In an odd twist of protocol, mothers get breakfast in bed on their big day, but fathers, once they’ve opened their cards, are expected to grill for the family. Be careful what you wish for! So what does the Big Guy grill on his special day? Ribs or brisket if he’s feeling ambitious; burgers or brats if he wants to relax. But Dad’s real aspiration, I wager, is to grill the ultimate steak.
The perfect steak is both the easiest and toughest dish to get right. To judge from questions I’m asked at Barbecue University, it’s certainly a source of anxiety. There’s more to it than simply throwing a slab of meat on the grill, but once you know the rules of the road, it’s easier than you think.
Below, as an early Father’s Day gift, exclusively for Up in Smoke readers, are my ten best tips for grilling the perfect steak. As another Father’s Day gift, we’re offering a 10 per cent discount on steak-related items and accoutrements in the Barbecue Store, now through June 30th. Essentials like our new Ultimate Steak Sauce and Steak Barbecue Rub or our Lumatong (see Step 7 below—turn, don’t stab) and cast-iron Tuscan Grill Grate (unparalleled for killer grill marks) are all on sale.
Finally, check out the exclusive Steven Raichlen Beer Can Chicken Basket offered by our friends at www.800flowers.com.
Treat Dad to a gift he can really use. I guarantee, he’ll enjoy a Tuscan Grill or Lumatongs more than another pair of bedroom slippers or a tie.
1. Choose the right steak: A Porterhouse is the best of both worlds, consisting of a New York strip and a filet mignon united by a slender bone. Other top cuts include rib eyes, T-bones, and new cuts, like the flatiron. Don’t overlook tougher, meatier cuts, like sirloin, hanger steak, skirt steak, and flank steak—just be sure to thinly slice across the grain before serving for ultimate tenderness.
2. Keep it in the refrigerator until grilling: This runs contrary to many theories, but no steakhouse worth its salt leaves meat out at room temperature in a hot kitchen.
3. Build a 3-zone fire: Use the hot zone for searing, the medium zone for cooking, and have a safety zone where you can move the steaks to dodge any flare-ups.
4. When it comes to seasoning, keep it simple: Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper are all you really need. Or if you want to get fancy, some of our new Steak Rub
5. Remember the grill master’s mantra: Keep it hot. Keep it clean. Keep it lubricated. A hot, clean, well-oiled grate prevents sticking and gives you killer grill marks.
6. Get good marks: Arrange the steaks on the grill grate all running the same way slightly on the diagonal to the bars of the grate. Rotate 90 degrees after 2 minutes to lay on a crosshatch of grill marks. To get the best marks, use a cast iron grate, like our Tuscan Grill.
7. Turn, don’t stab: Use tongs, like our LED light-equipped Lumatongs –not a fork to turn the steaks. The only purpose served by stabbing a steak is to drain out the juices. Enough said. By the way, look for beads of blood that form on the top of the steak a few minutes after it goes on the grill. That tells you it’s time to turn.
8. Poke your food: Use your index finger to poke the steak. If it’s soft and squishy, it’s rare; gently yielding, medium; firm, well-done. (Not that you really want to cook a steak well done, do you?) And remember, large steaks continue cooking even after they come off the grill.
9. Give it a rest: Always let steaks rest on a platter or plates for 2 to 3 minutes before serving. This allows the juices to redistribute—resting gives you a juicier steak.
10. Anoint thy steak: Gild the lily with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil or a pat of butter or even a slather of our new Steak Sauce.
And finally, here’s a recipe designed to put the above tips into practice: It takes its cues from Argentina, where beef rules. Serve these steaks with grilled garlic bread, grilled sweet corn, and a salad. You’ll look like even more of a hero than you, the Pater Familias, already are.
Method: Direct grilling
For the rub:
2 tablespoons of Best of Barbecue Steak Rub* (or 2 teaspoons each coarse salt, dried oregano, dried rosemary, and 1 teaspoon each hot pepper flakes and freshly ground black pepper)
4 New York strips or long-bone rib eyes (each steak should be 1-1/2 to 2 inches thick)
For the chimichurri marinade/sauce:
1 bunch fresh parsley, washed, stemmed, and rough-chopped, plus 3 sprigs for serving
1 bunch fresh cilantro leaves, washed, stemmed, and rough-chopped
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar, or more to taste
1/4 cup cold water
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling (optional)
If making your own rub, place the ingredients for the rub in a small bowl and mix with your fingers. Sprinkle the steaks on both sides with the rub, rubbing the mixture into the meat with your fingers.
1) Make the chimichurri: Place the parsley, cilantro, and garlic in a food processor and finely chop. Add the oil, vinegar, and water and continue processing to make a thick sauce. Taste for seasoning, adding salt, pepper, and vinegar to taste; the chimichurri should be highly seasoned.
2) Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high. Brush and oil the grill grate.
3) Grill the steaks until cooked to taste, 4 minutes per side for medium-rare, rotating each a quarter turn after 2 minutes to lay on a crosshatch of grill marks. Cook to taste, using the poke test to check for doneness. Let the steaks rest for 2 to 3 minutes. Spoon the chimichurri sauce onto plates or a platter, place the steaks on top. Top with parsley, drizzle with olive oil (if using), and serve at once.
*Available in the Barbecue Store
P.S. Stay tuned for new recipes and my take on the charcoal versus gas debate, exclusively in the next issue of Up in Smoke, coming out at the end of June.
Steven Raichlen's official newsletter, Up in Smoke, is available exclusively on barbecuebible.com. Culled from experiences on the barbecue trail and beyond, Steven brings you reviews you can use, recipes, answers to your questions, special BBQ store discounts, and more. The newsletter is FREE and comes out every month. It is available first only to subscribers to the newsletter and then posted a month later in the newsletter archives. Sign up today!