Byproducts of a healthy and balanced diet include more energy, a reduced risk of clogged arteries and heart disease, and much much more. So it should be no surprise that fat-covered, butter-bathed slabs of steak do not generally make their way into a health-conscious meal plan. Especially when the government says they might kill you.
Admittedly, there are better, healthier protein choices, but like all things, a steak every so often isn’t so bad. Therefore, when it’s time to dig into a juicy protein-rich steak, the meat must be prepared properly. To help beef up your steak-cooking skills, we turned to Brian Christman, Executive Chef at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House in Manhattan.
Choose the Right Cut
New York Strip, T-bone, and — GASP! — the coveted filet mignon are all fattier cuts of steak. (A six-ounce filet has 350 calories, 15 grams of fat, and 48 grams of protein.) However, if you had steady hands playing the game Operation as a child, you can parlay those skills to turn a fatty fillet into a lean cuisine by removing the layer of fat from the steak’s edges. If you lack surgical deftness with a steak knife, consider leaner cuts: top round, top sirloin, eye of round steak, and bottom round steak and select the pieces with the least amount of visible fat.
Bring the Meat to Room Temp
Moving steak from the fridge directly into a piping-hot pan can cause an uneven cook or a cold center. Let the meat sit out for about an hour before you cook it.
Season with Care
Wearing a vanity apron or goofy toque blanche (aka: chef’s hat), and over-seasoning steak — are three mistakes amateurs make. Go easy on the add-ons to allow the meat’s natural flavors to take center stage. “I recommend seasoning generously with salt and pepper only to let the meat shine,” explains Christman.
As for rubs or marinades, rubs might be more effective for adding flavor to thicker slabs of meat. For a marinade to penetrate deep into a beefy cut of steak, you’d have to make a bunch of holes in the flesh. Bad move. First, you going all Michael Myers on a defenseless piece of meat is a terrifying thought. (If you’re cooking this steak for your date, he or she will also find this terrifying.) Second, poking holes in the flesh causes the steak’s juices to leak out. Turn to marinades for thinly sliced meat or save it for poultry.
Unless you’re a descendant of Paula Deen’s school of cooking, where no less than 36 pounds of butter is added to everything from corn on the cob to cold cereal, you’ll want to coat your pan with a healthy oil that has a high smoke point (the temperature at which the oil breaks down and fills your kitchen with a cloud of smoke). Use coconut oil, olive oil (not extra virgin) or, a small amount of grass-fed butter.
Don’t Flip Out
If the heat is high enough – and if you’re using a cast iron, you might not even need to use oil. “I use a cast iron pan, but you can use a heavy stainless steel pan as well,” says Christman. Put your pan on the burner and crank up the heat. Once the pan is hot, place your steak onto it and let it sit for two to three minutes before flipping it over. Then let it sizzle as it cooks for another two to three minutes. If you carefully touch the center of the steak and it feels the same as the pad of your thumb (which is called the thenar eminence, by the way), your steak is rare. Unless you want to feast on leathery, overcooked meat, don’t leave it in the pan much longer. But before you remove it, use tongs and give the edges some face time with the pan before taking it out to rest.
Give it a Rest
The amount of time you should let a steak rest depends on its size. Some chefs suggest five minutes per inch of thickness; others say you should allow it to rest for as long as you cooked it. Christman recommends going a step further. “I’d recommend resting the meat for 30 minutes before you finish cooking in a 350-degree oven,” he says. “This will tenderize the meat and make it juicier.”
Before you put it into the oven, insert a thermometer into the meat.
Temperatures to Look For:
Rare: 100 degrees internal temp
Medium Rare: 115 degrees internal temp
Medium: 125 degrees internal temp
Medium Well: 135 degrees internal temp
Well: 150 degrees internal temp
Cut Against The Grain
What does that mean? In short, the grain is the direction the muscle fibers go. Cutting against the grain imparts tenderness and makes the meat easier to chew.
Chew Eat Bite 40 Times
We’re kidding. But in 2011, Chinese researchers did find doing so helped spur weight loss. Seriously.