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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Secret to Cooking a Great Steak at Home

Posted by on Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 1:32 PM

Over on HuffPo, Alinea's Grant Achatz says it's to heat the hell out of a (IMPORTANT: NOT non-stick) pan. Here is The accompanying video, which does not seem especially enlightening but does have frantic music, [UPDATE] won't even show up here but isn't really worth watching anyway. Anybody had luck with the ultra-hot-pan method of steak-cooking?

(And if you haven't read this New Yorker profile of Grant Achatz, you should.)


Comments (27) RSS

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Akbar Fazil 1
Would be nice Bethany if you would ever check your posts and see that the video you posted can not be embeded at slog.
Posted by Akbar Fazil on January 28, 2014 at 1:44 PM · Report this
Fnarf 2
"Sorry, but this video is currently unavailable for viewing at this domain."

A hot pan helps, and non-stick is a terrible idea here, but the real secret is WARM MEAT. If you take it straight out of the fridge there is no way in hell to cook it properly, because it will still be cold in the middle when the outside starts to burn. If you lower the temp to keep it from burning, the inside will just turn grey. Warm it to room temp at a minimum, but even better warm it slightly in a very slow oven for a short while, until it turns very slightly grey on the OUTSIDE -- THEN blast it on the ultra-hot griddle (or better yet, grill, outside).
Posted by Fnarf on January 28, 2014 at 1:48 PM · Report this
TomJohnsonJr 3
I've tried, Lord knows I've tried, with my cast-iron skillets smoking like crazy, and my little rangetop vent trying like mad while my smoke alarms go off, but I'm sorry. Hands-down the most convenient way I've found to make a great steak is the molecular-cooking-lite version promoted by patent troll Nathan Myhrvold, where you freeze it, sear one side, then slow bake it. Merciful heavens. It brings out so much goddam flavor, is easy to control, and the texture is fantastic.

Here's what got me started on it.…
Posted by TomJohnsonJr on January 28, 2014 at 1:48 PM · Report this
look up alton brown cast iron skillet steak method
Posted by LORD ZOD on January 28, 2014 at 1:55 PM · Report this
If you have a "hollywood cut" steak (strip loin, ribeye) thicker than an inch, pat it dry, rub with a little flake salt, and cook it in 300 degree oven to a 95 degree internal temperature *then* sear on a wicked hot pan for 2 minutes per side. Let rest 9-10 minutes (this is super important) and chow down directly.

Good steak (not from factory beef) is rightly expensive, don't ruin it.

Posted by this works better on January 28, 2014 at 1:57 PM · Report this
TomJohnsonJr 6
@4, that one is the second best I've tried. Used it for a good two years before I found my current favorite.
Posted by TomJohnsonJr on January 28, 2014 at 1:58 PM · Report this
Works fine for me.

I heat the skillet to 500 in the oven, move it to the stove top, steak goes in for sear on either side then back into the oven for a couple/few minutes.

Don't remember how long exactly - its been a couple years since I cooked one. I prod the top with an implement or my finger if I'm daring (very hot!) and you can just kind of tell from how springy it is how done on the inside.

That it should be at room temp or a little higher before cooking: Truth.
Posted by Alden on January 28, 2014 at 2:00 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 8
Not just non-nonstick, but cast iron. But the meat has to be warm like Fnarf says, or else it will be raw in the middle. Not rare - raw.

I prefer charcoal-grilled, but this takes a lot less time.
Posted by Matt from Denver on January 28, 2014 at 2:02 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 9
BTW, I only heat my pans over medium heat. That gets them hot enough. And always oil your pans (nonstick included) and make sure your oil is hot before adding anything to the pan.
Posted by Matt from Denver on January 28, 2014 at 2:06 PM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 10
This was a big mystery? It's how restaurants have done it forever.

Disable smoke alarm.
Season your steak with salt and pepper.
Crank your cast iron to a bajillion degrees.
Some steak places actually push 1000F. It's bonkers.
Tiny bit of oil.
Dip the meat into the iron to sear the shit out of it, briefly.
All you're after is Maillard.
Put the meat into the oven at 350 on a raised rack.
Heat through to your desired done-ness.
Eat meat.
Re-enable smoke alarm.
Posted by Joe Szilagyi on January 28, 2014 at 2:06 PM · Report this
AFinch 11
This is true actually. Also: trim all the fat from the steak and 'render' (melt) it in the pan and fry your steak in that. You will wind up with less fat in what you eat at the end, and it will taste much, much better.

I use seasoned cast-iron instead of non-stick.
Posted by AFinch on January 28, 2014 at 2:07 PM · Report this
I fancy myself a bit of an expert on the topic of cooking good steaks. Enough of my friends agreed that I decided to write up my recipe as a blog post.…

Short version:
Prewarm steaks as Fnarf suggested
Dry thoroughly with a paper towel
Cook low and slow in an oven on a rack (225º) until 85-90º internal temp
Pat dry again, season, then throw in a screaming hot dry cast iron pan for 30 seconds a side.
Let rest for 3-4 minutes and enjoy.
Posted by ohthetrees on January 28, 2014 at 2:11 PM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 13
You can also (if you have a smoker) do this, but it doesn't absorb so much smoke as the cooking time is a little shorter--smoking is meant to be a slow and low process. You basically crank your smoker, charcoal or electric, to 225 like normal and maintain it. Sear your steak and immediately transfer it over to the slow cooking smoker to heat through.

