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Mar 22, 2012 01:13 AM

My way of cooking steak - right or wrong?


I've never wanted to go through the trouble of using an oven for cooking. Always been a pan kind of a guy. (Out of necessity and time constraints, and sometimes I don't have an oven)

So far, this is what I've been doing. When I bring home a steak (angus rib-eye or whatever), I apply some EVOO and then drop one of those store bought "Montreal Steak Spice" powders on it. Dab it well, put it in saran wrap and put it in the fridge till the next day. Then, I let it sit out for an hour or so next day and then get to work. That is #1.

#2 is what I do with it. Remember that the marinade is thick power with peppercorns here and there. I take that and drop it in a pan that has heated EVOO in it and sear it for 3-4 minutes on one side, and then flip it for the same time and we're done.

I wrap that in tinfoil and wait for 10 minutes before putting it on a plate to eat. Now, during the cooking process, when I to flip it to the other side.. as you can imagine.. the peppercorns and the marinade burns and sticks to the pan. This part is confusing. Is that supposed to happen?

Now, here are my questions:
1) Yes, I am going to buy a cast iron skillet.
2) During that flip, how do I make sure not to have all that burnt stuff stuck to the pan
3) When I buy more than 2-3 steaks, obviously I'm going to freeze the other steaks. But when I'm ready to use it, I would like to remove it from the freezer, put it in the fridge over night. Next morning, take it out, marinade it like I mentioned above and then put it back in the fridge. Go to work. Return that night, take out the steak.. let it calm down to room temp before cooking. Correct?
4) How can I make a sauce that I can dip pieces of this steak before putting in my mouth? A quick sauce please. :)

Thanks so much!

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  1. Don't cook steaks with EVOO. EVOO has such a low smoke point that it'll burn.

    I probably wouldn't saran wrap the steak if you put it in the fridge. Let it air dry to sort of get that dry aged deal going. Plus, by saran wrapping it, you just get the steak "wet" which is not what you want out of a steak.

    To answer:
    #1 isn't a question.
    #2: lower your heat if something is burning
    #3: As long as the steak is not frozen, you can cook it. I don't apply any rubs or marinades.. just salt and pepper. So you are correct, if it's room temperature the whole way through, you can cook it. There's debate as to how the steak is best cook... so the general answer is if it's not frozen, it's good to go.
    #4: The sauce is up to you and how you want to flavor it. You already have steak seasoning, isn't that good enough? To be frank, a good steak should not need a sauce. That's my opinion. If you really want a sauce, it should be something that goes with your rub/marinade. I don't really know what's in the Montreal Steak Spice and I do not like sauces on my steak so I can't recommend anything.

    Good luck!

    2 Replies
    1. re: darrentran87

      Thanks so much. I just like a wet steak which is why I need a sauce. :)

      1. re: darrentran87

        I have cooked many steaks straight out of the freezer. However, I only use the stove to finish. From frozen, I put the steaks on a wire rack set in a rimmed bake pan and put that in the oven at 225 until the center reaches 95. I then put it in a hot fry pan with corn oil and 60-90s per side to brown. A thermometer is crucial here because I've had it take anywhere from 27 to 45 minutes. If the center reaches 100-105 then the final product will be more medium/medium-well.

        By putting the steak in the oven first, I am able defrost and evaporate all the moisture from the surface which is required for the the meat to brown. Also low and slow allows the center to heat up without overcooking the outside like with high heat.

        When I first started doing this, I used the rack from my toaster oven set in a 13x9 cake pan. I now use a half-sheet pan with a cooling rack set inside which allows me to cook more than one or two steaks at a time. The rack is required to allow air to circulate all around. Flipping part way through is not necessary.

      2. I agree with what Darren said, but I would add the following:

        There is no such thing as a too-hot pan for cooking steak (well, maybe there is, but you can't achieve it at home, so don't worry about it). What's burning is your rub/marinade, and that's because it's made of stuff that burns. Cook the steak with salt only, then sprinkle the dry rub on after the steak is cooked and allow it to kind of "soak in" during the resting period. That way you get the flavor without the burned crap on your pan.

        As for olive oil, you can definitely use it to cook your steak - the smoke point is really not that important, since if your pan is hot enough to get a good crusty sear on a steak almost any oil will smoke. However, high heat will more or less destroy the flavor of olive oil so you might as well use something cheaper. If you like the flavor of it, simply drizzle the steak with olive oil after it's cooked.

