grill thingy (it's the grill insert for a jenn-aire, and came with the house). 135 on the thermo and it's a good med-rare.

The Oven step came from some cooks illustrated article, the salting from looking around on the net, but here and here are nice links.

#33 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 08:49 PM:

As I remember, Merle Ellis did cover at least some of the naming variations in his book. (I could be wrong; it's been in One Of The Boxes for several years.) A lot of the better cookbooks also will cover the naming variations when discussing meat cuts.

#34 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 09:25 PM:

Since I cook for two, I buy what Safeway calls London Broil, which is really Top Sirloin. It comes in 1 1/2 lb. inch-thick chunks, and I slice it into thirds and freeze each in a separate plastic bag. When I cook steak I thaw one chunk and used to broil or pan-fry, but as of Saturday I have an anodized aluminum grill pan. I used it for the first time that evening, and it worked exceedingly well. For a $35 pan marked down to $18, I'm very pleased.

I use eyesight rather than a thermometer for pan-cooked steaks. For roasts a quick meat thermometer is indispensable.

My cousin Mary was out here last week and cooked a Santa Maria Tri-Tip roast (in the oven, rather than on a grill with wood chips). The secret's in the rub, which couldn't be simpler: salt, pepper, garlic salt. I think she added a little dried oregano, but it's not necessary. It was wonderful.

#35 ::: efnord ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 09:33 PM:

I like this method- but I use the broiler and don't flip the steak. Sear in pan for two minutes, then stick under the heat; given a 1" steak, three minutes for bloody, four for good deep pinkish-red medium rare, 5 for medium, longer to ruin it. Once you've done, return the pan to the stovetop and make a pan sauce- the cast iron is still warm enough to reduce it.

@34: wow, top sirloin called London Broil? Fancy- my Safeway usually tags its top round as London Broil.

#36 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 09:35 PM:

efnord @ #35, sorry, you're right. I meant Top Round. It's tasty enough. Usually about $7 for 1 1/2 lbs.

#37 ::: The New York City Math Teacher ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 10:36 PM:

Kosher 8 week dry-aged prime rib steak with top-rib. 1.7 lbs, $34.

Charcoal gone to ash and glowing, and I can't hold my hand at grill level more than a split second before I must snatch it away.

Salt, pepper. Once slapped on the grill, I instantly hear the sizzle. The sea breeze picks up as the sun dips below the back neighbor's roofline. Peeking below the grill grate, I can see the Maillard reactions happen in real time.

Two minutes pass. I flip the steak. It's not like cooking a steak on a skillet or in a pan - the grill needs no recovery time - it is radiating and convecting so powerfully that I can't venture over the grill with my tongs (which are far too short since the grill tongs are buried beneath a hundred cubic yards of sentiment in a moldering storage locker on the mainland.

And just like that, the first wisps of acrid smoke begin to curl off the shriveled fat, and the steak is done, medium rare with a glorious mahogany crust. Leah and I savor every last bite.

#38 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 10:57 PM:

Rikibeth@19: Those temperature rules are for things that have been cooked, though, so they're starting out clean. A steak, starting raw, is NOT starting out clean.

Still, if I loved them that way, I might not see any real risk. Thing is, I think that's a totally disgusting way to waste a good steak, too; so I have no trouble at all seeing risks there :-). I mean, who would want their steak poorly done? "Well" is the only sane choice.

#39 ::: efnord ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 11:03 PM:

@38: The *outside* is not clean; the *inside* is close enough. Washington State health code has a specific exception for steaks- they're required to cook to 130, not 140, because of this. I'd worry more about the veggie salad, per Kitchen Confidential. (Now, is that rule broken over and over? Of course- prime rib is medium well at 130 internal.)

#40 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 11:28 PM:

A low-end version of this, dinner for one: look for something called "thin-sliced bottom round" or equivalent -- you don't want it to be more than 1/4" thick. Put a non-stick skillet on the burner and get it good and hot (water-dance hot). Drop your meat in, making sure it lands flat; press down any bumps with your fork or tongs. Cook about 30 seconds, flip, cook 15-20 seconds on the other side. Serve with mixed greens from a bag (or a deli salad), artisan bread with real butter, and fresh fruit for dessert. Takes less time than microwaving a TV dinner, and is a lot more nutritious to boot.

