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When to salt a steak? My research.

Okay. I've been cooking my steaks sans salt, then salting just prior to eating for years, but a recent discussion on when to salt made me question whether it was habit or if I was doing the right thing.

Last night I had three very small filet mignons. USDA Prime from a whole tendrloin I had trimmed and cut myself. They were a tad over an inch thick. My cooking method was to sear in an very hot cast iron skillet with a film of olive oil, then pop them into a 350 degree oven for 4 1/2 minutes for medium rare. I salted one steak just prior to searing, the second immediately after removing from the oven but prior to resting, and the third one I did not salt until I was ready to eat.

Oh, and just for general information, as an accompaniment I nuked some really small fingerling potatoes for a minute, then sauteed then in their skins with an equal amount of washed but unpierced grape tomatoes in the pan drippings with a touch of cab, salt and pepper. Snuggled them up to the steaks with a little chopped parsley. I'm gonna do that again soon!

So here's what I found out:

Steak #!: Salted just prior to searing. After finishing the steak in the oven and allowing it to rest, it was NOT as tender as the other two. Being USDA Prime, I would have had to cook it to very well done to get tough meat, but it was definitely not as tender as the other two. Had a somewhat stringy and dry-ish texture to it.

Steak #2: Salted after removing from oven but before resting. It was wonderfully tender.

Steak #3: Salted prior to eating. Wonderfully tender, and for my taste buds, it had a much beefier flavor and the salt was more pleasing than on either of the other two steaks.

What kind of salt did I use? Kosher. It's what I always use for cooking. Normally I use sea salt for flavoring just prior to eating, but I wanted to use identical salt for an honest test.

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  1. gotta love the scientific method. Thanks!

    1. A dark and lonely job but somebody's gotta do it :) But thanks for the Herculean effort on our behalf. I actually did enjoy the data. Lately I've been salting lightly after I slice so it's on the exposed part. I like that even better. Poor you, I just can't get over the sacrifice :)

      1. Nice job. Thanks for the experiment. I wonder if this applies to lamb?

        1. very nice, caroline. thanks for taking one for the team. ;)

          1. One of my favorite food blogs featured this a while back:
            http://steamykitchen.com/blog/2007/08...

            I finally got around to trying it a couple of months ago and I'm hooked. I've served up steaks several times without telling folks what I've done and the response has been 100% positive.

            Give it a try and see what you think...

            15 Replies
            1. re: bkhuna

              fascinating. so method #4 is essentially a very quick dry brine?

              i never hear about anyone wet brining steak. know if that's done?

              1. re: bkhuna

                I will definitely try this. Thanks.

                1. re: bkhuna

                  I saw this blog post several months back and now it's the only way I cook my steak.

                  More proponents of early salting. This is from Michael Rulman's The Elements of cooking.

                  "Judy Rodgers was the first chef I knew to address this matter head-on in her Zuni Cafe Cookbook. Common wisdom had always been that if you salted food early, it dried the food out. Looks that way. Salt a steak and a few hours later it's sitting in a puddle of red juices. But in fact the perpetual osmotic effect of salt enhances juiciness by changing the cell structure so that it holds more moisture. Salt also enhances the flavor of the meat by thoroughly penetrating it. And it dissolves the sticky protein myosin, so that in ground preparations -- hamburger, sausage -- the meat holds together.

                  Rodgers urges cooks to salt food early. The bigger the food is, the more salt it needs, and the more time with the salt that it needs. This is uniformly important with meat, but less so with fish; some fish is delicious after it's been packed in salt (salmon or cod) but some flesh is so delicate the salt can damage it if used too early. And it can even be true of vegetables. Vegetables with large watery cells are enhanced by early salting, such as onions, eggplant, peppers."

                  http://books.simonandschuster.com/Ele...

                  1. re: KTinNYC

                    The science makes sense as well as the personal testimonies. We're having last minute houseguests arrive tonight and I'm thawing some cheap steaks for dinner tomorrow night. Will report back on the results.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      Cool, let us know.

                    2. re: KTinNYC

                      We were converted by Judy R several years ago and routinely salt all meat and poultry for several days. Makes a huge (good) difference in texture and seasons the meat all the way through.

                      For those who have negative experiences based on one or two incidents, I'd suggest you read the rationale in the Zuni Cookbook and give it another try.

                      1. re: LizATL

                        Caroline1, thanks for sharing your scientific steak experiment. Bkhuna, excellent blog. Though I don't frequently cook meat, I will absolutely give the pre-salting technique a try. Just wondering if anyone knows (if I were to pre-salt poultry) should I put salt under the skin too, or just all over the outside???

                        1. re: ideabaker

                          On the outside and in the cavity.

                    3. re: bkhuna

                      great blog

                      1. re: bkhuna

                        I always salt my meat long before cooking it. It pulls a little moisture to the surface and helps to build a crust. And no the steaks aren't dry after cooking.

                        1. re: scubadoo97

                          I think the point of that was the amount. Not for the faint of heart :)

                        2. re: bkhuna

                          First, thanks Caroline1 on reporting your findings. I like that you started with cuts from the same tenderloin and cooked them the same way - good control to the findings.

                          bkhuna, I came across the steak & salt article a couple of months ago. I gave it a try but was disappointed.
                          BUT I had an issue with the article to begin with: the blogger had said

                          "Notice that I didn’t say, “sprinkle liberally” or even “season generously.” I’m talking about literally coating your meat until you can’t see red. It should resemble a salt lick."
                          Then theres a picture of a t-bone with a SCANT sprinkle of salt. I almost use this much salt when eating. She said 'until you can't see red' but the picture shows 90 percent red and a bit of salt.
                          I chalked it up to maybe a stock photo rather than her actual steak resembling a salt lick

                          So I POUR kosher salt all over my ribsteaks, both sides, until I can't see red. I let it sit for a 1/2 hour (maybe too long for 3/4 inch?), rinse well and pat very dry.

                          Hot fire and cooked the steaks to med rare. Very nice char and cooked almost perfectly. Let stand while we finished up the scalloped potatoes, then dug in.
                          The wife couldn't eat it - said it was too salty. I love salt (too much so, at least thats what the doc says...) and it was too salty for my likes as well.

                          Tenderness? Well it was VERY tender, but I had no 'control' steak that wasn't salted, so I don't know if it was due to the procedure, or simply tender steaks to start with.

                          I do know that I won't be trying the exact procedure next time.
                          Maybe try with a different cut, maybe less salt, maybe a shorter sit time, etc.
                          Maybe just use my trusted Montreal steak spice as always...

                          1. re: porker

                            I had a friend make me dinner and use this technique. I agree! The steak was nearly inedible it was so salty.

                            1. re: janetms383

                              You have to rinse the salt off the steak with water, thoroughly.

                              Pat very dry, sear in cast iron pan, let sear cool, slow roast at 325 until digital thermometer rings me at 130F. Rest 5-7 mins and eat.

                              If done correctly, you'll be salting the meat when you eat it.

                          2. re: bkhuna

                            I had to resurrect this thread since we tried the pre-salt method for the second time to good results. Thank you to both Caroline & bkhuna. I think we'll continue to pre- and post-salt depending on the cut & thickness of the meat!

                          3. The market may have been down 300 today but Caroline's stock up 25 points with this reasearch report.

                            Now what did you do with the potatoes and the rest of the loin?

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: jfood

                              The fingerling potatoes were like mini baked potatoes with a rub of beef drippings and red wine, and the grape tomatoes were great! Little balloons of cheery red (skins) filled with seductive soft warm tomato flesh that popped in my mouth like giant caviar! All in all, a fantastic dinner, but based on what I experienced with this, I'm not at all convinced about the salting. If it can shove a USDA Prime filet in the direction of tough and stringy, I'm not convinced it will work. Nevertheless, the next time I have a cheaper cut of beef, I'll give it a try just for curiosity's sake.

