How to Turn Cheap ?Choice? Steaks into Gucci ?Prime? Steaks

Written by Steamy Kitchen


(Grilled Porterhouse with Garlic-Herb Butter, Shoestring Fries and Spinach with Garlic Chips. Thank you Kelly for cooking my spinach while I tended to my rugrat children who thought it would be funny to watch Mom trip over the marbles that they dumped down the stairs. Ha. Ha. That was funny boys.)

This recipe is published in my inaugural food column for Creative Loafing on Wednesday 8/29

If you are a meat-lover, I hope that the title of this post + luscious photo is enticing enough for you to read though the entire article. Because I promise you that it?s worth it. Even if you don?t eat meat, this is worth reading?as you can impress the hell outta your carnivorean friends. (and sometimes, when you?re a vegetarian in a herd of carnivores?it would just be nice to have that extra, “dude?.you didn?t know that about steak???!” in your pocket.)

My entire family (including the 2 yr old kid) just adores steak?you could probably classify us as professional carnivores. In fact, it is my husband?s life-long quest to hone his grilling technique so that our steaks at home turn out charred crusty on the outside and perfectly medium-rare on the inside. With grill marks for show, of course. Seriously, we are too cheap to eat out at nice steak restaurants. For the past 4 months, we have been experimenting with how to get full, juicy, beefy flavor of a ribeye with butter-knife tenderness of a filet mignon without paying up-the-butt for Prime cuts.

And by golly, after 4 months of eating steak 2x a week, I think we?ve figured it out.

So, my friends, I am offering you a very juicy secret, one that will turn an ordinary “Choice” cut of steak into a gucci “Prime” cut. Do you know the joy of buying Choice and eating Prime? It?s like buying a Hyundai and getting a free mail-in rebate for a BMW upgrade!!!

The secret after the jump?..

Massively salt your steaks 1 hour before grilling.

Notice that I didn?t say, “sprinkle liberally” or even “season generously.” I?m talking about taking a small handful of kosher salt and literally coating your meat until you can?t see red.

It should resemble a salt lick.

Let that meat be totally overwhelmed with the salt for 1 hour. Rinse, pat dry dry dry and then you?re ready to grill.

Before y?all throw a hissy fit, just hear me out. I first learned of this technique from Judy Rodgers? Zuni Caf? Cookbook. Judy massively salts her chicken before roasting, and I?ve adapted the practice to steaks. Thanks to a couple of other books (McGee?s On Food and Cooking and Alton Brown?s I?m Just Here For the Food), and a few fellow bloggers, I have somewhat of an explanation of how it works.

But just so you know?I slept through high school biology and chemistry, especially during the chapter on osmosis. I?m asking for any researchers, doctors, scientists, butchers, plumbers, professional chefs, mechanics?.basically anyone who didn?t sleep through school to add to this conversation. Mainly because maybe, there might be as many holes in my slideshow as there are in my pea-head.

Oh, and if the drawings look like a 3rd grader did it, too bad?.I?m not a artist, dammit!!! YOU try drawing with a laptop touch-pad and a glass of bourbon on the rocks.

Slide #1:

All of you who season JUST before grilling – this is what you are really doing to the meat. Did you know that? All the water comes to the surface and if you don?t pat super-dry, you?re basically STEAMING the meat.

But if you let it sit for a while?this is what happens: cue Slide #2:

Slide #3:

Bourbon does that to me too.

Ok, Slide #4: After you let it rest, then

I can hear it now..”BUT?.BUT?BUT?.what of all the water that stayed on the surface of the meat? Not all the water gets reabsorbed! (*%!*%!@#!#!!! I DON?T UNDERSTAND!!!”

Sit back down?and let?s move on to Slide #5:

I meant “prune” not “prude” – but whatever. too lazy to modify the jpg.

Why not brine?
Well, yeah?you could. But that involves measuring, finding a big enough container, dissolving, finding enough space in the refrigerator for the big container, chilling, waiting, waiting, waiting, draining, washing big fat container, unchilling the meat to bring to room temp. Waaaayyyy too much work for a simple gal. Plus, brined steak tastes like shit. Because of high water concentration of a brine, you are ADDING a lot of water into the meat. Not what you want for a steak.

