The perfect steak
From an airline magazine sidebar
- “Great steaks owe their succulence to three factors: marbling, aging and proper cooking. A chasm seperates gass-grill-cooked grocery-store steaks from the dry-aged prime proffered by the best steakhouses.
- There are three grades of beef: prime, choice, and select. The grade of a steak depends upon marbling. Prime steaks -- the top grade awarded by the USDA -- are webbed with fine tendrils of fat that, upon contact with heat, melt and bathe the flesh. Most grocery-store steaks are choice grade; as such, the fat is coarser, the taste lesser.
- Aging is of two sorts. Wet aging, during which a hermetically sealed cut of beef remains in a refrigerated room for a period of three weeks or so as enzymes break down tough muscle tissue, results in a more tender steak. Dry-aged beef, on the other hand, gains the same measure of tenderness, but, owing to its storage on open shelving as air courses about, can lose as much as 25 percent of its weight. The effect, says Adam Perry Lang, who takes the idea to a sublimely ridiculous conclusion by aging much of his beef nine weeks or more, is akin to what happens when a grape shrivels into a raisin. “The taste intensifies,” says Lang. “You get this deep minerality, this nuttiness, this butteriness.”
- Cooking a dry-aged steak is simple -- for a steakhouse. They have special equipment. But you can do it at home. First, develop a relationship with a world-class butcher. Failing that, log onto lobels.com or ottomanelli.com and order a couple of bone-in porterhouse or shell steaks. At least 30 minutes before meat hits metal, pull the steaks from the fridge and sprinkle both sides liberally with kosher salt.
- Heat your oven to 500°F. Place a cast-iron skillet inside. Thirty minutes later, pat the steaks dry of any juices that have accumulated, remove the skillet from the oven, and place the steaks in the skillet over a gas burner turned to high.
- Cook, flipping once, until a brown-black char develops on each side and an instant-read thermometer regsiters around 105°F for medium-rare. Remove the steaks from the skillet and let them rest on a platter for 15 minutes, while the internal temperature continues to rise and the juices retreat from the surface to the interior.”
Dave's note: If you skip using the kosher salt, the crust on the steak will burn black, giving you a “black-and-blue” or “Pittsburgh” finish. This is exactly how I prefer my steak. 1½" thick prime filets, no salt and four minutes per side gives me a perfect steak, very rare in the middle, burnt on the outside. Using the salt keeps the crust from burning as much, which could be important if you don’t like the burnt flavor or need to cook your steak longer to get past the very rare stage.