                              1. re: Caroline1

                                caroline, thanks for your research. please, sometime, try my easy garlicky microwave tomatoes (they remind me of escargot): http://www.chow.com/recipes/13591

                                1. re: alkapal

                                  I have some Roma tomatoes that have been sitting around. Do you see any reason I couldn't treat them the same way as the cherries? Just increase the cooking time? Our SIL and a friend are up for skiing so I'm making a bigger dinner than usual tonight. Love feeding 30 year old "boys."

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    I could also do in the regular oven. Recommended time and temp?

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      c oliver and caroline, romas won't be as juicy, but don't let that deter you. they'll work. micro is quicker than oven, plus, you can check texture more easily with the micro, starting/stopping/looking/feeling (!?)

                                      don't overcook till mushy. they need to keep their sides with some integrity.

                                      tell me how the romas do. but i'd stick with the micro-technique for more control.

                                      and caroline: i think the KEY is the pec rom -- and garlic, of course! i love the panko-texture, too. ;-).

                                      bon apetit, y'all! ;-).

                                    2. re: alkapal

                                      Be still my heart! My favorite Italian cheese! These sound sooooooo good! Thanks.

                                2. What I like to do is salt about an hour per inch; rinse all the salt off, pat very very dry. Just a bit of olive oil on both sides and season with pepper. (No more salt!) Totally divine. It's salted throughout the meat, instead of just the surface.

                                  Thanks for the shoutout BHKUNA!

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: steamykitchen

                                    I'm curious. Is that what you do with USDA Prime cuts?

                                    1. re: steamykitchen

                                      Oh my! Jaden saw my post! My life is now complete :)

                                      Cheers from Merritt Island, FL.

                                      1. re: steamykitchen

                                        Hi steamykitchen,
                                        As I mentioned above, I was curious to your description of the amount of salt, then a picture of a steak which doesn't look like a whole lot of salt.
                                        Do you recommend "literally coating your meat until you can’t see red. It should resemble a salt lick." or should the steak look like the picture?

                                        BTW I think Caroline1's reporting was subjective as well, but what the hey? Whenever I cook, the results are subjective and I will adapt accordingly. Will I have a triple blind test with people from diverse backgrounds and a 78 point questionaire? Not likely for lighthearted folk at CH {;-/)

                                        1. re: porker

                                          I'm confused as to what picture you are referring to. The one I see looks like a salt lick to me. Did you scroll down to the chart at the bottom of the page that tells you how much salt to use for thickness of meat and how long to wait? I also finally got around to trying her method. I had half of a choice flat iron steak left over that wasn't as tender as I usually get so I followed her instructions for less than 1" thickness and it came out nice and tender and not too salty. I am a person who didn't have a salt shaker on the table or cook with it for years because Mr. BR decided back in the 70s that it was the root of all evil so I am not very tolerant of salty foods.
                                          And Caroline1 to answer your question the purpose of the salting is to make cheap choice taste like Gucci prime.

                                          1. re: BeefeaterRocks

                                            Well lets see,
                                            The first picture is entitled "Grilled filet mignon steak"
                                            Scroll down to

                                            "Massively salt your steaks 15 min - 1 hour before grilling.
                                            Notice that I didn’t say, “sprinkle liberally” or even “season generously.” I’m talking about literally coating your meat until you can’t see red. It should resemble a salt lick." followed by a picture of a salted T-bone
                                            (this is the picture I'm refering to)

                                            Scroll down to see 5 'scientific-like' diagrams
                                            Followed by a web-page example

                                            Then I see a chart that tells how much salt/thickness
                                            scroll down to
                                            "Garlic Herbed Butter"

                                            followed by picture of corn on the cob
                                            then a grilled T-bone
                                            then end of article "Other Posts You May Enjoy"

                                            She said "...literally coating your meat until you can’t see red...". I dunno I see *plenty* of red in the photo. I'm just saying...

                                            1. re: porker

                                              I was referring to your first post, you said "but the picture shows 90 percent red and a bit of salt." To me the T-bone looks like a salt lick with very little red showing. You did mention you love salt so maybe what looks like a salt lick to me is normal for you.

                                      2. I don't think this helps much to be honest. The salt has nothing to do with the internal texture of the meat. "Dry-ish and stringy" steak does not come from salting. Now the outer surface may have very well achieved a different crust because of the salt, but aside from that difference, I have difficulty believing that the entire steak turned out differently simply because you salted it immediatley before cooking.

                                        7 Replies
                                        1. re: HaagenDazs

                                          Well, you're very welcome to doubt my word. I'm only reporting what i established on my own. If you'd like to pick up a whole USDA Prime beef tenderloin, trim and carve it yourself and repeat my experiment feel free to do so. But I feel confident your results will be the same as mine.

                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                            Your research was subjective. You already had an opinion and you knew which steak was salted at what point and lo and behold your results were just as you expected. I'm sure you believe what you wrote and your opinion is valid for you but I'm sticking with Michael Ruhlman and Judy Rogers over Caroline1.

                                            1. re: KTinNYC

                                              Exactly.

                                            2. re: Caroline1

                                              You can tout your butchery and expensive beef, but all I'm saying is that there is no physical way for the salt to penetrate the meat in such a manner that it becomes dry and stringy. There are plenty of other reports out there that suggest salting a steak does nothing to the final texture of the steak, perhaps it even helps it given the fact that a nice crisp crust is achieved more easily.

                                              On top of that, the difference between steaks 2 and 3 is negligible and doesn't really help with this "research." Frankly, there's not much difference between any of the 3 of them. That's why I'm a little hesitant to think that it was the salt that had any influence on texture.

                                              If I were to do such a thing, I would salt steak #1 about 4 or 5 hours before cooking. Then steak #2 would be salted just prior, and steak #3 not salted until it was served. That would lend more depth to the "research."

                                              Now I'm not disagreeing that there very well may be subtle differences between the 3, but to say that one was drastically different than the others and allude to the fact that it was because of salt is just hard to believe. I mean we're talking about 5 or 6 mintues of cooking time and what, 10 minutes of resting?

                                              1. re: HaagenDazs

                                                Well, the mods have removed my reply, so I'' try again. If you will please read my original post I said this:

                                                "Steak #!: Salted just prior to searing. After finishing the steak in the oven and allowing it to rest, it was NOT as tender as the other two. Being USDA Prime, I would have had to cook it to very well done to get tough meat, but it was definitely not as tender as the other two. Had a somewhat stringy and dry-ish texture to it."

                                                Will you please show me where I said there was a "drastic" difference? There was a perceptible difference, but I did not characterize it as "drastic."

                                                Also, if you will please note, I did not say everyone must cook things my way. If you think salt tenderizes your meat, live it up and keep on salting. Just don't insist that I join you. My test was on three specific USDA Prime filets mignon that provided an excellent opportunity to challenge my lifetime accrued experience with that specific grade of meat. I have accurately reported my results. It is offered as a report of my personal experience with no requirement that anyone subscribe to my methodology. To each his own.

                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                  They removed my response too... And I read your original post thoroughly.

                                                  Anyway, I was not quoting you. You have to understand that if I'm quoting you, I'll use quotation marks. In using the word "drastic" I used was based on the fact that you used these 2 phrases:

                                                  "stringy and dry-ish texture"

                                                  versus

                                                  "wonderfully tender"

                                                  To me, that is what I would describe as a drastic difference.

                                                  I did not say that salt makes things more tender, nor did I insist that you join my opinion, I'm simply offering what I consider a separate view point to the other folks who are merely praising you for taking on the "Herculean effort." I am also of the opinion that your results were biased before you even started cooking your steak, and that a true test would be done blindly and with more than one person, and in more than one sitting. After one night of cooking, I would hardly describe what I've done as "research."

