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Steaks - Straight (plain) or Sauced ?

I transferred some of my postings and replies to me from Eat Nopal from LA Board topic- "Which steakhouse gets it "right" regarding how the beef is cooked" because these are off original topic.

ilikefood replied: As for steaks - a good piece of meat just requires S&P (OK-Kosher salt & fresh ground pepper) , maybe rub w/ a little olive oil, maybe a garlic clove. Sear it on the outside short of charred keep it Med Red on the inside. Let it rest for 5-10 minutes. Served w/ NO steak sauces & THAT INCLUDES KETCHUP !

Eat Nopal replied:
I disagree with that premise. American Beef is very tender, but it is also fairly bland (both seem to be largely diametrical opposites in meat that is merely excellent)... as such it is easy to overwhelm.

But there is quality, grass-fed Angus beef from places like Sonora, New Zealand & Argentina that is much gamier, flavorful & robust enough to stand up to interesting sauces.

To date... these are my top steak eats... in no particular order:

Sonora Black Angus Filet Mignon in Gorgonzola Sauce (Medium Rare) at The Red Lobster in San Felipe, Baja California

New Zealand Venison Filet heavily peppered with Roasted Shallot-Wine Sauce (Rare) at Turner's Steakhouse in Costa Mesa, California

Argentinian Rib Eye in Bone Marrow Barbacoa sauce (Guacho Style Medium Rare) at Los Girasoles in Mexico City

Plain steaks... whether at Boa, Joe's, Michael's, Pinot & others... just do not come close to the perfect marriages above.

ilikefood responds:
Eat Nopal- Your top steak eats sound tasty. I realize my post may be misleading, but I like beef with finer sauces also. I am a “purist” in not wanting sauces (DEFINITELY not the A-1 variety I meant by “NO steak sauces ") on my steaks cooked at home and almost always at a restaurant. However, I like good finer sauces (i.e. French, gourmet), esp if their beef based (from deglazing, drippings, juices,- like to try bone marrow) with a sliced filet such as flatiron steak.

Also, you seem to support my “purist” opinion when you write-“American Beef ...is easy to overwhelm.”. In referring to American beef as being ”merely excellent”. Plus, all your examples are non-American beef, but virtually 100% of the steaks we eat here are from American beef. Canadian beef is probably indistinguishable from comparable USA beef.

On the one hand I’d like to try Argentinian, Sonoran, New Zealand beef/steaks but I don’t want to risk being converted to the belief that good American beef (esp Prime Grade) is “fairly bland“, an opinion that I and the vast majority of American steak lovers would very much disagree w/. Also, I’m not driving to Costa Mesa* to try New Zealand beef, let alone go to Mexico to try Argentinian or Sonoran beef, which are banned from the US.

Finally, everybody has a right to their opinions and tastes. No one is right or wrong on this topic. But talking about steaks and sauces is almost as much fun as talking about sex, with neither coming close to actually experiencing either.

* Though I was tempted to jump in the car and head to Turner’s after seeing that photo of a great looking mouth watering cooked filet under “Gourmet Shop” on :

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  1. My personal choice: if American beef is bland, all the more reason not to overwhelm any beef flavor with "steak seasoning." Otherwise, just lick the seasoning out of the jar, or use it on some abomination like "tofurkey" or "quorn."

    Stronger-flavored beef (or buffalo, etc): revel in the straightforward beef taste - you don't get it often.

    1. Depends on the cut too. A filet mignon is very tender, but not very flavorful. That's why it's typically served with sauce, blue cheese, or topping like carmelized onions. Also, it's perfect for grilling because it needs that smoke to round out the flavor. By contrast, a good rib-eye has a lot more natural flavoring. A little salt and pepper and you're good to go. The cut and the cooking method determine the flavor profiles. Sauces and toppings are meant to accent and heighten flavors, so I wouldn't make a blanket statement about all beef in that regard.