        Regarding sauce - I love steak both with and without sauce and I have probably 100 recipes for sauces that go extremely well with beef. One of my favorites from childhood is a simple mixture of mayonnaise and mustard (heavy on the mayo, about a 3:1 ratio), plus a splash of vinegar and a pinch of sugar. Super simple and delicious, and you can add other herbs or change the flavor with different mustards and vinegars. I also love pesto on steak, or chimichurri. You can also make a quick pan sauce by deglazing your steak pan with a little cognac and cream, or red wine and butter. Saute a shallot in there first if you're feeling ambitious.

        1. Devilish,

          There is no "right" way to cook a steak.

          If this has been the way you've been doing it, and you like the results, then it is (by definition) the "right" way to cook a steak for you.

          But to answer questions 3 and 4.

          3. Yes, that's fine.

          4. Deglaze the pan with the burnt peppercorns and seasonings. Use some red wine, stock (or water), butter and some garlic. This will give you a nice sauce that pairs well with the steak.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ipsedixit

            won't sauce from burnt spices taste well, burnt & awful? I think I know that Montreal blend, and if Devilish wants a wet steak, make the Montreal w/ a bit of red wine, marinate it overnight. Cook, then while meat rests, boil the leftover marinade for the sauce. Altho, true confession time: I still like A1 sauce.

          2. Agree with Ips - if this method tastes good to you, then it's the 'right' method for you. That said, at the very least you'll get more even doneness if you bought thicker steaks and put them (still in the pan) in the oven once the outside of the steak has reached the level of doneness/crust you want it to.

            1) Strictly speaking, you don't need to buy a CI pan for this method, Because, when you crust a steak with a paste of spices, you actually should not cook it at very high heat. High heat creates a nice crust on plain (or salted) meat, but it produces burnt spices that stick to the pan. I disagree with the first response that you can't use EVOO. If you're crusting with spices, EVOO is fine because you shouldn't be using very high heat.

            And even if you cooked with very high heat and a high smoke point oil, clad pans or disc-bottom aluminum/stainless pans work fine. CI is only really necessary if you're searing in a dry pan at very high temperature.

            What kind of pan are you actually using?

            2) Lowering the heat might be necessary. A thin bladed metal spatula can also help you to bring the spices with the steak. Most people cooking a piece of meat like this would try not to burn the spices.

            3) Fine

            4) If the spices aren't burnt, follow Ips, method. Mounting the resulting pan sauce with butter is a delicious (though indulgent) way to thicken the sauce - once the pan sauce is finished, turn the heat to low or off, and add several tablespoons of butter, whisking while the butter melts. Or you can use a touch of cream, added at the end. Or you can just reduce the pan sauce until it is thickened a bit (it usually won't get super thick by just reducing).

            If the spices are badly burnt, then a pan sauce is probably not your best option. You can make something like a bearnaise sauce or try out a number of different gastriques or use a store-bought steak sauce, or include liquid in your marinade and reduce that as the basis for a sauce, or even something very simple like a little compound butter. There are a lot of options for saucing a steak, and I've left out far more of them then I've listed.

            4 Replies
            1. re: cowboyardee

              I did something funny last night. I used a nonstick pan and a stainless steel pan and cooked two angus rib-eyes half inch. Both of them had Canola oil (since I didn't want to use the evoo and didn't have any other oil).

              I used an electric stove and both were at 1000dfht. Waited for the oil to get hot, removed the room-temp steak and put it on the pans and covered it. Five to six minutes for each side.

              Stainless steel steak got burnt slightly, and was well-done.
              Nonstick pan steak didn't get burnt, but seemed like well-done.
              Both steaks lost their shape and turned into something else, lol

              Chopped half onion, and chopped three shallots. I tried making au jus but was scared since there was a lot of oil left over. So, I threw away the oil and put half of the chopped ingredients in one pan and the other half in the other pan. Dropped some wine and water. But it didn't turn out that great. Looked like some sauce, but without taste.

              Any thoughts?

              1. re: Devilish

                not sure exactly what you're asking.

                Nonstick pans generally don't brown or create a crust as well as cast iron and aluminum (also, I'm not sure if your stainless pan was in fact a stainless/aluminum mix, or if it was just stainless which can tend to exacerbate hot spots which can cause burning in spots). Slower to brown also means slower to burn, in a general sense.