                                                  1. re: HaagenDazs

                                                    Oh, for goodness sake, *I* referred to Herculean effort and that was SUCH a joke. Like, oh poor C1, she had to eat three prime pieces of meat. I feel SO sorry for her. Get over it.

                                          2. OK, here's a different experiment, albeit an indavertant one: I'd bought a 4-pack of NY strip steaks, and we ate 2 of them that day. The other 2 got seasoned - salt and pepper - and put back into the fridge for about 3 days. When we got around to cooking them, on the grill, they were, frankly, terrible. I've learned to test doneness by feel, and when I pressed on these to test them after about 10 minutes, they felt as firm as a medium-well steak - much more done than I normally let them get, so I took them off the grill in a panic, thinking I'd overcooked them. Nevertheless I let them rest another 10 minutes or so, and when we did cut into them they were really on the rare side of medium-rare: red and raw in the middle. Nevertheless, they were tough, with a strange rubbery texture, kinda like eating a flip-flop. Not dry or stringy, but tough and rubbery.

                                            I attribute this to the salting for several days. The first two steaks from the same package were fine; although they were better cooked, because they didn't have that deceptively firm feel that the second two had. Of course, this was not a scientific test, since there are lots of variables that were not controlled for, but the results were very striking. The second two steaks were some of the worst of the NY Strip cut that I'd ever had.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Bat Guano

                                              Yup. I'm convinced salt was the culprit. I noticed years ago that when I dredge stew meat in flour, salt, and pepper the meat in the final stew, bit it boeuf Burguignon or Irish stew, is MUCH tougher and dryer than it is when I just dredge the meat in flour and pepper, then salt just prior to serving. But there are people who may have different results than I do, or who think that's the way meat in a stew should taste, and if that's what works for them, I have no problem with it.

                                              Salt is a curious thing. Years ago I lived on the beach in Del Mar, and when race horses had tender feet or needed to toughen up their hooves, their trainers would bring them to the beach every day and have them walk around in the sea water. It worked! If salt toughens up live meat, it's not likely to make slaughtered meat more tender.

                                            2. Nicely done girl! Hey, I really mean thank you sincerely. I have always wanted to try it, but since steak is so expensive I didn't want to experiment. I trust your cooking skills and palate, so I'm trying this next time. We cook are steaks the same, cast iron skillet, a miniscue amount of oil (and I mean very little) so we sound similar with that also. I actually made three lamb chops the other night, I sure wish that I'd thought to do this test!!! I added salt to all three and I too use kosher, but I used the grinder for prior cooking.

                                              You'te the bomb Caroline! And OH HECK YEAH, I hate the wind (lived through typhoons and the Colombus Day Storm). That is some scarey _________.
                                              Been in CA for too many years. No thank you to the tornadoes!
                                              Stay safe now.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: chef chicklet

                                                Thank you. As for the tornado possibility, I just went to bed, turned off the TV, read and fell asleep thinking, "Either I'll wake up in the morning or I won/t. C'est la vie." And la vie was still here this morning. '-)

                                                I'd thought about doing this test before, but didn't do it because when you have a set or pre-packaged steaks or even individual steaks, you have no way of knowing whether they are from the same animal, the same muscle, and whether their variances are as narrow as possible. With these steaks, I knew they were all absolutely identical. It was fun!

                                              2. My two extremely subjective cents' worth: ever since reading that Nancy Silverton salts her meat early on - including hamburgers! - I've been doing the same. Beef, pork, lamb, fish, fowl. Started doing this about the time I began keeping a glass canister of Diamond Crystal next to the cooktop, so it's easy to just dip and go. And it works beautifully for everything from thick steaks to last night's cardboard-thin chuletas de puerco, typical Mexican-market pork chops. All good, I'm happy, Mama's happy, and no guest has refused seconds.

                                                1. When prepping a thick steak for cooking, I'll remove it from the fridge, salt it with Kosher salt, then let it sit for about an hour at room temp.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: 2chez mike

                                                    Funny, I was just about to post what 2chez mike said, and it was almost word for word. I have been cooking steaks on the Weber for more than 40 years....use real charcoal and get good meat, thick, and prime if you can afford it. Take out of refrigerator an hour ahead and sprinkle with more kosher salt than you think it will take. Pat it in and grill and hour later. By the way, add garlic and pepper after you take off the grill.

                                                    1. re: steakman55

                                                      Just what I do as well. "more kosher salt than you think it will take."

                                                  2. The votes are in and for those with an opinion on the matter 8 (myself, bkhuna, LizATL, scubadoo97, HaagenDazs, Will Owen, 2Chez mike, and steakman55 voted for salting ahead and 2 voted against (Caroline1 and Bat Guano) with one undecided (Porker). A number of posters posted support for Caroline1’s research but did not express an opinion so I did not count them as a vote one way or the other. So in my thoroughly unscientific research on this issue 80% are for pre-salting 20% are against.

                                                    8 Replies
                                                    1. re: KTinNYC

                                                      Did you count Judy Rogers in that list? I know she ONLY INCLUDED THE ADVICE IN HER COOKBOOK... ;-)

                                                      1. re: HaagenDazs

                                                        I didn't include Judy Rodgers or even steamy kitchen who included the advice in her blog but did not express an opinion in this thread. Only those that expressed a view on this thread was counted. This is SCIENCE, HaagenDazs.

                                                        One more thing I learned during my research was that many posters have silly names.

                                                      2. re: KTinNYC

                                                        jfood made a PH steak last evening and only added his salt when he delivered to the table. He really enjoyed it. He did not do a side by side with the pre-salt, but he is a big fan of the salt at the table group.

                                                        1. re: KTinNYC

                                                          Well, I didn't actually vote against pre-salting; I do it all the time, about 15 minutes before cooking, while the grill is heating up. What I found to produce bad results is presalting several DAYS before cooking. Now that I think about it, the steaks had almost a cured texture, like corned beef (not all the way to corned beef, but headed in that direction.) But I will try not pre-salting, something I haven't done in a long time, to see if it makes a difference, next time I cook a steak.

                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                            Caroline - I haven't once heard you comment on the fact that your results may have been/could have been skewed as a result of your bias towards this practice based on past experience in cooking steak. After all, a true and respectable analysis of the results should include that.

                                                            Any feedback there?

                                                            1. re: HaagenDazs

                                                              If any type of "research" is done by a human being, of course there is a possibility of personal bias coloring any conclusions. On this occasion, I had thawed what I thought was a single tournedos, based on size. When defrosted and unwrapped, it turned out to be three petite petite filets mignon. hmmm... What to do with them? Brochettes? I decided to procrastinate on the deccision and let them come to a more solid "room temperature."

                                                              And then it occurred to me, this was the perfect opportunity to try testing the salting methods. They were ideal for this purpose because they all came form the same tenderloin, so there would be no tender cow/tough cow possibility to skew the results.

                                                              I decided not to use any flavor enhancements beyond salt or no salt on the meat, except for a thin coat of extra version olive oil on the bottom of the cast iron pan. I do frequently top a newly finished steak with a pat of herb butter prior to serving, but this time I didn't want any extra flavor on the meat itself. I did use a bit of cabernet sauvignon on the fingerling potatoes and sauteed grape tomatoes, and I did have a glass of cab AFTER I had done a thorough investigative tasting of all three pieces of beef at least three times each before tasting anything else except water.

                                                              I wasn''t thinking about what other people say about salt. I wasn't thinking about the greatest steak I ever had in my life. I wasn't thinking about great steak houses where I've dined. I was trying to taste any flavor and texture differences in the three identical steaks I had prepared. I report as accurately as I know how on what I determined above.