      As for American Beef. It's mostly corn fed, which creates more marbeling (fat in the meat because it's not really healthy for the cow to eat corn). That accounts for the big difference in American vs. Argentinian Beef, which is grassfed. You can buy grassfed beef in the US now. Niman Ranch and Western Grasslands are two that I buy. It's definitely healthier for you to eat and has a nice flavor, but a lot of beef eaters have a hard time getting used to it.

      1. Just give me a perfectly cooked PH with some salt and a dash of pepper. I think that steak au poivre is abslutely way over the top as well, blah. Over the years I have tried some steak sauces (and ketchup) and just do not get the attraction. I think steak sauces taste better on chicken anyway.

        Likewise fries do not taste as well with steak sauce versus ketchup and the ketchup needs to be Heinz regular.

        I know I sound anal on these but if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

        1. Put me squarely in the no-sauce camp. Give me a good, dry-aged steak with lots of salt and pepper and thats all i need.

          1. I like both. I agree with a previous poster, filet mignon with a well made Roquefort or Bordelaise sauce works for me. A nice strip steak with only salt and pepper is simply delicious.

            Do people really put ketchup on steak? I've never seen anyone do it...steak sauce, yes, but not regular old ketchup.

            3 Replies
            1. re: writergirl

              I'm sure there are people who put ketchup on steaks, but I was being sarcastic to emphasize my point that IMO using A-1 type sauces on a good steak is a waste of a good steak and the money spent on it. I also think the same of cooking a steak beyond Medium.
              There was a poster who in a review of a restaurant wrote that she not only sent her Kobe beef back to be well done but asked for A-1, and evidently she wasn't joking.

              1. re: ilikefood

                omg what a way to ruin kobe beef. on the bright side, kobe beef is so marbled that it might actually not have tasted all that bad.

                i have never understood the appeal of the astringent tasting A-1 sauce and chalked it up to the fact that I didn't grow up with steaks but looks like people here agree w/ me.

              2. re: writergirl

                Many, many people put ketchup on their steaks, especially those who grow up eating seriously sub-standard beef. If you butcher your own steers on a dairy farm, the meat ain't so awesome, and ketchup greatly enhances the dining experience.

                It's like growing up eating McDonald's: you never really lose your taste for it, though you long ago learned the pleasures of "real" food.

                But I only haul out the ketchup these days if the meat just isn't up to snuff, which isn't very often.

              3. Well, in many restaurants, that steak got a small slather of butter on it as it came off the grill, so that it would melt completely by the time it came to you and look like juicier and taste better (because butter enhances everything). Olive oil is easier to spot if they spend the $ on EVOO, because the color/viscosity is more noticeable with the juices.

                One reason I typically add a couple of hundred calories to my estimated caloric intake of eating a steak at a restaurant.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Karl S

                  OK, call me a hypocritical purist but I'm gonna try a pat of herb butter on my next steak, which I'm sure will be promptly followed with angioplasty. BTW I checked out Ruth's Chris's website, and being good salespeople- they sell the sizzle. They actually have a category in their directory along w/ "Menu", "Steaks", "Reservations", etc named "Sizzle". To quote them (under "Steaks"): "Topped with fresh butter that sizzles seductively on your plate, announcing the arrival of a great steak."

                  1. re: ilikefood

                    I can deduce the arrival of a great steak without butter burning on a hot plate, thanks... this is actually one of the reasons I don't go to Ruth's Chris -- even when I ask for no butter, they just put less of it on there.

                2. I like to keep it simple. S&P and maybe a pat of herb butter or a quick pan sauce. I love a good cheesesteak but I've never understood cheesy or creamy sauces with high-quality beef.

                  A side note regarding corn fed beef: Cattle, being ruminents, are not able to digest corn unless they are also fed additional chemicals. But thanks to our nation's subsidized monoculture of corn farming, corn is cheaper than grass. So feeding cattle with corn runs contrary to biology and genetics, but our friendly industrialized meat producers have figured out a way to make it work (sort of) so they can save production costs - and create a new demand for corn, which many of them also produce and sell. And so the cycle goes on.

