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Indoor Steak

(Blah blah blah… skip to the recipe)

There’s no more denying it: Fall is here. The mornings are cold; pumpkins and candy are taking over at the grocery; and your neighbor has put up fake cobwebs and plastic tombstones. It’s time to put the cover on the grill and stow it away until the first sunny weekend in Spring.

But don’t think that means you have to wait six months for a steak!

You can still enjoy a charred, juicy Ribeye without facing the elements. I’ve been in my current apartment for three and a half years. It’s a good apartment in a great location, but I do have one complaint: no patio, which translates to “no grill”. (Well, I do have one other complaint, if you count the eye-torturing bright green countertop in the bathroom). Though I would never have wished it on myself, this has forced me to try out my hand with the broiler and cast-iron. I think I can finally say with confidence that I can grill a mean steak, sans the grill.

The broiler just doesn’t work for me. I’ve overcooked every single piece of beef I’ve put under it. Maybe it’s just because I’ve got an old stove that gets as hot as the fires of Mordor. Maybe it’s because with the door mostly closed, I don’t keep a close enough eye on it. Or perhaps the red glow of the element makes the steak appear pinker than it really is. Whatever the case, I steer clear of it now. So today I’m spreading the cast-iron love a little more. If the broiler is your thing, go for it; the salt-rub preparation I use here should work with any cooking method. But this is how I do steaks.

It has worked for many cuts, from New York to Ribeye to Flatiron. The steak in these photos is a Top Sirloin (got it on a good sale at Zupan’s, which is kind of an oxymoron). It was a quite bit thicker than I’m used to dealing with, so unfortunately I under-cooked it a bit (which is pretty hard to do, since I like mine between rare and medium-rare).

I first heard of the salting idea here. Check out the link for some explanation of the science, but basically, the salt draws moisture out of the meat, which then dissolves the salt and pulls some of it back into the meat (along with the flavors you add). Inside the meat, the salt helps break down the proteins. This makes the meat more tender and juicy. I’ve since seen this method come up in Cook’s Illustrated, so if you don’t trust some random website, trust them.

You may think I’m completely crazy when I say to rinse the rub off before cooking, but don’t worry: all the good flavors have done their work and have soaked into the meat as much as they can. Anything left on the surface will simply burn and become bitter.

CAST-IRON STEAK

Ingredients (use roughly these amounts per pound of beef):

  • Your favorite cut of steak (1–1 1/2 inches thick)
  • 1/3 cup kosher or sea salt, coarse granules
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1–2 tbsp. of your herb or spice of choice*

*This recipe works with just about any spice or herb. It is helpful to choose something with a strong, pungent aroma; this will infuse only a subtle hint of its flavor into the meat. I like rosemary, thyme, or a good smoky paprika.

Combine salt, garlic, and your selected spice in a bowl. Put the steak on a plate and cover it liberally with half of the salt mixture, pressing it into the meat a bit so it sticks. Flip the steak and coat the other side with the remaining salt mix. It should cover the steak almost completely. Let rest 30–60 minutes.

After steak has soaked in the salt rub, heat a cast-iron skillet on high heat until very hot. Under running water, completely rinse the salt rub off the surface of the steak. Dry the steak using paper towels; get it as dry as possible.

Place the steak on the skillet and cook until a good crust forms (two or three minutes), then flip. Continue cooking, periodically flipping.

When done, remove from skillet. (Use the firmness of the meat to determine doneness). Let the steak rest for five minutes, then serve.

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