                                                              Now, there's not a lot I can do beyond that. I'm fully aware I have a few detractors on these boards who will disagree with anything I say simply because I'm the one saying it. I'm also very flattered that there are those here who think I'm knowledgeable and appreciate what I write. But in all honesty, how people feel about me, one way or another, has no bearing on what I percieved in the steaks the night I tried this test. Therefore I didn't see anything to be gained by trying to defend what I found. I don't think there is anyone who participates on these boards who has actually met me face to face or even talked to me on the phone. If people want to think I'm biased, that's their prerogative. There is nothing I can do to change their ideas.

                                                              And that's the bottom line when it comes to life. We are totally alone inside our heads. If we're walking alone in the woods and a space ship lands in front of us, hey, go tell someone about it and you're at the top of their loonie list. Someone commits a crime and drops one of your used Kleenexes at the crime scene and you were alone with no witnesses, you may end up doing time or even being executed, despite being innocent. It's an exercise in futility for me to try to convince people who don't really know me that I know what I'm talking about, or that I tried very hard to be unprejudiced in my tasting.

                                                              I think the bottom line is that, whatever our biases and personal opinions may be, they are ours and ours alone, and that is as it should be. I don't mind if people don't agree or don't believe me. I do believe me, and that too is as it should be. Life is what it is. Thanks for asking.

                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                Well put, Caroline. Seriously. I do agree with your assessment regarding what I was asking. And hell, if anyone here has any "detractors," it's me. ;-) I'm merely requesting your thoughts on the matter and you have given those.

                                                                The reason I ask about it obvious though: Inherently, there is bias involved in your test simply because you knew exactly which steak was which. It's like you're having your favorite wine involved in a taste test and you're pouring the wines against 2 random others. There's no paper bags, there's no blindfolds, you know what you like, what you have grown accustomed to, and what works best given your cooking techniques. I don't think any of us are saying that what you actually perceive is wrong, I just think that there are other options out there and there is ample evidence that others have experienced different things.

                                                                The point of forums (for me) is to encourage debate, ask questions, and poke and prod others (maybe too far sometimes) to reveal and admit more details about what they've cooked or experienced. It's all the name of the game and we're all here for the same purpose.

                                                                You keep cooking your steak your way, and I'll do mine my way. ;-)

                                                                1. re: HaagenDazs

                                                                  Well, not having enough steak to invite in a dozen or so unbiased strangers to participate in the test failed to bring that possibility under consideration. Being stuck with whatever amount of eidetic memory I still have at my age, playing around hiding things under paper bags that I would be able to identify by any minimally different crease or mark also made that seem like a silly waste of time. Chopping the cooked steak up to make all pieces identical, then shuffling them so I didn't know which was which seemed self defeating in the extreme. So I just struggled along trying to do the best I could under the circumstances.

                                                                  Now, if anyone else, you included, would like to buy a whole USDA Prime tenderloin to replicate my clumsy attempt, and bring in an unbiased group for a blind testing, I will applaud their effort and read their results with interest.

                                                                  The only thing I can add that you might find of interest is that I was somewhat surprised by my findings. I did expect differences in flavor, but I was quite surprised by the difference in texture.

                                                          2. Thanks for reporting on your experiences with this--very helpful!

                                                            11 Replies
                                                            1. re: Gillcer

                                                              I place salt and butter on the steak prior to grilling, thats the way they do it at the best steak houses in the city

                                                              1. re: shorefire

                                                                They do? I assumed the butter, if any, went on after it came off the grill. Otherwise, wouldn't it just burn and/or run off the meat?

                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                  A place like Peter Lugers, they cook the steak, take it out, cut it up and add butter and reblast it quickly under the broiler so its all sizzling together.

                                                                  1. re: ESNY

                                                                    They cut it up??? Why would they do that? That seems really odd. I think I'd opt for no butter and to have my steak all in one piece.

                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                      wouldn't a cut up steak reblasted with butter overcook it?

                                                                      1. re: janetms383

                                                                        C & J,

                                                                        It's cut up, then re-assembled ...as it's usually a steak for 2,3 or 4 persons. Leaving it whole would be problematic for serving purposes.

                                                                        http://www.peterluger.com/ourporsteak...

                                                                        The Old Homestead, among others, does the same.....sans butter..

                                                                        http://www.theoldhomesteadsteakhouse....

                                                                        1. re: janetms383

                                                                          I was shocked the first time I heard and later saw thats how they do it.

                                                                          They cut it up and put the steak back together on the plate (bone in the middle with filet and strip pieces back where they belong) and then refire it, so the plate and fat/juice are burning hot when it gets to your table.

                                                                          1. re: ESNY

                                                                            And did you like that?

                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                              I used to love it but have recently decided it no longer holds mythical status in my mind. I dont see that big of a difference between them and the rest of the dry-aged, prime steakhouse crowd in NY. The actual slicing and refiring never bothered me... I do like the puddle of melted beef fat to drizzle over yoursteak though.

                                                                              That being said, I would definitely not attempt this at home. I am quite certain you'd never be able to replicate the slicing, reassembling, buttering and refiring it without overcooking it. If you want to build the butter into the steak, right after you flip the steak add a big pat of butter to it. It'll melt into the steak as it finished cooking.

                                                                              1. re: ESNY

                                                                                It just sounds like some type of affectation to me. Whatever. But I/we never order steak out. We fix GREAT steaks at home. When I go out, I want to have something that I'm not likely to cook at home. But clearly there are enough people who DO like that since they seem to clearly prosper. Vive la difference.

                                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                                  I partially agree with you, with the exception that I order steaks only at steakhouses that have prime, dry aged steaks. They can source better meat than I can get (and usually aren't that much of a premium compared to the prices for prime, dry aged steak at a butchershop). Unless I'm at one of these places, I will not order steak.

                                                              2. We only cook large steaks,more than 2#.Home grown,pasture raised with supplements of cow cake(40% grain) alfalfa or clover hay if they want it.Unwrapped in the frig 24 to 48
                                                                hours for a dry surface.30 minutes prior to cooking ;salamander or charcoal grill I salt,with as much Kosher salt as the surface will take,rest on wire(no slimy surface),cook when room temp.We eat our steaks as rare to raw as can be.
                                                                The above is the in general most preferred method after years of asking etc.Have tried and still use all of Caroline's methods,but for me #1 choice is nearly no salt after cooking
                                                                I like beef much more than I like salt,don't much like salt,from a family of low salt users.

                                                                1. Caroline, I must say you started an entertaining post. By the reactions from some, you would think that Congress just passed a bill saying Caroline's findings are fact and must be adheared to....LOL.. I appreciated your post. Won't change how I do things, but I appreciated your findings. Me, I'm a salt and pepper while the meat gets to room temp and the grill is warming up. Although I did try a different method last night....gotta talk to her and see what I did wrong...

                                                                  BTW....when you are ready to do the crabcake test....Broiled vs pan fried....I'm willing to be your unbiased judge.....hell, I'll even wear a blindfold if it pleases some..... ;)

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: cb1

                                                                    LOL! Thank you. If only my kids had paid such intense attention to everything I said while they were growing up! The Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex is not exactly my idea of a great place to research crab cakes, so until the time comes that I ever relocate to house on a beach (highly improbable) where I can scramble over rocks for my very own crabs, I don't think I'll be doing that.

                                                                    As a native Californian, I am passionate over Dungeness crab. I can get it locally. But absolutely no guarantee on quality control. It's always frozen, and no promises on whether it's the first time. So for now I console myself with adventures in edible land dwelling critters and plants, with active and fond memories of beach comber days with a diet of giant 9 inch abalone and other sea critters dancing sharply over my taste memories. As any dog can tell you, once you've feasted on premium table food, it's hard to relish a bowl of kibble!