I've yet to try it with steak but it's interesting for burgers, especially thick 8 oz hand packed ones. I'm not sure if I prefer seared & smoked for burgers though, or just smoked. 225F with thick--I mean almost too smoky--white hickory smoke. It takes the ground meat assuming 80%-85% lean (any leaner is an affront to God) about 25-30 minutes to cook an 8 oz burger with smoking. The smoke penetrates deep and you get a ludicrously juicy burger if you let it rest for 5 minutes. The downside is the cooking is more uniform, so no rare burgers. It's a different experience. My family and friends love it when I make them, but it's a chore compared to plain old burgers.

Now I want to try to smoke a steak....
Posted by Joe Szilagyi on January 28, 2014 at 2:13 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 14
One other secret. Good cooking requires quality ingredients. Get your steak from a real butcher. Factory-packaged steaks do not come from well-raised animals reared on a proper diet, nor are they usually dry-aged. That affects flavor and texture. So splurge on the good stuff.
Posted by Matt from Denver on January 28, 2014 at 2:13 PM · Report this
wisepunk 15
For those who want to cook sous vide, go to Scott (Seattle food geek) is good people and from Seattle. You should buy his stuff.

Take that steak out of the fridge, season it, let is sit at room temp for an hour or two before cooking.

Or just be like me and Have one of your friends ( ) actually work every day with Grant, and when he comes back to town, make him cook at your place.

Posted by wisepunk on January 28, 2014 at 2:32 PM · Report this
Jessica 16
This has come to be known as the "steak truck" among my friends due to my enthusiastic endorsement and mistyping.…
Posted by Jessica on January 28, 2014 at 2:42 PM · Report this
mkyorai 17
Raku? Thoughts?
Posted by mkyorai on January 28, 2014 at 2:44 PM · Report this
sperifera 18
My Solaire infrared grill sears steaks like you wouldn't believe, but then it is pushing 900 degrees F. Who needs a skillet? And as said previously, THE single most important detail is that the slab of dead cow (hi raku!!!) is not at fridge temp.
Posted by sperifera on January 28, 2014 at 2:47 PM · Report this
Awesome ideas! Know what I'm doing this weekend!
Posted by Senor Guy on January 28, 2014 at 3:17 PM · Report this
I've always had excellent results from just heating any given skillet to medium high temperature. Season steak with salt and pepper. 2 minutes per side with the lid on and some fat in the pan. Turn the heat down to medium low, add a little more fat, and cook 4 - 7 minutes (depending on the size of the cut), flipping once more halfway through. It's better if you start with warm meat but it's not the end of the world if the steak is a little cold. Cooking a steak on the stove isn't hard and every meat eater should know how to do it.
Posted by Pneumatic on January 28, 2014 at 3:20 PM · Report this
Fnarf 21
@13, that's too much smoke for steak. You don't want smoked steak. The point of low-and-slow is to render connective tissue in ultra-tough pieces of meat, not soft blobby pieces like steak. And to be honest I'll take a really well-done brisket or cheek or even round, cooked properly, over 90% or more of all steaks. That's where the flavor is -- cheap meat cooked for a really long time. Gimme a Boeuf bourguignon or birria de res or tacos de cabeza!
Posted by Fnarf on January 28, 2014 at 4:08 PM · Report this
Get a Lodge cast iron grill pan. Best thing ever for steaks. Heat it in the oven till scorching hot, then grill your steaks on the stovetop. Open the window, put a fan blowing out, 'cause it's gonna get smoky.
Posted by SammySeattle on January 28, 2014 at 4:17 PM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 23
@21 hell yeah. I'm just really curious to see what a good steak would taste like with the flavor infusion is all.

The best steak is blood red in the middle, with searing outside, and nothing more than salt and pepper.

Good BBQ brisket is the God Emperor of Meat.
Posted by Joe Szilagyi on January 28, 2014 at 4:19 PM · Report this
thatsnotright 24
Cooks Illustrated has the master technique and it never fails. Look it up.
Posted by thatsnotright on January 28, 2014 at 9:31 PM · Report this
Cook at medium temp in lots of butter. The butter creates an amazing crust.
Posted by Adgj on January 28, 2014 at 9:36 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 26
@ 22, Lodge pans are what's available, but an antique Wagner pan is much better because they're so damn smooth. It's hard to season and care for Lodges properly because they're very bumpy. You can find Wagners pretty easily and for not a whole lot of a money - not for what you can get, esp. if it's got that decades-in-the-making seasoning.
Posted by Matt from Denver on January 29, 2014 at 8:57 AM · Report this
This is all wrong. The secret to cooking a steak is using a sous-vide. You can approximate the sous vide by following this video (or others like it).…

You don't need an expensive machine. It cooks the meat perfectly. Can't get overdone (as long as you monitor the temp of the water) and doesn't have that gray band around it.

And remember, if you use a non-stick pan you can't make a pan sauce. If you want a pan sauce, use a normal cast iron or stainless steel skillet.
Posted by Mike Friedman on January 31, 2014 at 9:51 AM · Report this

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