#41 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 11:31 PM:

David Dyer-Bennett: not just cooked food. It applies to raw foods, too -- you just start the two-hour clock OVER once it's been cooked. If a meat-or-dairy raw ingredient has stayed in the danger zone more than two hours, you're not supposed to cook it or use it, which is why insulated shopping bags and picnic coolers for groceries are a good idea in warm weather. This doesn't apply so much to eggs; you can store them at room temperature (we did in one large-volume bakery I worked at), it's just that every day at room temperature is equivalent to a week's storage under refrigeration. We went through them fast enough that it wasn't an issue, and it made them the right temperature for mixing.

A steak, starting raw, isn't entirely bacteria-free, but if it's been handled appropriately before you get it, it's a pretty low risk cooked rare, or even served as carpaccio or steak tartare. At my current job, I take approximately 100 lbs. of whole Angus chuck every day and turn it into ground beef, and I'm confident enough about how our supplier handles it and how I take care of MY sanitation that I don't hesitate to taste-test the raw meatball mixture. (It gets pureed roasted garlic in it. It's DELICIOUS.) Hasn't hurt me yet.

#42 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2009, 12:23 AM:

Paul @20, the Pioneer Woman has a recipe for Steak Bites made from either sirloin tips or cut-up steak. Basically, get a pan real hot with some butter in it, drop the meat in, leave it for 30-45 seconds, then flip the pieces over and give 'em another 30-45 seconds. Then remove the meat to a plate, pour the melted butter and juices over the pieces or deglaze the pan to make a sauce.

I found it following a link from How to Cook Like Your Grandmother, which I just discovered earlier today.

#43 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2009, 12:44 AM:

I just love Alton Brown to death, but heating the oven to 500F in the summer here, especially during the afternoon or evening, is just stupid. IMHO, concerns about over-charring on a quickly-cooked steak are a bit niggling. If you're wanting one medium to well, deal with the oven (or hell, just cook a roast). Of course, a charcoal grill is great, and a wood grill is even better, but what a hassle for a single steak!

My method is lower-tech; it only calls for the well-seasoned cast iron skillet, an oven mitt or kitchen towel, and a meat fork (as I don't like to scrape the charred bits to eat with the steak). Put the dry skillet on a burner, with heat on high. Turn the exhaust fan on high, too, if you're indoors. Set a timer for 3 minutes if you don't have a second hand to look at. Rub a 1.5" steak of your favorite cut with kosher salt and pepper, plus garlic powder if you like it garlicky. Don't use fresh garlic or herbs--they burn rather nastily. Then rub a little olive oil in. When the skillet starts to discolor, lay the steak in and start the timer. After 3 minutes, turn the steak with the meat fork, and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Check it with the thermometer if you like. Plate and enjoy.

If your preference or budget dictates thinner steaks, use the directions Lee @ #40 gave, but use a cast-iron skillet. Heating an artificially-coated non-stick surface to these temperatures guarantees you'll be seasoning your steak with plastic particles, as well as ruining your skillet.

As far as cuts of meat are concerned, it seems like flatiron steaks are all the trend in the places that pride themselves on trendiness. I haven't seen one for less than $50 at a restaurant here in North Texas, and never in a store, and understand their rarity exceeds their comparative flavor (only 2-4 per cow). I follow my friendly butcher's recommendations, and if I want something really impressive go to either of a couple of meat cutters in the ranching country northwest of here for their aged, range-fed beef.

#44 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2009, 02:14 AM:

I will try some of these suggestions as soon as the weather cools down enough for my brain to reach desired operating temperature. (My computer doesn't like temps over 80 F either.)
And could you link to that medical post about avoiding heatstroke? (Couldn't find it from a casual glance, maybe didn't look hard enough because too hot?)

#45 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2009, 03:07 AM:

I use the Rule of thumb of steak doneness; no timer required.

#46 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2009, 03:09 AM:

LMB MacAlister #43: As far as cuts of meat are concerned, it seems like flatiron steaks are all the trend in the places that pride themselves on trendiness. I haven't seen one for less than $50 at a restaurant here in North Texas

I had an eight ounce flatiron steak at a fifteen pieces of flair chain restaurant for about $12. It was good enough that I would have paid more.

#47 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2009, 05:37 AM:

Angiportus@44: The hyperthermia post is here.

#48 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2009, 06:36 AM:

Remove from frying pan and serve it forth.

What about resting it before serving?

