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what is happening to my steaks?

So I like to think I know my way around a steak pretty well, but the last 2-3 times I've cooked one I've been confronted with a pan filled with juice at the end of the cooking time. What am I doing wrong? I use high-quality, thick steaks, usually ribeyes.
I usually follow the same pattern-
Season heavily with course salt, sometimes garlic and worchestershire
Let sit out 30-45min to come up in temp
Sear on a blazing hot cast iron pan, 2-3 minutes/side
Into 375 oven until Rare/Mid-rare
Rest 10 min

Used to produce perfect results, however, the last couple times I've cooked I've pulled the pan out of the oven and my beef is swimming in the juices I want to keep inside the meat! Experiments with Strip steak and top Sirloin produced the same result.

Help! Good beef is pricey, I want to treat it the way it deserves!

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  1. I wonder if they are "enhancing" the beef with lots of salt water like they do with pork and chicken.

    24 Replies
    1. re: chileheadmike

      I think the label has to reflect a % solution but it may be very inconspicuous.

      1. re: chileheadmike

        Adding water to beef will make it turn dark. No one "enhances" beef with saline.

        1. re: Brandon Nelson

          I could be wrong but I believe I read that Walmart had been selling individual vacuum sealed steaks that were enhanced / pumped.

          1. re: Tom34

            If one does a search for WalMart beef enhanced, one does find that indeed, their beef has been injected with a solution. I can't find anything current, other than they introduced a select or choice that isn't.

            1. re: wyogal

              Isn't language interesting? What they call "enhanced" I would call...adulterated...or ruined.

            2. re: Tom34

              You are not wrong. I have purchased them and they are very good but they have some saline solution in them. I cooked them on the barbeque last summer and got many compliments on them all asking where did I purchase them.

              1. re: Ruthie789

                If I remember correctly they were injected select grade. Many chains like Applebees have been using similar products for years. Chinese takeout restaurants are king of tenderizers. Usually prolonged thirst following the meal is a give away.

                Like anything else food wise, the degree of pleasure lies in the mouth of the chewer. For me, any form of injection reduces the intensity of the products nature flavor and I prefer non-enhanced meats & seafood.

                1. re: Tom34

                  I do too Tom but the price was right and sometimes that is a consideration. I had several visitors last summer so I did my best to feed them according to my budget without going overboard. It's almost a rooming house here in the summertime.

                  1. re: Ruthie789

                    I hear you Ruth on the cost of feeding frequent company. I have been known to blade several London Broils with a Jaccard and pump them myself with tenderizer for large crowds.

                    Having a few inexpensive vacuum sealed pumped strip steaks in the freezer can also be good for the guest who likes a well done steak as they are more forgiving of being overcooked. I always have a few cheap select grade fillets in the freezer for the same reason.

                    1. re: Tom34

                      You don't feel all your guests deserve the same quality steaks?

                      1. re: fourunder

                        Its not a matter of deserve, its a matter of what works. Many surveys have shown that people rank tenderness & juiciness as the most important factors. I have found that it is very difficult to grill a well done non pumped strip steak that remains tender & juicy. IMHO, pumped beef is better suited for well done cooking.

                        As I mentioned, filet is another option as it still remains relatively tender even when cooked well done. Having said that, I see no reason to cook $12.00 lb choice filet well done only to have all the fat melt and end up in the fire leaving the equivalent of a select steak.

                        As for multiple London Broils for a large crowd, thats just a convenience thing. EX. 1 rare, 1 med rare, 1 med & 1 well.

                        1. re: Tom34

                          Where do you get filet with any fat?

                          1. re: mcf

                            I know your not a fan of feed lot beef (and I respect that) but a top choice / low prime grain finished filet does have nice lightening bolt marbling but you won't see it in the supermarket. Occasionally, NY wholesalers get stuck with high prime beef (abundant marbling) that was slated to go to Japan and a friend who is an old school butcher (40 plus years) says, they drop their pants and he swoops in and buys a skid of it. Having never been a fan of fillet, I was converted by porterhouses that had more fat than lean . Never in my life did I eat such a delicious piece of meat.