                  But I'm not sure corn feeding, alone, leads to increased marbling. In fact, a common complaint is that american beef lacks the marbling (and thus the fat and flavor) of beef from other countries.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Grubbjunkie

                    Actually, the beef being bred in this country since the 1970s is deliberately bred leaner. Not as extreme as the pork situation, but nonetheless noticeably leaner. To respond to consumer concerns about beef's fattiness... Once again, the health obsessions of Americans damage the quality of what they eat, so they can eat more of something that's less good. (Sigh.)

                    1. re: Karl S

                      I think the huge increase in Select Grade beef available is due not just for health reasons but also to try and keep prices in line w/ what Americans are willing to pay. Unfortunaley degrading much of American beef in the process.

                  2. Plain. With salt. And that's it. No pepper (it burns on the grill and is gritty if you add it after). No butter -- there's enough fat in a good steak, thankyouverymuch. No bleu cheese, it detracts from the taste. And for God's sake no weird French sauces that were so obviously holdovers from Roman garum, used to cover up bad meat.


                    With salt.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                      I don't have a strong opinion either way, I eat steak with and w/out all sorts of sauces, but I'd suggest trying a french sauce made with madiera and truffles (+/- cream). Wow, shouldn't be missed, try it at least one time.

                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                        Great post !! And I agree with you 100%.

                      2. I think it depends on the cut, but usually if I'm making a steak I'm going to do a ribeye with just salt and pepper. I don't use sauce, but one of the best steaks I've had was a ribeye at a restautant, topped with fried onions. These add a bit of a contrast of flavor without overwhelming the steak, and soak up some of the juices as well.

                        1. Hey ilikefood, I am so glad you started this thread... I had been meaning to... but never got around it, particularly because I know that my views on the relative blandness of American beef are not going to be popular.

                          Let me make a few points:

                          > I describe American beef as excellent... because the establishment here has gotten together & produced some exquisitely tender examples. So based on that dimension alone... there is something special to the beef here.

                          > However, at the same time I hold the view that American beef is fairly mediocre & I blame the American consumer for that. Americans as a whole seem to like beef without gaminess... echoed by the number of people that don't care for lamb, venison & goat.

                          When it comes to individuals... to each his own... we all have a different genetic taste bud make up (I personally seem to be lacking in the taste buds that detect bitterness & am high on those that detect sweetness... so I like black coffee & can't eat more than one bite of Snickers).

                          However, when you take a large population... the genetics average out & cultural norms take place. Along those lines... the U.S. is still largely infected with the absolute anti-Chowhoundish attitudes of the 1950s & the whole Jello Salad revolution.

                          Nonetheless, U.S. Culinary consciousness is evolving & the gaminess divide will fall (unless the foodie revolution that began here in the 1970's finally loses steam).

                          In my culinarily immature young adult years, I used to think of U.S. beef as the standard to which others should be compared. But as my cooking, & ability to taste food & drink has improved (BTW, among other things I was a Taster for POM Wonderful... the pomegranate juice, tea & fruit company) & my culinary ideas have gelled, I am seeing things in another light.

                          Several years back there was a local article in Sonoma County on why tacos here do not compare to those in Mexico. (The writer was sophisticated enough to discard U.S. sit downs & chains... and only focus on the superior examples put out by the trucks & stands). So this gringo writer tried to analyze the various factors & one he covered was meat... and he quickly discounted it as - beef here has to be at least as good as in Mexico.

                          So the next time I was in Mexico I had some tacos & lengthy conversations with various taqueros, butchers & chefs. And came to the conclusion... that the Sonoma County writer was wrong... when it came to tacos (where the majority of the meat is thin cuts, cooked over high heat)... Mexican beef & other meats are vastly superior... they are robustly flavored, coming from free range cattle, of lean breeds,... with a mixed feed of grains & grasses; and because of the smartly adapted cooking methods... they had very palatable texture.

                          That is what opened my eyes... the idea that beef is higher quality just because it is more tender is ridiculous. You have to look at both elements that seem to be diametrically opposed.