#49 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2009, 09:43 AM:

I had the most delicious grilled silk purse the other day . . .

#50 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2009, 02:16 PM:

LMB Mcalister #43, Earl #46:

Got mine for $28-30 at a moderately trendy local trattoria last weekend. Medium rare. Mmm.

#51 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2009, 02:28 PM:

Lee #40:

That was close to my standard fencing-night dinner back in the days I did that, except I used the oven broiler instead of a fry pan. This meant I could make buttered toast (Pepperidge Farm sourdough, back then there were no artisan breads) at the same time, slice a wedge off the iceberg (also no bagged salads, or indeed any lettuce other than iceberg), apply blue cheese dressing, scarf it all up while reading whatever SF I was in the middle of, and then jog to the gym. Dessert, alas, tended to be beer.

#52 ::: Larry ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2009, 03:05 PM:

I've been making my steaks basically like this for ages. I read about it in Fine Cooking. On occasion i crust it with cracked peppercorns first.

#53 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2009, 03:57 PM:

joann @ #51, "Dessert, alas, tended to be beer."

That's why you went to the gym: preparation for beer consumption.

It's all how you look at things.

#54 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2009, 08:38 PM:

#52 - cracked smoked peppercorns, for me. From a local guy who calls himself The Salty Don - sells smoked salt, smoked peppercorns, and some like spice mixes. Szechuan pepper-salt with smoked pepper is very nice stuff.

But I'm a charcoal-grill guy, in summer. And I eat medium-rare to rare, depending. Earlier this summer, I did four steaks, one well-done, two medium-rare, one blue, and managed to deliver all four to table at the same time.

#55 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2009, 02:26 AM:

LMBMcAlister: I can get them (in Los Angeles) for $11 at some very good diners, $25 at some very good chop houses (better aged, mostly) and ignore them if they are more than that at someplace trendy.

#56 ::: Chris Entwistle ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2009, 10:43 AM:

I love to grill steaks over a hot fire of pear wood and good charcoal. I get to play with a campfire for a little bit, and then dump the charcoal on top of it. In about ten minutes, the charcoal is all properly lit and the wood fire is reduced to cooking coals. I let the steaks warm and then season them before starting the fire. The smoky firewood flavor complements rare steak perfectly.

#57 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2009, 01:27 PM:

What's needed, I feel, is advice on how to sharpen the perfect stake.

#58 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2009, 03:35 PM:

Fragano@57

Paging Buffy Summers, Paging Buffy Summers...

#59 ::: Hilary Hertzoff ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2009, 03:39 PM:

I'll second LMB @43's method. My steaks improved dramatically once I shifted to a cast iron pan and very high heat.

Like Linkmeister @34, I buy a Top Round/London Broil, but as I'm just feeding myself, I cut it into 5-6 single serve portions before freezing.

I wish I could have a charcoal grill, but only electric grills are permitted in my condo. Given that I have a gas stove, the idea of an electric grill seems like a step backwards.

#60 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2009, 03:57 PM:

re 56: That's close to what I do, except that I build a small criss-cross fire, pour the charcoal over it, and light the whole thing off at once. (The wood is courtesy of the maple trees in the yard.)

#61 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2009, 04:07 PM:

Perfect steak?

Truffle salt.

#62 ::: B.Loppe ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2009, 05:20 PM:

'Round these parts*, a London Broil is a thick, round ground-beef patty (usually ground from a steak-cut or roast-cut of beef) that is wrapped around the perimeter in either a) bacon or b) pork fat and then a thin strip of steak, all tied up with string that you remove after cooking. Sometimes the patty is more like sausage meat, sometimes they leave out the strip of bacon.


*all the way up here in Canadia

#63 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2009, 05:52 PM:

B.Loppe @ 62:

Some butchers are a bit annoyed about the cut of meat being called London Broil. They rightly point out that London Broil is a particular recipe, and not a cut of meat. I think they're probably fighting a losing battle, as grocery stores are prominently labeling top round roasts London Broil.

The Betty Crocker cookbook I have calls for (if I remember correctly) flank steak in its London Broil recipe.

I've never heard of your version of London Broil before.

#64 ::: Hilary Hertzoff ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2009, 08:23 PM:

KeithS @63 - Technically, the cut of meat I buy is labelled Top Round for London Broil so they shouldn't have a problem with Stop & Shop. This follows their general labelling policy - the cut of meat and the most common use for it.