                            1. re: Tom34

                              Porterhouse can be good, but it's just never been my fave, even before I stopped eating grain fed beef. I don't really care for NY strips or for filet. Gimme ribeye, flank, skirt, especially gimme ribeye on the bone.

                              1. re: mcf

                                I like it all but prefer the strip. A friend bones out a lot of whole ribs and I get the 7 bone rack of ribs from him & smoke them over plain lump charcoal. Very rich and delicious.

                                Don't know if you have tried it or can get it but sirloin flap meat is also very good if properly cooked. Very beefy and some nice fat too.

                                1. re: Tom34

                                  I have heard that sirloin flap is very good, have not had it, though.

                                  1. re: mcf

                                    The NAMP# is 185A....whole flap is between 2 - 3 lbs....kind of flank shaped.... slightly triangular......kind of flat....about 1 3/4 inches thick tapering to about 1 inch.

                                    I sear both sides over screaming heat which chars the outside and cooks about an 1/8 inch on each side. I then pull it, slice across the grain into 3/4" thick strips & sear both sides of the strips over screaming heat and pull at med rare.(Not good rare). Then season with S/P/G and serve.

                                    A grass finished strong beefy flavor person would probably like it.

                          2. re: Tom34

                            My point is this. You do not hide the fact you enjoy your beef and pride yourself to enjoy the best. You invite some friends over to enjoy your passion....but you deem some are worthy of the beef you choose to eat.....but deem others who enjoy their beef....unlike you, or well done, get inferior graded meat.

                            If I were your friend, I would be pissed. if you did that to me.

                            1. re: fourunder

                              High choice / low prime cooked well done is no different from select as the fat melts and goes to the fire. Having read many of your posts, you already know this!

                            2. re: Tom34

                              Wow, choice filet has not been that cheap in my area for years.

                              1. re: sandylc

                                Your right, I haven't bought individual steaks in a very long time and always have sub primal prices in my head. $12.00 p/lb is for a whole PSMO filet. Trimmed out center cut at a private butcher or high end market is probably closer to $20 - $25 p/lb. for a CAB or Sterling Silver product.

                                1. re: sandylc

                                  Do you live near a Costco?

                                  A few Costcos near me here in Georgia sell USDA Prime whole ribeyes for $8.49/pound. Woo woo!

                                  I'm not sure about the USDA Prime whole tenderloin prices though as I only buy the whole ribeyes.

                              2. re: fourunder

                                My guests deserve what I can afford. Sometimes I can feed a guest a faux filet or a mass group Walmart's steak, I do my best according the meal's budget.

                2. maybe you're seasoning too heavy on the salt which is drawing liquid to the surface of the steak.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: treb

                    I agree and would not salt before cooking to see if there is an improvement.

                    1. re: Ruthie789

                      Meat salted after cooking just doesn't taste "right" to me...it's not the same. But you might be right about the oversalting. I wonder if the OP is letting the meat rest so it can reabsorb some of the juices?

                  2. Are you buying supermarket steaks? You may be paying for more oz/lbs of fluid.

                    Try seasoning them and dry aging on a rack over a pan in the fridge for two days, then bring to room temp for a full hour before grilling.

                    Or try buying from better sources. :-)

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: mcf

                      This is exactly what we do. We buy from our local butcher, then put on rack in frig for about 2-3 days. Amazing results.

                      Your steaks are probably steaming instead of pan searing like they should be. Hence all the juices.

                      1. re: mcf

                        Nope, buying at a minimum Prime beef, generally from Whole Foods or a local specialty butcher!

                        1. re: jdwdeville

                          Then I think you need to ask questions about tenderizing they may be doing, or how long they're dry aged.

                      2. The steaks could have undergone a tenderizing operation, which name escapes me. There's a thread on it on the general topics board, but apparently most of the beef sold in US supermarkets goes through one processor, which subjects most of the beef to this tenderizing process (and, to make it worse, the process is apparently likely to spread nasty bacteria). Anyway, if the steaks you're buying have been tenderized in this manner, you would not be informed on the label and you might not be able to detect it by looking at the steak. But that procedure would break down the meat fibers which would result in the mean juices escaping as the steak cooks.

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: janniecooks

                          That's what I was thinking. "Needling," or "blading" are the terms, I think.