Other Notes

  • Use kosher salt, not iodized table salt?or else your meat will taste like?well?iodine. EDIT: Sea Salt works just as well too!!
  • Use 1-2 teaspoons of kosher salt per side. Just salt until you can?t see red. See the photo above. That huge Porterhouse took about 2 tsps of kosher salt. Some of the salt already dissolved by the time I got out my camera?.it was really, really covered in salt. For smaller cuts – use 1 tsp.
  • I generally salt between 1-3 hours (the last hour on the counter top at room temperature) depending on the thickness of the steak (an hour-ish for every inch). Personally, my favorite is a steak 1-1/2″ thick that I let salt for 1.5 hour-ish on the counter.
  • Don?t worry about exact measurements or timing. (did you notice the abundance of “-ish”???) You don?t even need a measuring spoon – just take a small handful of salt. Just make sure that you let it sit at least an hour-ish. This method is extremely flexible-ish and works damn well every single time. I promise you won?t be disappointed-ish.
  • I haven?t tried salting Filet Mignon by itself (without the Porterhouse bone). Someone want to try and report back? My opinion, the best cuts to use are Rib Eye, Porterhouse, T-Bone and NY Strip.
  • If you are Howard McGee, a member of Alton Brown?s research team or Mr. Burke my high school bio teacher?..and think I?m full of B.S?. please let me know. But guys, none of this was in your books. I had to formulate, extrapolate, hypotholate and guesstulate based on your stuff. Highly mental activity.
  • If you are not one of the above but have a better explanation than I my little brain could muster, please let me know.
  • With respect, Ms.Judy Rogers, I?d like to suggest that your explanation of why salting works in your book may be incorrect. Reverse osmosis doesn?t happen by itself?it requires an abundance of external force?kinda like me trying to get my kids to pick up their toys.
  • Should I call this Salt-Curing, Dry-Brining, Salting, Dry Rubbing or just plain Idiotic? This sounds awfully like salt-curing – but doesn?t that dry out meat (like beef jerky)? Well yes it does – but when you use A LOT more salt and leave it salting for A LOOOOOONG time. We?re talking about an hour-ish nap here – not weeks – just enough to break down the protiens.

I understand that this method will cause chaos, confusion and controversy in your household. But I encourage you to experiment ? try adding spices, crushed garlic and rosemary sprigs to the salt, which will then act like Christina Aguilera dragging its entourage of flavors with it into the meat.

If confusion in the household becomes unbearable, just whack?em with the hunk of salty meat.

Grilled Steak with Garlic-Herb Butter

Step 1: Buy a hunk of steak 1-inch thick or more. I like mine 1?-inches thick. Rib Eye, Porterhouse, T-Bone and NY Strip work perfectly. Edit- just tried Filet Mignon tonight?.deeeeluscious! Another reader had great success with Elk.

Step 2: About 1-2 teaspoons of kosher salt per side. Small girly 1lb steak = 1 tsp. Manly man 2lb steak = 2 tsp. Let it sit on counter for 1 hr for every inch in thickness. Not all of the moisture will be re-absorbed back in. In fact, you will see quite a bit of water. That?s ok. Don?t panic. Read slides above for explanation.

Step 3: Rinse all salt off, pat very dry <- that part is important. Season with fresh ground pepper (no more salt is needed). Grill to your liking. Hint: get yourself a grilling thermometer. Top with Garlic-Herb Butter immediately to let it oooooze and aaaahhze all over the steak.

Garlic-Herb Butter

1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
handful of fresh herbs (any combination is fine. My fav is basil and parsley)
1-3 cloves of garlic, smushed in garlic press

To make the Garlic-Herb Butter, combine all ingredients. Lay out a sheet of plastic wrap. Spoon butter mixture on wrap. Roll and shape butter into a log. Refrigerate to firm up for 30 minutes. Slice into 1/4? disks to top the grilled steaks. You can make butter up to 3 days in advance.

Notice the consistency in ingredients (first photo and the one below): perfect steak always go so well with homemade shoestring fries or homemade potato chips. The green stuff is just to give color to the plate.

unless it has garlic-herb butter slathered all over it too.

7 thoughts on “How to Turn Cheap ?Choice? Steaks into Gucci ?Prime? Steaks

  1. Matilda

    I’m adding this to my family cookbook software. This cheap meat cookin’ tip is exactly what cookbookpeople.com is looking for! Thank you, Stumbleupon!

  2. Bernetta Machlin

    That of a cute kitchen! I’m so excited to your new house. I may have found a place to maneuver into more permanently … Still waiting to hear back on a couple of things, but at here I’m just ready to advance in anywhere that has my own stuff in it! lol. Bernetta Machlin

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