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Steaks: practice makes perfect.

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    Steaks: practice makes perfect.

    Going back a few years, there was a topic where we each posted what food we just couldn’t seem to get right. And for me, that was steak.

    I either under cooked them, or over cooked them. They were either watery, or tough, or bland, or some combination. Or I burned them, or I got no sear on them. I just couldn’t get them right.

    Now I think it’s the one thing that I always get right. Well, steaks and ribs. Ribs always come out right anymore too.

    The reason? Well, Amazing Ribs helped. Specifically, Meathead’s video with Jamie Purviance, where they compare reverse sear and sear-and-slide, was a big help.

    [Edit: here’s the video link: https://youtu.be/EnuKEFquBt0 This is one of my most favorite Meathead videos. These guys are having so much fun.]

    Reverse sear is kind of like training wheels for steaks. It helps you understand why things work the way they do. It makes cooking meat make sense. But it isn’t training wheels like "get rid of this when you figure it out"; once you got it, it’s a real tool for real cooking. Reverse sear is killer good. And it helps with meal planning and meal timing, too: make the sides while the "reverse" part is happening, then sear, and everything comes together.

    But reverse sear isn’t the only method, and it isn’t the best method in every instance. Master reverse sear, and the door is opened for sous vide to make sense. And if reverse sear makes sense, then sear-and-slide makes sense, too. And anything that works on the grill works in a cast iron pan and an oven; that just makes sense.

    And finally, once those all make sense, so does JKF: just keep flipping. My favorite. Get that surface (or fire) to about 600*. Put the meat on, and flip it every 15-20 seconds or so. Once you get it to look like you want, check the temp. If it needs a little more, JKF. And, here’s a secret: JKF makes you feel like a king. Like a Grillmaster.

    ETA this part. Get a good meat thermometer and use it. It goes in the side, not in the top. Get it all the way to the middle. No matter how good you get, the thermo is king. It rules.It’s easy for me to make my medium rare, but it’s hard to make my medium rare, Mrs Mosca’s medium, and my inlaws’ well done all at the same meal. And a properly made well done can still be juicy if you don’t overcook it.

    But method isn’t all. Seasoning counts just as much, and by seasoning I mean SALT. You can add pepper too, and garlic. If you’re using cast iron, a sprig of rosemary or thyme is nice, too, as well as some butter at the end. But a sure fire way to get bland, watery steak is to cook without salting it first. I’ve tried salting it the day before, and I’ve salted it right before cooking. I guess salting the day before is better. But the difference isn’t that much. And I don’t plan meals a day in advance; I usually think about dinner around 4:30 in the afternoon. People: salt your steak.

    Last, but just as important: Buy quality steak. Hell, even cheap steak is expensive, you might as well step up. Actually, I probably should have put this first. But you can (partially, somewhat) save a cheap steak with proper method and seasoning, and you can kill an expensive steak with improper method and seasoning. So method and seasoning is first. But folks, if you’ve decided to eat steak, step up. At least get CAB. Get some marbling in there. If it’s a budget thing, take the extra $$$ off a future meal. And do it not because it’s an extravagance; do it because a crappy steak is a waste. You spent the money, and it was lousy. But if you’d spent the extra, well, yes it cost more, but you got to enjoy it. Go for it. Good steak once a month is better than cheap steak once a week.

    Anyhow, I got good at cooking steaks the only way you can: I cooked a lot of steaks. And I ate a lot of mistakes, at first. But then I ate a lot of damn good steaks, and it was all worth it. Highly recommended.
    Last edited by Mosca; March 4, 2021, 08:38 AM.

    Great write up, I adopted the JKF approach a while back when you (I think it was you) posted about it. I’m not as consistent as I want to be on steak, but do get it right more than I screw up.


    • Mosca
      Mosca commented
      Editing a comment
      I screw it up when I get the fire or pan too hot. That can happen. Save it by switching from JKF to sear-and-slide as soon as you see the black-not-brown on the meat. Outside, use the cool side of the grill; if coals cover the entire grill, rake the coals over. Inside, use a 250* oven.

    Yes, yes, yes, and yes. (Too many?).
    Actually, I’m doing steaks tonight. I salted about 11 AM. 👍. They are small Teres Major cuts. Planning to JKF on the Smokey Joe. I’ll update via SUWYC later.


      Great post. Doing a couple strips tonight!


        The JFK method ???? Oh you mean the JKF method...got it !!!


          Great write up Mosca Steaks are one of the things I actually did well with before joining AR. I just kinda stumbled onto the reverse sear method myself by accident. I started wanting more smoke flavor to my steak, so I just started putting them off to the side for 15-20 minutes before searing them. I’ve done so many steaks over the years, I have been able to pretty much nail the medium rare cook without a temp probe. Most of the time anyway. For a filet though, I usually use the temp. probe.

          But I have gotten a little better sear on them since I got my SnS, after learning about it here at AR. And yes sir, I’ve eaten my share of bad steaks in the past as well. One thing about being a member here also, if I decide I’m gonna post a pic of a steak here, I’m a lot more careful with the cook.
          Last edited by Panhead John; March 3, 2021, 03:40 PM.


          • Mosca
            Mosca commented
            Editing a comment
            "One thing about being a member here also, if I decide I’m gonna post a pic of a steak here, I’m a lot more careful with the cook."

            True dat!
            Last edited by Mosca; March 3, 2021, 05:55 PM.

          Great write up. Concur. Would also add that as I have gotten better with steak that I use the thickness of the steak as guide for the cooking method too. Thanks for sharing!


          • Mosca
            Mosca commented
            Editing a comment

          Edited the original to add the part about thermometers. I’m so used to using mine that I don’t even think about it. No matter how good you get, the thermo takes out the guesswork and uncertainty.
          Last edited by Mosca; March 3, 2021, 06:55 PM.


          • Jfrosty27
            Jfrosty27 commented
            Editing a comment
            And another yes from me. Gotta use the thermometer. I used to do the poke it test and ruined many steaks. No more.

          Good write-up. I used to ruin steaks regularly before I discovered this site. Now I feel confident cooking any kind of steak, no matter how fancy or expensive. What you wrote particularly resonates with me: "Good steak once a month is better than cheap steak once a week." My wife and I resolved some time ago to eat less meat, but eat quality meat. We don't eat steak all the time, but when we do it is usually memorable.


            I could make a decent steak before I found this place, but I can make better steaks since finding it. Though you know the best thing about practice making the perfect 🥩? You’re eating steak!


              Dropping $$$ to buy high quality cuts makes things easy. Having said that, we don't always have that option. So, a couple of techniques can really get the most out of steak. First, is dry-brine. Salt. It comes up a lot on this site and I am religious about it. Simply put, it works as advertised. I like to have my steaks cut thick and I will dry-brine both sides of the meat. I'm light-handed with the salt but it still works beautifully.

              Second, this isn't talked about and it's a technique I stumbled upon by accident - I call it "the freezer trick". Think about the science behind the reverse sear. Meat cooks from the outside-in. We sear at the end of the cook, especially when we are looking for a medium-rare to rare center because we want the meat to be uniformly cooked. Expose the exterior to excessive heat at the beginning of the cook and you can achieve a great sear on the surface but when you cut into the steak you'll have a bland grey band of overcooked meat between the surface and the interior. I put steak in the freezer before going on the grill. The goal here is to make the exterior of the steak colder than the interior. Because it cooks from the outside-in, this technique coupled with reverse-sear produces an evenly-cooked steak throughout.

              This isn't a great picture, but it does capture how evenly cooked the steak is:

              Click image for larger version

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