                                                                  2. As a working scientist, you’ve all prodded me to wake up and growl. What C1 did was reasonably scientific. She formulated a question (“When is it best to salt a steak?”), devised three treatments based on different salting procedures, and then controlled for other factors (i.e., meat came from one piece, cooking was the same, reduced influence from the sides). Very good. As to the suggestion that C1 knew which treatment was which and that her assessment reflects her previously held bias – could be, but I don’t see any evidence for it. What is sound scientifically is that C1 provided a clear method that can be replicated by others. If others do the same experiment and report on the results, the findings could change.

                                                                    Unfortunately, any end results reflect subjective preferences – more problematic than introduced biases. Wine and steak tasting is not science. Such tasting can be made more objective and “scientific” in the sense that methods are clear and replicable – but in the end, we are talking about what we like in terms of taste (and texture in the case of the steaks).

                                                                    And all that is needed to be reasonably scientific is for others to adopt the same method, give it a try and report their results. The result would simply be the percent of people preferring one of the three treatments over the other two. More people would like one treatment, fewer would like another, and a lowest percentage would like the third.

                                                                    Finally, there are various types of scientific methods, from the very empirical (controlled experimental or observational) to hypothetico-deductive (from the big idea to what we observe) processes. Science is both quantitative and qualitative. Most important is that science is evidence based, builds on itself in a continual learning process, and always provides clear methods or logics so that anyone else can participate and continue to contribute. C1 did quite well. The rest of you should add the results of your testing to make this a “scientific” discussion.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                      The only one who claimed they were doing "research" was Caroline1. The rest of us just expressed an opinion on which method we prefer and the majority prefer salting before. If you want to discuss the scientific method you could start a new thread.

                                                                    2. Just a friendly reminder, Folks, this is a thread about salting meat. Posts that stray off topic will be removed.

                                                                      Thanks.

                                                                      1. next time try a blind taste test. Have someone else prepare them in the manner which you used and see if you can tell the difference.

                                                                        19 Replies
                                                                        1. re: bw2082

                                                                          Well, as I said before, it was an impromptu experiment, and doing a blind test would, out of courtesy, require providing a USDA Prime steak for the other person. I had only thawed out one portion. But I would be very interested in others duplicating my experiment and reporting their results. How about you starting it off? '-)

                                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                                            Now, Caroline, so when I come there, you're not willing to buy, prep and cook the tenderloin(s) and let me be the "royal taster." You stingy ole thing, you :)

                                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                                              no,but if Caroline is ever in DC i would be pleased to provide the table and beef.

                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                coliver and lcool, that's not what I meant. I meant that the night I did it, I only had one portion thawed and never really thought about doing it blind. I could have called my personal assistant and invited her and her husband -- he's head chef at an Italian restaurant -- and had a group tasting, since you guys aren't exactly twenty minutes away! '-).

                                                                                But blind or no blind, I tryly was surprised at the results! I did expect differences in flavor and possibly even a discernable difference in saltiness, but I was totally surprised at the difference in texture and tenderness between the presalted and post salted steaks! Did not expect that! I think the post I mentiond it in was deleted, but now I'm seriously wondering if there would have been a difference between a steak salted 20 minutes or so prior to cooking, one salted immediately prior to cooking, one salted after cooking and prior to resting, and one salted prior to eating. I'm wondering if the muscle tissue in the steak salted just prior to cooking "seized up" and whether they would have relaxed and returned to tender with a longer period prior to hitting the pan?

                                                                                You know, we could turn this into a very interesting experiement on Chow. Set terms for methodology -- the meat must come from the same muscle of one steer, must be cooked identically, but when the salt is introduced must vary -- and collect data on everyone's findings. It isn't really necessary that everyone use USDA Prime beef because it would be interesting to know if the conditions and results hold true for all grades of beef as well as all varieties, meaning grass fed, corn fed, junk fed, wet aged or dry aged.

                                                                                Any volunteers?????

                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                  as i learned, caroline, from my own blind "organic milk" taste test, it became a waste of breath to explain my test and defend my test findings to some...

                                                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                                                    Strange, isn't it?

                                                                                2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                  Caroline, I take you up on your challenge! Or rather, the science nerd in me can't resist...

                                                                                  Abstract: In a non-blind tasting of two steaks, the steak salted after being cooked was percieved as being significantly more tender, and possibly more flavorful, than the steak salted a quarter hour before being cooked. Both steaks married well with the green-pepper-fennel sauce with which they were accompanied, as well as the red Côtes-du-Rhone. More research is warrented.

                                                                                  Introduction

                                                                                  The researcher often salts steaks after they are cooked out of fear of oversalting, especially when served with sauce. The assumption of both the researcher, as well as his co-subject, was that salting before cooking would produce a steak of superior texture and flavor. Previous research on this topic has been all over the map, and neither the researcher nor the co-subject have paid much attention to the question.

                                                                                  Methodology

                                                                                  Babygirl bought two steaks, each approximately 150g in mass, cut at a slight diagonal, each ranging from approximately 2 to 1,5 cm in thickness from one end to the other (they were filleted). The biftèques were from a normande breed cow who was pastured and ate only organic grasses and herbs. Babygirl isn't sure which cut the steaks were, but homeboy knows the butcher and is pretty sure they are from the portion near the tenderloin, by the backbone (le faux filet de dos, I never got the hang of American cuts).

                                                                                  The sauce was prepared first. Green pepper, white wine, mustard, shallots, fennel bulp and fennel green, plus reduced-fat crème fraîche, were the ingredients. It was reeeaaallly good, despite lacking in salt.

                                                                                  Cooking began approximately 15 minutes after Bifthèque n° 1 was salted. Bifhtèque n° 1 was salted on both sides. A good pinch was given to each one, about per side what one might use on top of the cooked steak. Bifthèque n° 2 was not salted. Both were brought to nearly ambiant temperature before cooking.

                                                                                  Both steaks were cooked in a hot pan for 2 min on the first side, then 1,5 on the second. This resulted in a perfect cuisson saignante (rare). Both steaks were then placed on a warmed platter, over a bit of hot sauce. Bifthèque n° 2 was then salted. The salt in all cases was La Baleine brand fine sea salt.

                                                                                  The two steaks were cut lengthwise and topped with sauce just before serving. Both were served to homeboy and his girlfriend, babyirl.

                                                                                  Results

                                                                                  Both steaks married well with the sauce. Both steaks married reasonably well with the wine (a 2003 red Côtes-du-Rhone), although babygirl thought that bifthèque n° 1 went better with the acidic, white Tourain that was also served, than it did with the lovely, spicy red. Homeboy acknowleges this while maintaining that shit ain't right.

                                                                                  Bifthèque n° 1 was tough. There's no two ways around this. Compared to bifthèque n° 2, homeboy thought his jaw was going to fall off; babygirl maintains that it was not butter, but so what, homeboy's a pussy, and he's worked his jaw before. Both agreed that the taste of bifthèque n° 1 was of moderate intensity, with much vibrancy, but little specific echo.

                                                                                  Bifthèque n° 2 was juicy. Babygirl, who generally prefers salty foods, exclaimed, "ah ah ah, that's really good" [tr] "that's the shit!" This steak, from its saignant section to its nearly-à-point secton, was much more tender than bifthèque n° 1, and very, very , very, very reeeeeallllly full of flavor. Like, spend your financial aid check good.

                                                                                  Conclusion

                                                                                  Do I have to write this? Salt. Your. Meat. Later.

                                                                                  Babygirl says that homeboy needs to get his ass to bed very soon. Like, yesterday. The juicy one, the juicy one! Okay, that's a vote.

                                                                                  But USDA Prime?!? Really!?! When in the US, I always thought that was kind of gross meat, and tried to get local, pastured meat when I could. That was good shit.

                                                                                  1. re: tmso

                                                                                    Bravo! Fantastique. Et bon, la science d'amusement aussi bien.

                                                                                    1. re: tmso

                                                                                      Excellent! I can't wait to cook a steak and salt it afterwards, now about that sauce......

