It took me many trips to different butcher shops and several iterations in the kitchen, till I reached a satisfaction level with my grilled steak; a level that would be compared to when I was visiting famous steakhouses.
The formula to grilling your perfect steak involves three parameters: Steak cut, seasoning and cooking process.
Knowing your Steak Cut
There are many criteria that should be considering while choosing your steak cut; one of them is the origin of the steak (e.g. Brazilian beef, Australian beef, or the so called “Local” beef here in UAE). Again, choosing a steak of a certain origin is subject to personal taste.
The type of steak cut is the main contributor to achieve a satisfactory experience wen grilling steak at home. Depending on the amount of fat and the way it is distributed, the steak cut will have a varying tenderness and special flavor. There are four common types of steak cut in any steakhouse menu
Often referred as “Filet mignon”, it is the most expansive cut of steak, for its mild taste and least amount of fat included. It is my favorite choice.
New York Strip
Often referred as “top sirloin”. This cut is less tender compared to tenderloin, with some fat marbling throughout, giving it a good beefy flavor.
I consider it as the best choice for hardcore “Carnivore”. It is sold with a T-shaped bone in, with meat on both sides. This cut has generous fat marbling throughout, making it super-tender and juicy, with beefy taste
Often referred as “Entrecôte”. This cut is basically a prime rib cut down into individual steaks. It has lots of fat marbling the meat and large pockets of fat interspersed throughout, making it extra juicy with flavorful beefy taste
Regarding seasoning, a real steak fan would prefer having his/her steak taste outstanding, that’s why I recommend using only a little pinch of pepper and sea salt for seasoning a steak piece, leaving it for fifteen minutes before grilling. Once your steak is ready for eating, you can enjoy the diversity of sauces and toppings available in the market and at any steakhouse, but for grilling use only pepper and sea salt
When it comes to cooking process, there is two main styles: charcoal grilling and pan grilling. Pan grilling involves less parameters to control and hence it is easier to master. In this article I will focus on what I have real experience, which is pan grilling.
For pan grilling, you need mainly three items (in addition to a good piece of steak): a pan, greasing material and a steak tong.
I recommend using a non-stick pan, with adequate size allowing enough space around the steak piece. For greasing, you can use normal frying oil, or better using grilling spray, which is easier to spread all over the pan. When it comes to steak tong, it is recommended to choose one that is big enough to carry the steak piece steadily, but not too big to make it difficult to turn the steak piece around while being grilled.
One important thing you should learn, is the steak cooking styles. Cooking style, referred as steak “Doneness”, impacts the color and tenderness of steak piece, and its taste as well. As a general rule, leaving a piece of steak for longer time on the fire, make it darker in color and harder in touch. There are five common steak cooking styles
I consider this as the cooking style for real “carnivore”. The piece of steak is nearly raw. A rare steak is browned around the sides, and bright red in the middle.
Most of the center of the steak piece should be pink in color with a hint of red. The sides should be well browned, the top and bottom caramelized to a dark brown color with good grill marks.
This is the common level of doneness often acceptable by everybody. I recommend grilling to this style when cooking for a dish party or a family gathering. The piece of steak will have a thick band of light pink through the middle, but more browned than pink. The sides should be a rich brown color and the top and bottom charred darkly, but not black.
This is my preferred level of doneness, with only a hint of pink in the very middle of the piece of steak. The surface should be a dark brown with good charring on the top and bottom. This steak will be very stiff but still have a slight spongy feel in the center.
For real steak fans, this as the less popular doneness level. On the other hand, this is the most popular choice for people who eat steak occasionally and feel more comfortable with the “Safe” choice. This level of doneness is achieved only by slowly cooking the piece of steak at relatively low temperature till there is no trace of red or pint at all, while the outside is brown with no traces of burns (Easy to mention, difficult to achieve)
Finger Test for Steak Doneness
In order not to complicate things, I won’t give hints about the duration to grill each side of the steak piece, at what temperature for a certain thickness or specific steak cut. I will explain to you an easier method, referred as the “Finger Test” to be used while cooking a piece of steak, to know whether it has reached a certain doneness level.
With your hand open, press the meat of your hand (under your thumb) with your finger, use the feeling of the meat under your finger as a comparison when you touch the piece of steak while being grilled:
- Press with your index finger, the feeling compare to the rare cooking style of steak
- Press with your middle finger, the feeling compare to the medium rare cooking style of steak
- Press with your ring finger, the feeling compare to the medium well cooking style of steak
- Press with your pinky finger, the feeling compare to the well done cooking style of steak