                          So for me... an extremely tender steak, of subtle flavor can be excellent. But so can a brashly flavored steak that needs to be marinated / pounded / scraped / cooked over high heat to have good texture - be excellent.

                          Truly outstanding beef comes when... a very tender steak somehow naturally acquires more flavor than normal... or a truly flavorful piece of meat is naturally more tender than normal. Once you accept that tenderness is just but one desireble dimension for a piece of meat... then you are open to meat that is somewhere in between in the continuum.

                          The only way to have true meat wisdom is experience with lots of competing products. The problem is that many meat imports are banned to the U.S.... not out of low quality or health concerns... but because of a domestic lobby that is afraid of competition. So the true Chowhounds will travel to compare & contrast.

                          The great thing about eating meat in Mexico, is that it is one place where its possible to eat meat from the multiple sources around the world.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                            Eat Nopal - I’m sure you realize you have a real tough sell to Americans re: flavor of steaks. “Gamey”is gonna make most Americans run away. + you recognize that Americans can’t get the beef you recommend ( banned beef) . + Americans have grown up on American beef & to apply your genetics theory, it has become part of our genetic thread, few things are more powerful than our connection w/ the food we were raised on and the best of American beef is excellent. I truly do not come close to understanding the idea that some other countries beef are superior to good American beef.
                            Fat adds flavor- from butter, to foie gras, to the marbling in a good steak.
                            Also, char grilled steaks over coals adds great flavor. The smell of char grilled meat is universally the greatest Pavlovian reaction, hunger creating sensation among non vegetarians.
                            The best street taco's I've had were in Mexico w/ much credit to the char grilled beef, and I've lived in Phoenix and live in LA, but that's tacos not steaks.
                            Although I disagree w/ the part of KevinB's post below referring to filet mignon, NY strip as bland ,I do agree, when dining out, w/ sauces on the side & "add what you think think tastes best".

                            1. re: ilikefood

                              "I truly do not come close to understanding the idea that some other countries beef are superior to good American beef."

                              I don't expect you to... but anyone who truly enjoys great food... should hope for the day when foreign beef is allowed greater access, then people can organize blind taste tests at home etc.,

                              Let me leave you with one bit of wisdom... I bet in the 1950's the vast majority of Americans could not come close to believing that other countries had superior culinary traditions & offerings.

                              The automatic assumption that nothing is done better elsewhere is probably the defining American characteristic. Maybe only the Germans are as self assured.

                              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                That line does sound rather chauvinistic, but I really don’t believe American beef is excellent just because it’s American. I admit, I should try beef from other countries known for their beef, such as Argentina, New Zealand, Japan (Kobe)* beef before making such a statement. But I do love a great American steak perfectly char grilled, and I’m sure I’ve made the statement, w/ a mouthful of steak: “It doesn’t get any better than this.”
                                *Genuine Kobe beef may be "superior" but it’s not something anyone (I doubt even those who raise Kobe) would eat regularly because of fat content, and, for the vast majority, because of cost. It's more of a delicacy.

                                I do agree that many Americans have the attitude "that nothing is done better elsewhere". That's something "Borat" was poking fun at. But I don't think it's limited to Americans and the Germans (Can you say "Français"?). Fortunately I live in Los Angeles in 2006 & have been lucky to travel to foreign countries- so, if I ever had the assumption that all things American (esp culinary) are superior, I lost it a long ago time ago.

                                1. re: ilikefood

                                  "Genuine Kobe beef may be "superior" but it’s not something anyone (I doubt even those who raise Kobe) would eat regularly because of fat content, and, for the vast majority, because of cost. It's more of a delicacy."

                                  Why is everyone so worried about the fat content of a steak? Thw
                                  variances in grams of fat per ounce of meat between different steak varieties are relatively miniscule. The real underlying health issue is the quantity of flesh (in general) & beef in particular.

