Steak, It's What's for Dinner
All of my life, a speical dinner treat has been a sizzling beef steak. Although eating habits have changed considerably, most Americans will still have a steak at about once a month, usually on a special occasion. Steaks have been a feature of meals when guests are present and when dining in an upscale restaurant.
While I was in school at the CIA in the Napa Valley, a full day was spent on the choosing, preparation and presentation of fine beef products. Steaks are suited to fast, dry high-heat cooking methods, such as grilling or broiling. Due to their relative lack of collagen, longer cooking times are not necessary to tenderize the meat. Steaks should be cut at least one and a half inches thick to allow the meat to sear on the outside and remain rarer in the center containing more of the natural flavorful juices. If a thicker cut is available, I will always ask, if not beg, my dining partner to enjoy it with me.
The five most popular grilling steak cuts are the Rib Eye, the Porter House, T-bone, the Sirloin Strip and the Filet Mignon (a.k.a. Tenderloin). The Porter House and T-bone contains both the sirloin strip and the Tenderloin with each of the steaks cut on a separate side of the center “T” bone. The Porter House is cut from the rear of the short loin and has much larger tenderloin than the T-bone. The Strip is a leaner piece of meat and, like all of these five cuts of meat, is much more flavorful if accompanied by the center bone. The Filet is the tenderest cut and when trimmed properly by the butcher or chef it is almost totally free of fat.
Several new butchers’ cuts are available such as Tri-Tip, the Hanger steak, the Flatiron and the Chuck tip. These are tasty and fun to cook but I won’t have time to discuss them today.
My favorite cut is the Rib Eye. It is particularly a favorite if it is served bone-in as a Cowboy steak. It is cut from the center rib area of the cow and the muscle sees little use in the activities of the animal, making it a receptor for fat storage. The amount of fat contained within any steak except the tenderloin has to do with the grading or tenderness of the steak. The more marbling in the meat area of the steak the more tender it will be. Steaks are graded Select for the least amount of marbling, Choice with more marbling, and Prime with the most marbling. A complete rack of bone-in rib eye steaks is the prime rib.
Grilled Steak Recipe
Prepare a bed of white hot coals in your charcoal grill or direct cooking area of your BBQ pit. If using a gas grill turn the gas on high. Scrub the grill clean with a wire brush and coat with a light coat of oil or non-stick spray.
Make sure steaks are at room temperature and season well with your favorite seasonings. Place the steaks on the grill and contain flare ups with a water bottle. After about two minutes rotate the steaks 90 degrees to mark the cross marks from the grill. Do not turn the steaks over for at least four minutes.When turning the steaks observe the relative doneness of the cooked side and adjust the cook time after turning over to suit your tastes. Halfway through the cooking, do the 90 degree turn again.
Remove steaks from the grill and cover with aluminum foil for a minimum of 10 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute throughout the steak. If you have medium well or well done requirements place those steaks in a skillet and place in a preheated 375 degree oven for at least five minutes to finish cooking.
Aging of Steaks
Steaks are typically aged for a period of ten days or more to allow the enzymes in the meat to break down the muscle to tenderize it. Two methods are used. Wet aging is done when the steak is cryovacuumed in a plastic wrapper to seal in the juices. Dry aging is done in a refrigerator on a rack that allows the dry air to begin dehydrating the exterior of the steak and seals it, allowing the enzymes to go to their tenderizing work. Dry aging will sometimes allow mold to grow on the outside of the steak. The butcher will trim off the mold and the dried portion of the steak. There can be as much as a 30% loss in weight of a dry-aged steak making them much more expensive. Dry aged tastes much different than wet aged. It is a richer and nuttier taste with more tenderness.
Smoked Prime Rib
(Serves 10 to 15 people)
I use the bone off whole, choice grade, prime rib (rib eye) from Costco. Make sure to season generously with WHAM or your favorite combination of meat seasonings. If cooking on the grill outside, set on the rack away from the direct fire and smoke in the wood smoke. Roast at no more than 250 degrees. Temperature is most important!!!!! Stick an oven proof meat thermometer in the center of the meat after three hours, leave it there and carefully monitor the temperature.
When the internal temperature reaches 135 degrees it is medium rare. Remove from pit and cover with foil for thirty minutes. Remove foil and slice and serve. End cuts are well done, the next two are medium and the rest will be medium rare to rare. This will feed 10 -14 people.
Serve with horseradish sauce.
Whisk a half cup of whipping cream until it won’t run if you turn the bowl over. Then stir in 16 oz sour cream and six to eight tablespoons horseradish or more if you like, dash of salt.
Wham is available from Willingham’s in Memphis. www.willinghams.com