Tips for Grilling Steaks
(Shared recipe submitted by Fred Fenlon.)
The following is advice from Fred on grilling steaks. It is very interesting and provides a lot of useful information. He wrote it for friends, family and his own entertainment and now wants to share it with us. See the similar and related recipes below for links to several specific steak recipes.
The last time we went to dinner at my friend's home, east of Boston, we were to have a nice sirloin steak dinner. My friend's wife, (to protect the innocent, I will call her Lolita), went out and purchased four beautiful New York sirloin strip steaks. They were in the $8.00+ per pound category. We sat on the deck, with a great red wine. Then I witnessed my friend, I'll call him Mo (not the magnificent), kill four wonderful steaks. He was and is the inspiration for this narrative.
The next day after returning home I checked through my collection of 300+ cook books, and found that there is very little written, in any detail, on this subject. Certainly, my French and Continental books were of no help. The most helpful were textbooks from teaching culinary academies.
The Grill: Let's get down to brass tacks. How many backyard grill masters do you know that are grilling steaks over seasoned hard wood fires? How many use a charcoal grill? To the former, I know none. To the latter I know perhaps one, and his better half is mandating a switch to gas, because he almost started his house on fire, when he spilled starter fluid on the wood deck and it flamed up! The burn hole wasn't all the big! So the facts of life are that a common gas barbecue grill is where it's at, in today's American backyard.
A two-burner gas grill will do the job and bigger is not better, unless you have 7 or 8 kids. A smaller to medium size gas grill is fine. Skip the glass see through window, as it soon stains badly from smoke and you can't see through it. A side burner is a great option but not necessary.
Jumping ahead: How you like your steak cooked determines how you heat your grill. If all family members or guests like their steaks grilled rare to medium-rare, turn both grill burners to the hottest position. However, if some like rare to medium-rare and others like medium to medium-well, then the left burner should be on high or full blast while the right side should be on medium+. "Well-done" is a terrible thing to do to a steak, and punishable by......!
Simply stated, rare and medium-rare steaks must cook fast over high heat to sear the outside and at the same time keep the inside on the rare side. The medium to medium-well steaks need to cook slower and on lower heat, to allow the outside to brown and thus cook the inside to medium, without burning the outside. Hint: Put the medium to medium-well steaks on the cooler right side of the grill a few minutes earlier than the rare steaks to allow them to cook longer and thus have all the steaks come off at approximately same time. More on "doneness" later.
The Meat: The good old fashion American steak is the New York Strip Sirloin. Next in line is the Porterhouse, in which the large side of the bone is the sirloin and on the small side is a tenderloin. These are great for a couple where the gal likes the smaller tenderloin and the he-man likes the larger sirloin serving. The T-bone is fine, if not cut too thin. It‘s simply a sirloin with the bone left on.
The tenderloin, the most expensive, is for those who like to cut their meat with a fork. It is certainly the tenderest, but the flavor is quite mild, as it is without fat. The tenderloin is sometimes called the filet, filet mignon or tournedos.
Hint: Be sure to have extra sharp steak knives on the table. A dull knife can convince the user he/she has a tough steak. Whereas, a very sharp knife spoofs one into thinking the steak is wonderful and tender. This is a very basic rule with any good chef.
Shoulder steaks, the most economical, are great and most flavorful. They require a little butchering and must be tenderized. Cut these into suitable individual portions along the apparent mussel lines or separations. Take a sharp knife and remove ALL the very tough silver skin. Shoulder steaks are great for a good husky marinate. See recipe below. How do you tenderize? Aldoph's of course, which are all natural ingredients --- no wild chemicals!
How thick? A good range is 1-1/4 inches to 2 -1/4 inches. Steaks an inch or thinner don't grill well.
Fat Facts: Beef fat has and is receiving an undeserved black eye. First and foremost, your body needs a certain amount of fat to function properly. Second, fat imparts a great deal of flavor to any meat. Moreover, beef cattle today are raised with much reduced fat levels. So called "marbleized" beef is a thing of the past. As a nation we don't cook sirloin steaks every other night for dinner. The grilling process renders out a significant amount of the fat count. Who could afford it at $8.00 a pound, three or four times a week??