                                  The main issues people have to worry about:

                                  > Animal flesh crowds out produce
                                  > Excessive protein damages the kidneys & leads to other problems
                                  > Meat that is not fully cooked tends to rot in the intestines instead of passing through (most of the protein is never absorbed)

                                  As you can see worrying about marginal increments in fat, just doesn't make sense.

                                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                    OH Thanks! Now I have more things to worry about.
                                    You're not a cardiologist are you?
                                    Think about the ways you can take that question.

                                    1. re: ilikefood

                                      Nah... my wife is an M.S.R.D; unfortunately that means I have read my fair share of scientific studies in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (interesting topics but very dry reading not nearly as fun as National Geographic).

                                  2. re: ilikefood

                                    I don't know about the americans but so far the germans of my acquaintence, including some members of my family, seem to all want to get the hell out of dodge (what is dodge in german?) and come to california. i don't see that as indicative of their self-assuredness.

                                    did anyone else read that one article (i forget from where) whre the author goes to italy to find the penultimate steak and the dude merely salts it heavily, cooks it on a high fire and then drowns it in olive oil? it did end up being a sublime steak if IIRC.

                            2. Mmmm... Steak. Plain and simple, no sauce no nothin' is good with me. :) But just salt and pepper before its grilled/cooked.

                              1. A nicely veined Ribeye, grilled to just under medium, a little salt and pepper - Yummy!

                                1. Why all the hostility? If someone asked "Do you like your hamburger plain or with condiments?", do you think we'd get this type of animosity?

                                  There are many times I like a steak with nothing - no salt, no pepper - and there are many times when I enjoy a steak with a topping - bearnaise, bordelaise, herbed butter, mushrooms, onions, crabmeat, etc.

                                  I'll agree that the blander cuts - filet mignon, NY strip - may occasionally require some thing extra, and the better cuts like ribeye can stand on their own, but there's nothing wrong with adding a fine bearnaise to any of the above. Just put the sauce on the side, and add what you think tastes best. Sheesh.

                                  1. filet mignon w/ a drop of bernaise.

                                    cheaper cuts of steak w/ either chimichurri or montreal season.

                                    1. Usually plain but - once in a while - with a sauce,
                                      usually on the side.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: taco_belle

                                        If my memory serves me correctly - steaks had more flavor back when I was a kid. We didn't have them very often, and they were cooked under the broiler in the kitchen. I think all Mom and Dad used were salt & pepper. The only charcoal involved was Dad's steak after cooking/

                                        Now we have steaks frequently. Usually cooked on the grill - sometimes in a pan on the stove. Usually it's just salt & pepper but now and then we'll have sauted mushrooms with brandy and red wine, a bit of gorgonzola, or for that really special treat - truffle butter.

                                        A perfectly cooked (bleu) steak is a work of art and should never be adulterated with steak sauce or catsup.

                                      2. As someone who has raised registered grass-fed Angus, I would no more put sauce on a good steak than I would put cocktail sauce on a lobster. (If the steak is cooked more than medium rare, it doesn't matter anyway!)

                                        On a hamburger, I put about every condiment it will hold!

                                        1. I am lucky that my in-laws raise grass-fed Angus cattle so I have a source for great tasting beef. Being raised on bland corn-fed corporate beef, it tasted kinda strong & "gamy" at first. Now I'm so spoiled I won't eat beef at restaurants because it just doesn't compare taste-wise.

                                          I love it medium-rare with a small pat of butter & a hint of salt, sometimes with carmelized onins & mushrooms on the side.

                                          1. First off, if you get a piece of beef that's so flavorless that you need to cover it up with sauce, then I'll say buy a better piece!

                                            Secondly, not all filet are flavorless. I don't know if it's available in your area, but in LA, the Trader Joe's Angus beef filet tips are actually both tender and flavorful. I normally like to get strip steaks or rib eye because of the flavor, but their filet tips had them beat.

                                            Lastly, I like to char my unseasoned steak on the grill on the highest setting (500 degrees) for a few minutes then finish cooking at a med-high temp to a medium rare state. Fresh grind pepper and then fleur del sel on top upon serving.