                                                                                      1. re: chef chicklet

                                                                                        Why cook? I just want to go to Paris and meet Babygirl and homeboy!

                                                                                        1. re: chef chicklet

                                                                                          The sauce was pretty easy. Cooked some minced shallot in a little butter with a few green peppercorns. Added white wine, a piece of fennel bulb, the low-fat crème fraîche and mustard. Simmered until it thickened, removed the fennel bulb, added a bunch of finely ground green pepper and some minced fennel greens.

                                                                                          Pretty simple to prepare, but the quality of the peppercorns and mustard are very important. I use a fairly acidic white wine. If you have a gentler one, you might want to adjust with a bit of lemon or wine vinegar.

                                                                                          1. re: tmso

                                                                                            Aren't low-fat products illegal in France???

                                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                                              Oh wow, no, reduced-fat dairy products are quite common, 5% mg hamburgers are everywhere, and Coca Light is very popular. Full fat dairy, cheeses, and so on, are also common, of course. If I have company over, I'll use the real stuff; on a random Wednesday night, I'll use the reduced fat, if I'm making a sauce. Bread for breakfast on a weekday, but brioche on Sunday. We're a pair of skinny Parisians who would like to stay that way.

                                                                                              1. re: tmso

                                                                                                I WAS just joking :) We're planning two house exchanges next year with two weeks in the Dordogne region and two in Paris. Soooo looking forward to the food, of course.

                                                                                            2. re: tmso

                                                                                              yum. I love the sauce you described. NIce. Thank you for sharing!

                                                                                          2. re: tmso

                                                                                            YAY! Hooray for science nerds! And isn't it absolutely amazing what salt does to make the meat tougher? Who'da thunk it?

                                                                                            It's really interesting that you salted your pre-cooked steak fifteen minutes ahead of time. I salted mine just before cooking -- salt and into the pan -- and as a result, I've been wondering whether the initial salt contact made the tissue seize up, and whether salting earlier and giving it a chance to relax would reduce the toughness. Obviously not! That's interesting.

                                                                                            I think the lesson is to not be afraid to challenge tradition. Ain't nothing wrong with checking things out for yourself. And now I'm wondering how many times in my lifetime I've grumbled about being sold tough steaks when I may have made them tough myself by salting them before I cooked them?

                                                                                            As for American cuts of beef, they are in a constant state of confusing evolution. I gave up on trying to stay current years ago. And if you want an entrecote in the U.S., the most reliable way to get it is to buy a side of ribs and go home and cut them yourself! A butcher will just look at you with a blank stare.

                                                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                              I thought C1 bowed out of chowhound due to the mad hatters et al.? I salt 15 minutes prior, love the crust and flavor.

                                                                                              1. re: toutefrite

                                                                                                The irreconcilable differences were reconciled.

                                                                                              2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                I was planning on it hitting the pan about 5 min after salting, but you know how things go. Oops, the salad! Where's my wine glass? Did I warm the plates? Oh yeah, bread ... in the end it was 15 min. I do think it made an interesting extra data point combined with yours, even if it was a bit accidental. And since I only cooked my steaks rare, it doesn't look like the medium-rare doneness was the cause either.

                                                                                                I was wondering the same thing myself about all the steaks I've probably had come out less-than-optimal from salting.

                                                                                        2. i am thinking that if salt has been used historically to cure meat by removing moisture and changing the make-up (somehow) of the meat, then this insight may clarify why salting ahead of time may toughen the meat.

                                                                                          i came upon this study regarding the salting process for jamón, http://74.125.47.132/search?q=cache:w... which addresses the absorption mechanism, the diffusion process, and the affect on muscle tissue. among the study results, "The low initial results [of salt absoprtion and concentration in muscle tissue] might be due to the time required for the initial brine formation outside the ham tissue. Initial salt penetration in meat requires that water from the product escapes from the ham to create a brine solution.....
                                                                                          [i]n salting food products, complex mechanisms operate. In addition to the simple diffusion due to the differences in concentration, salt diffuses into meat tissues due to osmotic processes in the membranes, flowing through capillary spaces ......
                                                                                          Salt can influence the tissue structure...."

                                                                                          ....As salt diffuses into the tissues, there is a [speeding mechanism, via the salt's interaction with the meat proteins that increases diffusion in the meat]. As the proteins hydrate, the penetration "paths" become smaller until about a 6-8% diffusion. Then as further diffusion occurs, "proteins shrink and the paths again open, increasing" diffusion.

                                                                                          maybe the above research helps explain why brining works (because after a certain point the muscle structure changes, but moisture is increased in the muscle tissue).

                                                                                          here is an insight from another study: "Retail meat cuts of pork are frequently enhanced with salt solutions to improve flavor, extend shelf life, reduce microbial contamination, and improve tenderness." http://www.ars.usda.gov/research/publ...

                                                                                          so maybe salt in solution is a tenderizer, while salt on outside proteins is a toughener.
                                                                                          i have to think on this more.

                                                                                          food for thought!

                                                                                          i don't know, because i haven't done the experiment. but salting only just before eating seems logical, considering the functional effect of salt on animal tissue.

                                                                                          1. OK, I'm inspired - I'm gonna do this over the weekend. Here's what I've got to work with:

                                                                                            -- a 3-rib rib roast that is to be enlisted into the cause of science by being cut up into 3 nice thick rib steaks;
                                                                                            -- a willing (?) girlfriend/guinea pig who will provide unbiased reviews of the resulting products as I feed them to her without her knowing which piece was from which steak. I don't see a way to do double-blind, but single-blind is doable.

                                                                                            My plan is to salt one the way I normally do: about 15 minutes before cooking, while the grill is heating up; one just before cooking; and one after cooking, just before popping it into the piehole.

                                                                                            So, does anybody have any other methodological tips or recommendations? Here's your chance to make sure I do as rigorous a test as possible. Let's hear them!

                                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: Bat Guano

                                                                                              Bat, what I'd love to see is what happens if you also have a piece that's salted hours ahead--even overnight or for 24 hours--to mimic the Zuni Cafe suggestions more closely.

                                                                                              1. re: PegS

                                                                                                Why not give it a try yourself? The more people we have challenging the old tradition of "salt first," the more valid our group findings. It may be true that I had expectations prior to trying my challenge, but I certainly wasn't prepared for the results. I expected variances in flavor, not in texture! So next time you're having steak, why not cut everyone's portion in half and salt one half at whatever period prior to cooking you'd like (I too am interested in the results of a 24 hour pre-salting) then let us know what your outcome is.. Think about it? '-)

                                                                                                1. re: PegS

                                                                                                  I was thinking that, too. If you salt just before cooking, you'll pull the water out of the meat so it, logically, would be tougher. But, if you salt it early enough, then the salt and water could reabsorb back into the meat. Overnight might be a good way to go.

                                                                                                  1. re: PegS

                                                                                                    NO! I'm not doing that. I've established to my satisfaction - and written about it in a separate post, further up - that it produces bad results. That was a pre-salt several days in advance, and I do not care to repeat the mistake, especially with the good piece of meat I have to work with - it'd be a shame to ruin it.

                                                                                                    1. re: Bat Guano

                                                                                                      Sorry - didn't mean to shout. But I really didn't like the long pre-salt results.

                                                                                                2. At the risk of muddying the waters, I looked up the CI (May/Jun 03) article about marinating steak tips, because I recalled something about soy sauce as a preferred tenderizer for beef. They wound up devising soy-based marinades, used for an hour, after which the meat was patted dry and grilled. Mention was made of rubbery texture when the tips were grilled rare; well-done ones were tender and still juicy, thanks to the marinade. Tenderness was also improved by allowing the grilled tips to rest 5 minutes before serving. This helps explain Bat Guano's experience with pre-salted steaks that were refrigerated for a couple of days before cooking to a rubbery rare texture - sounds like they might have become tender with longer cooking. Because the salt is dissolved in the soy sauce, it gets into the meat quickly. A note in the July/Aug 2004 issue said that when regular soy sauce was compared to low-sodium, beef and chicken marinated in regular had more pronounced soy flavor and a more tender texture, but that using low-sodium made the meat "far better" than non-marinated. The tests they ran established that it was in fact the soy, not acidic ingredients in the marinades, that tenderized the meat (acids made the surface mushy).