                          1. re: wyogal

                            Yes, thank you ! That's the term I was blanking on. Here are two links to bladed beef discussions. Though some posters on those links feel that blading had no ill effects on the steak, I would be inclined to disagree.


                            1. re: janniecooks

                              Needling a traditionally tough cut of meat such as London Broil has benefits. I have a small Jaccard tool which works very well.

                              Having said that, a traditionally tender cut of beef such as a rib or strip that grades out high choice or low prime does NOT need to be needled/bladed.

                              IMHO, the trend toward needling high value cuts is an attempt to make up for lower quality beef with minimal age.

                              1. re: Tom34

                                While rib or strip "does NOT need to be needled", it would appear that most beef steaks sold in US groceries ARE needled. It is indeed the producers/processors doing it to compensate for low quality beef. It is not listed on the package or label, and thus is thrust upon the consumer without his knowledge or consent.

                                1. re: janniecooks

                                  I buy only sub primals and I don't think I have bought a high value cut / steak from a chain store in close to 10 years. The subject has been discussed previously on Chowhound and somebody posted pictures of steaks they got at Costco and when stretched a little the blade marks were plainly visible. Very sad. I do believe that if they actually inject it with a solution like Walmart was doing they have to declare it on the label.

                          2. re: janniecooks

                            We would be surprised at how many meat cuts go through that tenderizer.

                            1. re: Ruthie789

                              Yeah, I had often thought my steaks appeared tenderized, and was shocked to be proven correct when I read the article linked in the general topics thread. Consumers ought to be given a choice, at the very least the label should state whether meat has been bladed.

                              1. re: janniecooks

                                Many folks have raised safety concerns with bladed meat, specifically transferring potentially dangerous bacteria on the surface that normal cooking methods kill to the center of the steak that often is not heated sufficiently to kill such bacteria.

                                Maybe chemicals are being used to prevent this, I don't know. Either way, IMHO bladed meat should be labeled.

                                1. re: janniecooks

                                  Totally agree, it is a sneaky little thing that goes on in the industry and it should be labelled if tenderized.

                            2. Look for ingredients on the package. There should not be any.

                              2 Replies
                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  Nope. If it is meat and meat only, there will not be an ingredients list.

                              1. Define "swimming in the juices". It's perfectly natural for juice to escape meat while is cooks and rests.

                                Is the meat too dry for you once you cut into it and put it in your mouth?

                                1. Try a independent butcher if there is one near you. Usually a little more expensive but they will usually cut a steak off a sub primal in front of you.

                                  1. Salt 10 minutes before, not 40 minutes before. Let come to temp, then salt, then cook.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. Depends on how early you're salting it. Only needs to be salted right before you sear or the salt will draw juices out of the meat. Also I agree that the steaks could be injected with a salt solution but you said you were buying good steaks.

                                      1. To those who suspect that you're salting too early... no.

                                        I salt my steaks about an hour prior to grilling. The salt draws the juices out *before* they go on the grill, and never come out dry, but tender, flavorful and juicy.


                                        21 Replies
                                        1. re: linguafood

                                          And didn't CI or AB debunk the theory that salting meat too early dries it out? Instead it just added flavor. It also draws out excess moisture allowing the meat to brown and not steam.

                                          1. re: foodieX2

                                            Yep. It's how I do it with almost all steaks, especially "lower" quality cuts. Tenderizes them, too.

                                            1. re: linguafood

                                              Interesting. Did a search and that seems to be the case. I always salted mine a few minutes before and they come out great but guess I will have to try even earlier now.

                                            2. re: foodieX2

                                              Serious Eats had a post on searing steaks in their Food Lab section. While I don't agree with all of it, salting a long time prior to cooking (more than an hour before) is preferable.

                                              Salt does draw moisture out of the surface of the steak, but if you allow it to sink back in, it very much enhances the flavour and helps develop a nice crust when seared. Either that, or do it just before.

                                              I feel marinades, like Worchestershire sauce, serve only to wet the steak, destroying any chance of getting a desirable crust. If you must, I'd use a dry rub and let it sit for a long time.

                                              1. re: Leibowitz

                                                I don't know if it applies to beef, but I did a turkey recently by salting a couple of days before. Basically, it draws the moisture out, but then it is reabsorbed into the bird to produce juicy results. It was probably the best bird I ever cooked.