                                            Absolutely no sauce of any kind. Once in a while I will marinate the meat a la florentine - olive oil, herbs, lemon juice, pepper, salt. But that's it.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: notmartha

                                              Have you ever tried a good steak with a gorgonzola / bleu cheese sauce to compare?

                                              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                I have, and I find it totally distracting. It's not that I don't like the flavours, but give me the bleu cheese in a salad before or after, not with the steak.

                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                  Does a burger with blue cheese count? I love blue cheese, but that flavor combo doesn't work for me. Rich upon rich...

                                                  1. re: notmartha

                                                    I don't often do it, but with a burger you're already adding stuff to it, I have no problem with it. Though, I have to admit, I love a burger on a hard roll (from Gordon Biersch, de préférence) with absolutely nothing on it except the juices from the meat.

                                            2. A big rib-eye rubbed with kosher salt and ground fresh pepper...seared and then finished off in the oven to a med rare. (I do sometimes use Woosh sauce...but I never admit that in public).

                                              I do like a gorganzola sauce on a filet mignon.

                                              1. filet mignon medium rare avec sauce bearnaise-

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: marlie202

                                                  I agree that bearnaise is much more complimentary than most sauces to a fine steak!

                                                  I wish it wasn't 10:13 AM, because it doesn't seem that there is a med. rare filet awaiting me anytime soon ;>{

                                                2. LAst night we had filets (fresh ground pepper and gray salt) pan seared and finished in the oven with a sauce made of pan drippings, veal demi, mushrooms, minced garlic, a splash of Keenan Cab Franc (BTW, 2002 and it was fantastic) and a pat or 2 of butter. It was fantastic.

                                                  1. My favorite steak is the New York cut for a quatre poivre. It'll be lightly sauced (usually a pan reduction of some sort), but the majority of the flavor comes from the peppercorns seared into the meat.

                                                    1. When i grill steak at home, which i do way more often than eating out, i usually just marinate it and throw a S&P on it and grill med rare. yum!

                                                      When eating out i don't usually order steak because i never get it cooked right. i ask for med rare, i get it well done and dry, so next time at the same restaurant i order it rare, and get a red bloody mess... theres no winning! i can count on one hand the amount of times in a steakhouse that my steak was cooked right (except at a local steak place where i used to eat where you grilled your own steak!)

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: RiJaAr

                                                        Now, many restaurants are not cooking it less well done than "medium" (which of course means more like medium well)due to health department regs.

                                                        Why is it ok for uncooked fish to be served, but not medium rare steaks?

                                                      2. I know it's not politically correct to top off a good steak with any kind of topping but every now and then I'll put some chopped onions and sliced mushrooms in a pan with some butter and a little coarse salt, fry them up, put em aside, take a good prime ribeye steak put it in the cast iron skillet with some butter and worschester sauce fry it up slow, as to not burn the butter, and top with the onions,mushrooms and pour the pan sauce over the top, to me this brings out and complements the flavor of the rib eye.

                                                        1. i love my rib-eye steak rubbed with olive oil, garlic salt, and lemon pepper and seared at a very high heat in a mix of olive oil and butter to put a nice crust on each side. then i finish it off in the broiler for about 5 minutes to a nice medium rare.

                                                          my favorite way to describe a good steak- "seasoned and bloody"

                                                          1. I experimented with a recipe at the Babbo cookbook I got for xmas. Dry rubbed steak drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar after cooking. Not bad...

                                                            1. Caste iron Pan hot as I can get it( no oil, no butter).
                                                              Two New Yorks strips. Couple minutes each side, a little salt only.
                                                              Remove the steaks, brown some diced shallots,add about 4 tablespoons(six fingers)of butter,some red wine,and then over the rib eyes!!!!!

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Hue

                                                                This super-searing works well, since the steaks are cooked as quickly as possible. It assumes that the "searer" is very competent, as I am sure you must be, or you probably wouldn't have suggested it!!