                                                                                                  I recall another article about soy sauce to tenderize beef but couldn't find it. The conclusion here backs up the approach of salting before cooking, along the lines of brining other meats. I don't have a dog in this fight, since I rarely cook steak and when I do, it's sat in Mr. Yoshida's Cooking Sauce (a teriyaki-style marinade) first, then patted dry. That stuff is plenty salty on its own. I weaned myself from the salt shaker decades ago so if I WERE going to grill a plain steak, I would opt for salting the finished portion - that way, the saltiness is more pronounced and less is required. There's already hidden salt in foods we buy; I don't want to hide it when I cook.

                                                                                                  Intellectually, I can rationalize either the before or after technique, since experiences conflict. Perceptions of saltiness differ from palate to palate, as well - as anyone who has cut out salt can attest. Once you're getting less of it, commercially-prepared foods taste very salty indeed.

                                                                                                  1. I'm about 5 hours into heavy salt on one, none on the other. Had planned on cooking tomorror but just got home and this is really all we have that's ready to go. So we'll do it tonight and see. There's a significant amount of liquid that has released from the salted steak. None from the other. I just have a feeling that this technique needs a LONG time. Will report back later.

                                                                                                    (Isn't it nice and kinda amazing that this thread got back to where it started and is now productive?)

                                                                                                    15 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                      Exactly!

                                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                        YAY! And thank you. I'm really looking forward to your findings!

                                                                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                          Well, the test will have to be postponed. Once we really looked at these two little steaks, it was clear that they weren't "related" to each other :) So results are invalidated. But the salted one, after five hours, was really salty tasty - more than I would consider acceptable. But I want to give it a 24 hour test to see. Inquiring minds want to know. More later.

                                                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                            Thanks! '-)

                                                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                              what happens if you salf your steak 2 days in advance? will the steaks be wayyyyy too salty even if they are rinsed off? I thought I read something on Cooks Illustrated about salting meat over 24 hours before cooking so I did it but I hope I didn't just ruin 2 perfectly good rib eyes.

                                                                                                              1. re: julieapfel

                                                                                                                In honor of Sammy above.

                                                                                                                The CI recipe was for an eye round. I treid is once and the outside was extremely salty. I think there was a thread on that subject. I would never try with rib eyes

                                                                                                                Peace Sam-I-Am

                                                                                                                1. re: julieapfel

                                                                                                                  There were many reasons I conducted this experiement lo, some two years and one month ago. This is a greatly shortened discussion, thanks to the good graces and common sense of the mods!

                                                                                                                  I have had two passionate interests all of my adult life: food and archaeology. I know a lot about salt as a result of both interests. Curiously, as if following by faith and not intellect, I had never tried to merge the two until a streak of challenge-the-faith hit me. In cooking we are taught to ALWAYS salt meat before cooking. In archaeology we are taught that salt is a drying agent that will suck out the juices and make a mummy that will last thousands of years. It's what made Tutankahmon what he is today! So I decided the only reasonable course of action was to challenge the tradition of presalting steak before cooking and test it against unsalted meat cooked at the same time in the same pan. My results are above. And thank God Sammy was still alive because you would not believe the hornets nests I stirred up. Sam Fujisaka will always and ever be my knight in shining armor.

                                                                                                                  So, with that said and in aswer to your question, if you salt steak two days in advance, you will have leached out two days of juices. Do your own comparison test. I ask NO ONE to take my word on this, but try it and see for yourself. Personally, I never put salt on any meat, mammal, fish or fowl, before cooking. I salt after. I think the food is better for it.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                    It never fails to amaze me how many people will swear up and down that such and such is wrong (or right) for reasons x, y, z, not to mention a, b, and c. Argurments will rage, feelings will be hurt. JUST TRY IT as you so rightly say. I think some"basic" tenets of cooking are at best, unnecessary. But when a passionate home cook dares to say "I never bother with x because it just doesn't seem to make a difference" watch out for the stones!

                                                                                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                      Kenji recently did a test on when to salt steak. He found that the best results came from steaks salted just prior to cooking, and steaks that were salted way in advance. The worst steaks were ones that were salted 20-30 minutes before cooking.

                                                                                                                      His reasoning is that the salt initially draws moisture from the steak, but after an hour or so the salt (and moisture) gets reabsorbed.

                                                                                                                      1. re: joonjoon

                                                                                                                        That's the reasoning behind Zuni chicken, too--salt at least a day before but longer is better.

                                                                                                                        1. re: joonjoon

                                                                                                                          Do you know whether he tried a steak without salting before cooking?

                                                                                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                            I don't think that was a part of the test Caroline...but I think I'm going to test it!

                                                                                                                            1. re: joonjoon

                                                                                                                              Let us know what you think.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                I will also raise my paw in thanks that we all now have a homework assignment to add data to Ms C1 data base. Tough road to hoe but a steak-eater's gotta do what a steak-eaters gotta do.

                                                                                                                                1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                  One for the Gipper! Good on.

                                                                                                              2. OK, I tried this, as follows: salted (and peppered) one of two identical steaks (adjacent cuts from the same rib roast) about 15 minutes before cooking, and the other only after cooking and resting. (Turns out I was mistaken in my previous post, if you're following along - there were only 2 ribs in that piece). Cooked them side-by-side on the grill, for the same length of time, flipping both at the same time, switching positions of the steaks with each flip, to medium-rare. Actually closer to rare-med-rare, since they were pretty thick, thicker than I realized, which threw off my doneness judgement; but they were fine this way. Let them both rest, then cut pieces from each one with part of the outside section, the inside section, from the same area of the steak in each case. Salted and peppered the one that hadn't been seasoned just before eating. Poured a glass of cabernet to cleanse the palate between bites. The GF did not agree to be the GP (guinea pig), and insisted on knowing which was which, but otherwise participated in the tasting.

                                                                                                                Results: In terms of texture and dryness, neither of us could discern any difference between the two steaks. Some bites of the pre-unseasoned one were slightly tougher and dryer than the pre-seasoned one, and some vice-versa. Not a significant difference in any case; we probably wouldn't have noticed had we not been paying particular attention.
                                                                                                                However, in terms of taste, there was a significant difference. The one that was not seasoned before cooking had a much fresher-beef taste, with a taste of beef and salt that were separate, if that makes sense. In the one seasoned before cooking, the beef and salt flavors sort of melded together more, with the result of a less-assertive beef flavor; I'll go back to the idea of freshness as the adjective of choice, for lack of a better one - tasted less of fresh beef. In other words, the taste of the steak came through better in the one seasoned immediately prior to eating; I preferred it over the pre-seasoned one, and so did the GP, er, GF.

                                                                                                                Sure, I am under no illusions that this is a scientific test; but the results for me were significant enough for me to change my preferred method of cooking steaks. I used to pre-season while the grill was heating up routinely, without really thinking about it. NOT ANY MORE. From now on I will cook the steaks unseasoned, and season after resting, on the plate. Again, not from dryness/texture concerns, but purely on taste concerns. Try it - you may find it works for you, too.

                                                                                                                1. That sounds odd to me. I marinade with sea salt and olive oil for hours before.

                                                                                                                  They always come out delicious and tender as hell. Plus I pan-fry then grill (broil in US)

                                                                                                                  also, I never used to know about marinade, and would add salt after, but then I liked steaks medium well.

                                                                                                                  1. Pre-salting is more for cheap cuts of beef in addition to an acidic marinade such as pineapple or tomato-based sauce. Interesting finds though!