If you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure ask your doctor if you can have grilled tenderloin steak once or twice a month. As St. Paul says, "In all things, moderation".
Seasoning: There is great debate in the cooking world concerning the use of salt on steaks prior to grilling. Unquestionably, salt will draw-out liquids from the meat. However, salt will enhance the true natural flavor of the steak. If you chose to season with salt, use kosher salt and apply a small portion to the meat, immediately before placing the steaks on the hot grill.
One of the mistakes made by many backyard grill masters is to open the frig, pull out the steaks, remove the supermarket plastic wrap and immediately plop the meat on the grill. The steaks need to be brought to room temperature. Then they should to be coated with a common vegetable oil, like canola (not olive oil!). This is the time to season. Simply take a platter, place some kosher salt on the bottom and add a few grinds of fresh pepper then add about a 1/3 cup of oil to the platter. Mix with the tips of your fingers; take to the hot grill and coat the steaks with this seasoned oil on both sides and place the steaks on the fire. For that special occasion, add two tablespoons of melted unsalted butter to the oil on the platter for that extra delicate flavor. More exact detail on how to put the steaks on the grill later.
Before we place the steaks on the grill, let's cover THE most complex and controversial subject: "Testing for doneness". We could go into the finger method, testing for the softness of a rare steak or the cutting method to look inside, but we aren't going to consider any of these. We are going to solve all these complexities in one simple and 100% accurate process. Write this down! Go out and purchase a good instant read digital thermometer. It's simple and flawless and a super $20.00 investment. Now all you have to know is the correct temperatures for rare, medium rare etc. Here they are (in fahrenheit):
- RARE: 140°
- MEDIUM RARE: 150°
- MEDIUM: 160°
- MEDIUM WELL: 165°
- WELL DONE: A criminal Act!!
Fact: When you take the steak off the grill it will continue to cook. Expect it to cook an additional 5° before serving. Adjust desired "doneness" accordingly.
Now we are ready to put the steaks on the hot grill. Here's another rule. Look at both sides of your steak. ID the best looking side. This is the side that will go down on the hot grill grids. It will be "marked" or branded by the hot grids. This will be the side that will face up on the dinner plate.
Marking: Your sirloin will have a narrow or pointed end. Envision a clock. Place the pointed end of the steak at 1:00 o'clock. Allow the steak to stay on the grill, in this position, for about 90 seconds. After the 90 seconds lift the steak with your tongs and rotate it clockwise, so that the point is at 5:00 o'clock. Your steak is now branded or "marked" with an elegant crisscross pattern. Julia Child would be proud of you!
Now look for the steak to, "bleed through". You will soon see small blotches of blood. This is the signal to turn over the steaks immediately and put the digital thermometer into the center of the steak. Take your readings. It should be somewhat over 110°. Keep testing. If, for example, you want a medium rare steak take the steak off at 145°. You only turn the steak over ONCE. DO NOT turn the steak back over to the elegantly marked good side.
There are only two real big "don'ts". First, never cut into a steak to test for doneness. If you cut it open and it is already too done, what are you going to do now!? If it is too rare and you put it back on the grill you will watch the juices run out into the fire. You will then serve dried out tasteless meat. Secondly, no well done steaks please.
Just before serving rub a little unsalted butter across the steaks. It will add a delicate flavor and adds shine to the meat. Perhaps a little flavored butter...., but that's another lesson.
For that very special dinner make a little sauce to add a French flare? Sauté 2 or 3 tablespoons of chopped shallots in butter, add 1/3-cup of finely chopped mushrooms, cook for a minute or two and then add 1/3-cup of good red wine. Reduce by a half and then add 3/4 cup of beef broth or consume and reduce until the sauce thickens so it coats the back of a spoon. Taste for seasoning. Add a few grinds of fresh black pepper and salt ONLY if necessary. Nap the pointed end of the steak with the sauce or put the sauce in a gravy boat and put it on the table. Garnish with a sprig of parsley.
As I understand it dedications are supposed to appear in the front of the narrative, however, since I insulted my friend on the front end, I will now dedicate this white paper to him because without him this work would not have been possible. Voilá.
About Fred: I have really enjoyed reading Fred's recipes. They are well written and his instructions very thorough. Fred's e-mail address is FredFJ@comcast.net.