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Cooking American foods: addressing the issue of steak
Published 7/3/2013 6:00:00 AM
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Let’s face it. You think you know how to cook steak, or you think you know what good steak is. Chances are, you’re wrong.

I’m going to say it: Flank steak is stupid. What a useless cut of meat where everyone seems to be marinating it in pineapple juice, “'cause the acid tenderizes it, man.'” Stop wasting my time. If you want to sear a piece of stewing meat, use chuck­—at least it’s cheap. Why is flank even expensive?

Additionally, learn how to cut steak against the grain. Note my emphasis here, against the grain, not with. Next time you eat a steak, particularly flank if you have to, look at the alignment of the meat fibers. Don’t cut your knife with it, cut against it so you have what resembles a rope cross section.

Flank, such as chuck and other stewing bits, are the big moving muscles of the cow, and hence, build up large muscle fibers akin to a tree trunk, which is difficult to bite through.

Real steak cuts like tenderloins and-rib eyes don’t do as much work and are composed of smaller fiber muscles making the cutting-against-the-grain rule not as crucial.

But seriously, stop grilling flank.

Here’s my little steak guide on what you should do.

It’s the Fourth of July so you can splurge a bit. Don’t waste your money on tenderloins (aka fillet mignon) unless you’re going steak tartar or Carpaccio on me here. Yes, I bet you like it.

The tenderloin is similar to a breast implant. Somewhat pleasing to the eye, a little squidgy, but poke or bite any further and you’ve realized the terrible, soulless choice you made. There’s no character, no substance to back it up—it’s hollow and sad.

Rib-eyes or sirloins on the other hand are what you should aim for. All that beautiful white fat (marbling) snaking through the protein is an indicator of robust flavor and money well spent. Fat, when it comes to steak, is flavor.

The fat cap on the edge, or ‘top’, of the steak doesn’t count though. That comes from a high grain diet at the end of the cattle feeding program and is indicative that it’s cheap meat. Look for marbling.

Also make sure the steak is at least an inch thick.

Temper your meat. This means taking it out of the fridge an hour or two before it’s go time.

Pat it dry, we’re not boiling meat here.

Season with salt and pepper—don’t be stingy, it’s steak, not a diet.

Grilling over wood or charcoal is ideal, and occasionally brushing the meat with melted butter is even better.

Pan-searing is an acceptable option, just remember that you want your pan screaming hot, and preferably cast iron or stainless steel. Add a knob of butter after flipping it and baste. Next tilt the pan and spoon the delicious brown butter over your meat.

Now here’s a way you can tell the doneness of your meat without defiling it via probes. With your right hand relaxed, use your left index finger and poke the base of your palm below the right thumb; the thickest part of your palm. That’s how a rare steak should feel.

Connect the right thumb with the index finger, making an “OK” sign and touch that fleshy part again with your left hand: medium rare (the Goldilocks zone).

Touch the thumb to the middle finger: medium

Ring finger to thumb: medium well, you’ve gone too far and failed in cooking steak.

Pinky to thumb: well done, you are a burden to society.

Rest your meat. High temperatures excite molecules, meaning those precious steak juices are looking to flood your plate instead of behaving and staying in their meaty cages. It is far better to eat a properly rested lukewarm steak than a searing hot one that dries out before it enters your throat.

Remember tempering? This prevents a bipolar steak that’s cold on the inside while being hot on the out.

Finally, put away your canned pineapple and stop cooking flank steak.


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