                                                                                                                    I'm pretty sure for salting to be beneficial you have to do it hours, or even a day ahead.

                                                                                                                    1. Caroline, "salt" and "steak" are 2 items very dear to my heart. I definitely agree with you as I've cooked/prepared steak in every possible way. I may have done this experiment way before you posted your findings ;)

                                                                                                                      The best result for me was cooking without salt or any other condiments, but I prefer to have a charred, thick crust that is heavily seasoned with salt for flavor purposes. I find there is better texture in leaving the salt out, but it compromises my crust just a bit.

                                                                                                                      I have strong opinions concerning pre-seasoning; I think Judy Rodgers' advice is spot on with poultry, but I don't follow it with any other meat including fish. If I marinate fish in advance I omit the salt till the very end.

                                                                                                                      I really do enjoy eating steak out and I don't do it very often, but very familiar with the Luger's slicing and reassembling with the broiled melted butter. The best steak dinner I ever had was at Sparks about 15 years ago, and the steak was indescribable and heavenly. Within the same month I had dinner at Daniel (not a steak dinner, but the quail came highly recommended); the dinner experience paled in comparison. I really do love steak ;D

                                                                                                                      1. Just wanted to post my not-super-scientific findings of a couple offhand experiments I've tried. Having read this thread some time ago has made me curious. No offense intended to any whose findings don't match mine. Here goes:

                                                                                                                        A little while ago, I pan-roasted a rib eye. Approx 1 inch thick. Cooked to medium rare. In that case, I cut the steak in half and salted one half of the steak just before adding it to the pan searing and the other half after cooking and resting the steak. In tasting, I found no significant difference in tenderness between the two cuts.

                                                                                                                        Today, I cooked a chuck steak, again pan-roasted. Not a very tender cut, and not much marbling at all (I sometimes eat less tender cuts cooked as you might cook other more standard steaks - just one of my personal idiosyncrasies). This time, it was about 3/4 inches thick and I'd say I cooked it in between medium rare and medium. The chuck steak has a few muscles in it, so I made sure only to cut and compare the big muscle. One cut I salted just over an hour before cooking. One I salted right before searing. The last after cooking and resting. I gave the early-salted meat a quick rinse/wipe off right before cooking it.

                                                                                                                        Again, the cuts salted just before and after cooking were pretty indistinguishable from a tenderness or juiciness perspective. The cut salted in advance was not exactly more tender or easier to chew, but it did seem markedly juicier than the other two.

                                                                                                                        Notes and points of self-criticism:

                                                                                                                        - It's entirely possible that the fact that I sear hot for crust formation may have something to do with why I couldn't find a difference between steak salted just before and just after cooking. If the salt is mainly affecting the outer surface of meat when it's not applied for very long, then I'm likely rendering those small differences inconsequential by so thoroughly nuking the surface to get a good crust. Another cooking method might yield different results.

                                                                                                                        - Obviously, this experiment was not (yet) conducted repeatedly. Nor was I unaware of which cut I was eating. My own bias is a possible factor, though I do feel as though my mind was pretty open to any results.

                                                                                                                        - The effect of the 'salt-brined' meat struck as juicier rather than more tender. This is a minor and subtle distinction, but it makes sense to me. I think using a less tender cut of meat to start off with accentuated this difference. Salting ahead of time didn't make chuck steak chew like filet. Instead it made for juicier but still-chewy chuck steak.

                                                                                                                        - Experimenting with different thicknesses, different amounts of salt, and different lengths of pre-salting will have to wait for another day. Sorry.

                                                                                                                        - Perhaps most significant - none of the effects of varying the time of salt application seemed to make as much of a difference to the end result as the differences between various cooking methods. The difference in overall effect, tenderness, and juiciness between a steak cooked sous vide, pan seared, or grilled to the same doneness seems to be greater than the difference between a steak salted well in advance and one salted just before cooking.

                                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                          Thanks, Cowboy.. Interesting. In my own probings I have not found any discernible difference in whether the meat is salted just prior to cooking or twenty minutes beforehand. I've just always found that for me (and my guests) the presalted is always tough in comparison to the salted after cooking. I did try presalting and not presalting sous vide steaks one time, and one time only. Did two fairly "dainty" steaks each for me and a guest, and presalted and packaged two of them together with herbs, etc., and did the two other with the same herbs but no salt, I did not tell the guest which was which, though I knew from their positions on her plate. She loved the no-salt-before-cooking steak. Extremely tender. The steak that was salted before being sealed in the bag and cooked in the water oven was so tough... Well, she ended up taking both my pre-salted steak and her own home with her for her dogs. I haven't yet (and don't know if I will) bothered checking on just how much difference cut and grade of beef make. It would seem logical that those things would have some bearing, but I have no idea how much. Oh, and just for the record, I don't send steaks to a friend's dog easily! Those puppies were tough and rubbery!

                                                                                                                          Out of curiosity, and I have no idea whether it is relevant, but what kind of salt do you use? I use large grained kosher salt. Occasionally sea salt.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                            Hi Caroline,

                                                                                                                            Right off the bat, I used coarse grained kosher salt, the kind most commonly available.

                                                                                                                            As I think you know, I've cooked a lot of meats sous vide. In the case of steaks (and lamb chops which I also often cook sous vide in a similar manner), I more typically salt after the water bath and right before searing. I have on occasion salted before the water bath, but to be honest, I can't remember the results distinctly enough to say whether there was any difference in effect. I know I haven't thrown out any sous vide steak for being tough or dry.

                                                                                                                            Notably, I have also cooked various other meats for a much longer time sous vide (20-72 hours), salting before the water bath, and tenderness has never been a problem. I don't know if this is because of the longer exposure to the salt, or just because of factors inherent to the cooking method or the cut of meat. Salting chicken in advance for a hour or two of cooking time has never generated tough meat, but again, chicken isn't steak.

                                                                                                                            I do suggest you try salting further in advance, just to see if your results match mine. The theory behind it does account for why salting 20 minutes in advance might make a dryer steak while an hour+ in advance might make for a juicier one.

                                                                                                                            The theory: when salt is added to meat, it does a couple things. The first thing it does is draw water out of the meat and salt into the cells. No shocker there. The meat gets a little bit dryer. But given more time, the salt supposedly distorts the cell membranes, making it harder for water to leach from the cells. This means that when the meat is cooked, the cells give up less water (normally due to constriction of meat fibers as they reach higher temperatures), and this difference more than makes up for the water pulled out of the cells by the salt itself.

                                                                                                                            Here's the kicker though: I have strong doubts this process would work for a steak cooked sous vide to medium rare, at least if it's not pan-seared to finish. My suspicion is that the dry 'brining' will only significantly help meat cooked beyond medium rare (maybe even beyond medium), when cooked sous vide. Grilled and pan-seared steaks, as you know, have a surface of highly cooked meat, and a layer underneath of meat that is still much more well-done than the center. These layers normally contract, both losing their own juices and squeezing some juices out of the less-cooked meat at the center of the steak. Dry brining limits this effect and thus makes the steak juicier. But my thought is that a sous vide steak cooked medium rare shouldn't be contracting enough for dry brining to be especially useful since it lacks that outer layer of over-cooked meat.

                                                                                                                            Obviously, I'm speculating and extrapolating, but perhaps more experiments will follow.

                                                                                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                              try salting it several hours in advance. I think you'll like the result. the salt pulls moisture that forms a very thin "skin" on the surface that browns very nicely and has great flavor.

                                                                                                                          2. 2 1/2 " thick bone in ribeye. Let it come to room temp. Over hot coals on the grill, cook around twelve minutes. Turning frequently. Apply grey salt half way through cooking. Remove from grill and let it rest 10 - 15 minutes. Slice thinly off the bone. Very tender and very good.