                Keep in mind, you're basically frying or sauteing the steaks. When I 'sear' a steak, I deliberately use high heat with an oil that has a high smoke point and only sear for a minute or so per side, bringing the center of the steak up to temp in the oven once I've got the crust the way I like it.

                As for your sauce, was the problem that it was bland? I'm guessing since you used water, you didn't add enough wine. How much wine did you use? A splash of wine (bolstered with water) will make for a weak sauce (or else very, very little of it). You want to add a decent bit of it and then cook out the alcohol/reduce. The deglazing adds some nice flavor, but not enough to make a sauce taste full bodied on its own. As for the oil, I like to give it a minute to settle out and then pour off most of the oil, leaving maybe a tablespoon or two behind, and hopefully keeping any meat juices that settled to the bottom while the oil settled.

                1. re: Devilish

                  Usually you don't want to cover the pan for steaks because that traps moisture which is bad for browning and makes the air hotter possibly cooking the steak more than you like. I almost sounds like you might have steamed or at least baked it at high temperature.

                  How did you gauge the temperature of the pans? Did you do it based on time or did you watch for the oil to start shimmering or wisps of smoke start to appear?

                  1. re: Devilish

                    5-6 mins per side on a 1/2 inch thick steak is WAY too long. When I buy ribeyes (from Costco), they are usually closer to 3/4 inch thick, and I rarely bother to let them come to room temp before cooking (just straight from the fridge). I use a hot cast iron pan (NO COVER) and cook for 4-5 minutes per side. Rest for at least 5 mins and they're perfect, on the rare side of medium rare. Do you know how to do a touch test to test (approximately) the doneness of your meat?

                    As for your sauce, did you thoroughly saute the onions and shallots in a flavorful fat (i.e., pan drippings or butter) before adding the liquid? Water is totally unnecessary - you are actually trying to get rid of water. Next time, add wine only (after the aromatics are well softened), then allow it to reduce to half its original volume. Remove from heat and swirl in a couple of pats of butter, season well with salt and pepper. You could also use a touch of cream in place of butter.

                2. The browning or crust on the meat is caused by Millard reaction which happens around 160C/320F. However, the reaction cannot happen until all the surface moisture is gone because the moisture will keep the temp at 100C/212F until it's gone. EVOO has a smoke point around 370F I think so you can still brown the meat, but you don't get as big a range to play with compared to something like corn oil which smokes at 450F.

                  I've heard of commercial kitchens using grills at 2000F for steaks and I suspect it's to evaporate the moisture quickly. Obviously you cannot do this at home easily.

                  I wonder if by applying EVOO to the steak you are preventing the surface moisture from evaporating when you remove it from the fridge.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: jsdav

                    Guys, sorry for being off for a little. Weekend was out.
                    I have pictures that I'm going to upload of the steak so it makes it a little easy for everyone instead of guessing.

                    1. re: Devilish

                      Here are the before and after pics as promised.

                      1. re: Devilish

                        I'm not sure what final product you were hoping to end up with, but here are the problems I see:

                        1. Your steaks are WAY too thin for anything other than the quickest of pan sears. If I had ribeyes that thin, I would get my pan smoking hot, then cook them on each side for about ONE minute, not 5-6. UNCOVERED. If you cover the pan, you're creating a sort of steam oven for your steaks, which is not a good way to develop that lovely crisp brown crust. Unless of course you want them well-done, in which case it doesn't really matter what else you do to them because they're by definition ruined.

                        2. All that steak seasoning is going to burn, no matter what you do. Just salt the steaks before cooking, then put the seasoning on after they're done. All of the flavor, none of the charred nastiness.

                        If I were you, I would try to buy steaks that are at least twice the thickness of those in your photo. A thicker cut gives you much more wiggle room in terms of timing, and also allows you to leave the steak in the pan longer to get the nice crisp brown bits. Aside from that, it's a simple matter. Salt only, hot pan, no cover. Learn to do the touch test for the correct doneness. I like cast iron, but your stainless steel pan will do a fine job too.

                        1. re: biondanonima

                          Seasoning after cooking? How does that work... If you don't mind?

                          1. re: Devilish

                            Just sprinkle the seasoning on while the steak is resting - it will sort of soak into the juices that rise to the surface of the meat. If you have thin steaks and just cook them for a minute on each side you can get away with using the seasoning beforehand, but too much longer than that and the seasoning will just burn anyway.

                            1. re: biondanonima

                              Thanks! I'm going to try this out..