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Jun 27, 2009 01:38 PM

Broiling Steak/Physics Majors Pls Respond

Convention wisdom has it that you should/must bring a steak to room temperature
before putting it under the broiler. WHY? This has never made sense to me.
Whichever cut looks best is what I buy, but never less than two (2) inches thick.

If it goes under the fire cold, it stays under the fire longer to bring it to a warm medium rare interior -- the longer it's under the fire the crustier the exterior is.

Ever read David Rosengarten, Dean & DeLuca foodie guru? He takes a good sirloin hamburger and buries an ice cube in the center for the purpose of attaining a medium rare interior with a dark crusty exterior. Sounds revolting to me! Why wouldn't there be water running out of it
when you either bite into it or break it open with a fork. It's basically my theory but w/out the icecube.

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      1. re: jaykayen

        Odd; worked for me again.

        Here's the abstract itself. Their rationale wasn't the same but it did give some interesting info:

        "Six steaks from each of 24 loins (from electrically stimulated and control sides of each of 12 steers) were thawed to produce steak temperatures of 2, 7,13,14,18 or 26°C just prior to cooking. After cooking to 70°C steaks with a starting temperature of 26°C were 30% more tender than those with a starting temperature of 2°C. Electrical stimulation increased tenderness of steaks from all treatments (an average of 23%), and no interaction was found between electrical stimulation and starting steak temperature. Tenderness and cooking loss can be optimized by electrically stimulating carcasses and by starting cookery when steaks have high internal temperatures."

        1. re: c oliver


          1 - please tell everyone you do not cook steak to 70C. Thats 154F or med-well.
          2 - how did they get the steak in the electric outlet? :-))

          1. re: jfood

            Yoohoo, everone,
            1 - I'm from a family that thought you should walk a cow past the fire and start slicing, put a bandaid on and it will get well!!!!!!!!!!!!!
            2 - very carefully. Cows kick :)

            Thanks, kid, for reining me in. I've obviously had too much lobster, clams and cod. My beef antennae are lowered.
            PS: If you fix clam chowder, would you please weigh in on my questions?

          2. re: c oliver

            Thanks for the link, but my attempt too got cookie-redirected.

            I'd like to see it in its entirety. Could you try clearing the cookie for that site, and send the link for the page that launches it?

            1. re: FoodFuser

              Now *I* can't get into it either :) I think I googled something like *steak room temperature*. It was just the abstract that I copied. But you could probably access the entire paper from that. It really was more about the tenderness of the meat.

            2. re: c oliver

              Wait, you mean we should be Tasing our steaks prior to cooking?

              This could add a whole new spin to the concept of engine-block grilling.

              1. re: Cinnamon

                Well, that whole electrocution process was a bit out there, wasn't it? But the temps of the various meats was what I was referring to.

            3. re: jaykayen

              It is trying to receive a cookie which has not been set.
              First do a right-hand mouse click on the this link and choose 'Copy link address' or whatever it is called in your browser....


              Now click on this link...


              The go to the address bar and paste in the link you copied and you should get there.

              Edit: You will also need session cookies enabled. If you think that a cookie is something that goes in the oven, then don't worry - the cookie monster will be set right.

          3. Here's my take. (I see there's one reply so far but haven't checked its link yet.) As elsewhere in cooking, the reasons may not be obvious but the upshot is sound. Broiling is probably the method I've used most for steaks of fish or meat, and unless very thin, I let them come up in temp., if not to room then at least above refrigerator temp.

            Technically you have a material with a certain specific heat (overall, heat capacity) and thermal resistance. (The material is nonlinear in this regard because the thermal resistance, aka theta, changes as it cooks; I don't think that's central to the following, though it may exacerbate it.) I believe the technical problem in cooking from fridge temps. is that more energy must then penetrate the outer material to elevate the inner to a given temperature. In practice, a widespread medium-rare cooking (or thereabouts) is harder to achieve that way, in my experience. The "gradient" inside is stronger, and it's not difficult to end up with dried outer material and raw inner. In fact, on occasions when I've gotten steaks like that from restaurants, it was a tip that (1) the meat was probably cooked directly from very cold, contrary to frequent restaurant practice and (2) the cook didn't know what he/she was doing. In general, but also in particular because experienced steak cooks often use touch. The same firming up that changes the theta also changes other mechanical properties; stress deformation changes from more plastic to more elastic. With experience, it's possible to pretty accurately cook steaks to typical preference by feeling the deformation and the onset of elasticity.