#65 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2009, 08:23 PM:

Fragano Ledgister @57: What's needed, I feel, is advice on how to sharpen the perfect stake.

See related: AT&T pokes a beehive with a stick.

Don't think they succeeded in killing it, however.

One of my notions for an SF villain, was a consciousness overlain on an insect hive (I was thinking army ants, though beehive would be equally spooky).

Which isn't far removed from ANT&T.

#66 ::: lightning ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2009, 01:13 AM:

Yup, Alton Brown. The first time I tried this recipe was the first time I got a steak to come out a perfect medium-rare.

Addenda:

* Let the steak rest for a few minutes before serving. Otherwise, all the juices will run out when you cut into it. You can use the time for doing things with pan drippings.

* Before doing this or any other high- temperature recipe, make sure your range has a real exhaust fan. Far too many electric ranges just take the air over the stove and blow it out the top and into the smoke detector.

* When Jim says cast iron, he means *cast iron*. Accept no substitutes; nothing else can take the heat.

* Do not attempt to replace the time in the oven with time in the microwave.

#67 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2009, 08:42 AM:

Rob @65, a chilling version of that is Frank Herbert's The Green Brain (1966). He done some good stuff, our Frank, tho' sometimes patchy. Was their an Outer Limits episode?

My favourite frypan is a beautifully balanced old well-seasoned solid cast iron one, but it has a wood-covered handle.

#68 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2009, 01:52 AM:

lightning @66: Oh, right, that part about letting the steak rest reminds me of the other part of my steak "recipe" that I find fairly critical. (The first is putting a decent amount of pepper, and ideally a little bit of salt and other spice, on it.) Take some bread, ideally a thick slice of sourdough though french also works well, and toast it to a light golden brown. Serve the steak on top of it, so that it soaks up the juices.

I suspect this likely originated as a way to make a small steak into a larger meal, but it's how I always had steaks when I was a child, and now they just taste a bit overly greasy to me if they don't have the bread with them.

The combination of these two factors tends to mean that I find steakhouse steaks, even ones at supposedly really outstanding steakhouses, to be unsatisfying and disappointing. (The one exception that comes to mind involved strips of green onion, IIRC, and fresh herbs and some sort of sauce, and was really about combining the steak with other flavors. It was delicious, and very different from the other steak-based dish on the menu that my wife had.)

Okay, now I want to put fresh cilantro on my next steak....

#69 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2009, 03:10 AM:

lightning #66: Far too many electric ranges just take the air over the stove and blow it out the top and into the smoke detector.

Ah. Well, that explains a lot....

#70 ::: Chris Entwistle ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2009, 12:30 PM:

I also forgot to mention resting the steaks. Resting them in a glass dish covered by foil has resulted in significantly juicier steaks. They are still warm to hot in the center, and don't bleed as much when you cut into them.

And seconds for the truffle salt. The stuff is magic with beef or lamb.

(Now I need a steak! Darn you, inter nets! )

#71 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2009, 01:01 PM:

Chris Entwhistle @70

It's also darned good on popcorn and elevates hamburgers to a whole new level when worked into the ground beef as the patties are being made.

Welcome to Making Light's comment section. The moderators are Avram Grumer, Jim Macdonald, Teresa & Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and Abi Sutherland. Abi is the moderator most frequently onsite. She's also the kindest. Teresa is the theoretician. Are you feeling lucky?

If you are a spammer, your fate is in the hands of Jim Macdonald, and your foot shall slide in due time.

Comments containing more than seven URLs will be held for approval. If you want to comment on a thread that's been closed, please post to the most recent "Open Thread" discussion.

You can subscribe (via RSS) to this particular comment thread. (If this option is baffling, here's a quick introduction.)

Post a comment.
(Real e-mail addresses and URLs only, please.)

HTML Tags:
<strong>Strong</strong> = Strong
<em>Emphasized</em> = Emphasized
<a href="http://www.url.com">Linked text</a> = Linked text

Spelling reference:
Tolkien. Minuscule. Gandhi. Millennium. Delany. Embarrassment. Publishers Weekly. Occurrence. Asimov. Weird. Connoisseur. Accommodate. Hierarchy. Deity. Etiquette. Pharaoh. Teresa. Its. Macdonald. Nielsen Hayden. It's. Fluorosphere. Barack. More here.















(You must preview before posting.)

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.