            ETA: Someone should point out to emeritus chemistry professors that metal has heat capacity, therefore you preheat broilers to bring the walls and other surfaces in a broiling oven to a radiative temperature. I mention this because one such professor declared in a newspaper column a few years ago that preheating broilers was completely unnecessary. This suggests to me that he had limited broiling experience as well as not allowing for the energy needed to bring a few kg of oven metal up to steady-state cooking temperature.

            1. This is not really a matter of physics.

              But you're going to lose more of the liquid in the meat the longer you have it over heat.

              1. crsommers, I agree with you. I have not been able to make scientific sense out of prewarming a steak prior to broiling. I suspect it may be an urban myth like not washing mushrooms. I monitor my steaks with thermometers when I make them and pan sear them in cast iron skillets- usually ribeyes. I think it is easier to get a rare to medium rare center with a cold steak and it takes longer so the char on the outside can develope a little more. Perhaps if I had a 1200 degrees infra red broiler I might have the outside cooked so fast that the inside would be very cold still. With veryt thick steaks I prefer to char the outside, remove from fire and rest to allow the carry over heat to distribute and finish in the oven at 225 or so while monitoring with a thernometer.

                6 Replies
                1. re: LRunkle

                  LRunkle, if you really want to test this, try it several times each: Broil directly from the refrigerator, vs after an hour or two letting the temperature come up toward room. I have, and so has the Journal of Food Science (above). I think you'll notice the difference if you look for it. Key point seems to be how far the internal temperature must move -- it's a shorter excursion if the steak doesn't start so cold. The problem with cooking rules is when people argue from dogma _and_ aren't willing to really test it.

                  N.B., Not washing mushrooms is stupid as dogma, but it has basis. Mushrooms are like sponges with microscopic texture, readily holding water. If you want them to start their cooking as dry as possible (for a quick saute etc.), clean them dry with a brush. If the water content doesn't matter (as in a soup), wash them. Easier to clean them well that way.

                  1. re: eatzalot

                    Nonsense - the mushroom myth was put to bed ages ago with controlled experiments that weighed dry mushrooms, washed mushrooms, and soaked mushrooms. No difference in weight, i.e., no water absorbed. It was either Harold McGee or Alton Brown - or more likely both, as most of Brown's stuff is just stolen from McGee.

                    1. re: FlyFish

                      it wasn't no water gain, but it was a small water gain

                    2. re: eatzalot

                      why are you bring my mom into it, no dogma in the argument.

                      Which weighs more a pound of feathers or a pound of lead. Whenthe inrnal temperature of a steak reached 135 it is done. Whenther is started from 34 or 70 degrees, it is now 135. Some dogma is poopie.

                      And every experiemnt jfood has read totally disproves the mushroom as sponge idea. And when you saute mushrooms, i.e. making a duxelle, you first must remove all the water already in the shroomers. Ever see what the liquid expulsion is for a pound of sliced mushrooms?

                      1. re: jfood

                        jfood, I don't know what you've read. I've read nothing on the subject, I've just been cooking mushrooms longer than you claim to've cooked steaks, and I figured it out for myself. Mushrooms cooking sweat more than enough internal moisture when they're cleaned dry. If you add more moisture, they sweat more. (Chanterelles are the worst this way, in my experience.)

                        Those of you convinced that bringing up the temperature before cooking steaks has NO benefits will have to break the news to all the professional cooks who have cooked a lot of steaks and think that it does. (Careful! They have knives. :-)

                        1. re: eatzalot

                          Let's just leave the mushroom to their darkness and feed them crap theory and concentrate on the steak.

                          If jfood was using a 1200 degree broiler to cook the steaks he would find it different than the home cook with a grill at less than half the BTUs. And that is a HUGE difference in the entire process. But with the home equipment as the pacing item, jfood will continue to maintain that bringing steaks to room temperature has no effect on the end product.

                          BTW - Jfood has knives as well and mrs jfood once hired a famous NY chef to give jfood a private in-house cooking lesson for his birthday. The chef was impressed with jfood's knife skills. Bring it on baby. :-))

                          Have a great sunday E.

                  2. jfood has been broiling and grilling steaks right out of the fridge for 40 years. Crisp outside, med-rare and juicy inside.

                    Always viewed this as an old wives tale and the emperors new clothes.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: jfood

                      "jfood has been broiling and grilling steaks right out of the fridge for 40 years. Crisp outside, med-rare and juicy inside"

                      You and every restaurant in the US. The health department tends to frown just a tad on us storing decaying flesh even for a short time out side of HACCP temps. Not to mention that I don't think many customers would appreciate waiting the extra few hours for their steaks to warm up before they hit the broiler.