                                                1. re: jbsiegel

                                                  You got lucky with the turkey; poultry brined over 24 hours sometimes turns pinkish and gets rubbery, like cheap chicken roll deli meat. But it 12-24 hours is completely wonderful.

                                                  BTW, Trader Joe's has the most delicious, perfectly pre brined organic chickens for under $3 per lb.

                                                    1. re: jbsiegel

                                                      I'm familiar with it; but I don't do three days. So far, so good. I think I may've morphed the wet brine caveat onto it, though... 24 hours is absolute max for that.

                                                      1. re: mcf

                                                        Oh, god no. Don't do more than a couple of hours. Tried salting a couple days ahead, just for the hell of it. The steaks turned grey. On the inside (no, not well-done. Grey.). I cooked them to rare and they had the correct texture, but they were grey. It was off putting.

                                                        That part was terrible advice

                                                        1. re: Leibowitz

                                                          I've had wonderful results with two days of salting while air drying in the fridge. Nice med/rare inside, great char crust outside. Never had a grey steak yet. Done it quite often.

                                                          But I think you replied to where we were discussing brining poultry.

                                              2. re: foodieX2

                                                Yes, Cook's Illustrated does say to salt at least 40 minutes before the steak is cooked. It draws moisture out of the meat then that moisture becomes a brine that is, then, reabsorbed back into the meat. This is a good thing.

                                              3. re: linguafood

                                                I have salt in the rub I sometimes use, a recipe by Ann Burrell, and I leave it on for two days in the fridge on a very thick ribeye, for example.

                                                  1. re: linguafood


                                                    She's right; 2-3 days is better. I use 2" thick bone in grass fed ribeye. Quick sear on each side over direct high heat, then indirect medium heat to finish....

                                                    1. re: mcf

                                                      Thx, that sounds like something I'd like to try.

                                                      1. re: linguafood

                                                        Even if you find a rub you like more in terms of flavor, the technique and time drying in the fridge really concentrates flavors.

                                                        1. re: mcf

                                                          MCF - That recipe calls for applying the dry rub and then wrapping in plastic wrap for 1-3 days. Upthread you mention dry aging the steaks on a wire rack for 2 days. Are you doing both or are you applying the rub and then putting them on a wire rack with no plastic wrap? Thanks.

                                                          1. re: EM23

                                                            I only do the air drying. I use the rub recipe for ingredients only. Sorry to be so unclear!

                                                            You get the typical dry brine reaction, first it looks very wet and puddly on the surface, then it reabsorbs, then it gets dryer for a day or two, depending how long you do it. I place it on a shallow pan from my stove top smoker, on the rack so air circulates on both sides.

                                                            1. re: mcf

                                                              Gotcha! I salt steaks just before cooking and they always come out great, but I am going to try the 2 day air drying next time to see what it adds to the party.

                                                              1. re: EM23

                                                                Let us know what you think! I was worried with grass fed and finished steak because of the lower fat content, but cooked on lower heat to med/rare over indirect heat after brief searing, it was really buttery tender, oddly enough.

                                                1. Kenji at Serious Eats did steak salting tests and he found that that salting less than 3 minutes before cooking, or 40 minutes or more before cooking, yielded the best results. It's all about osmosis.

                                                  "Cooking the steak anywhere between three and 40 minutes after salting is the worst way to do it." http://www.seriouseats.com/2011/03/th...

                                                  5 Replies
                                                  1. re: EM23

                                                    Thanks. I was too lazy to go get that one....;-)

                                                    1. re: sandylc

                                                      I have it pinned, so it is always handy:)
                                                      Can't wait for his book to come out.

                                                        1. re: sandylc

                                                          It was to be published last year, but now SE says that it is coming out this year.

                                                  2. You're describing a well cooked steak and a proven procedure, I wouldn't worry about it... When the steak rests it relaxes, pulls in what it wants, and lets some loose, for you to dip garlic bread into...

                                                    I usually do 5 minutes per side and 5 minutes in the oven, and I get a nice medium rare, but you're OK... There's water in a steak, but as long as you let it rest that's the best you can do... I salt 5 or 10 minutes before cooking because steaks are not that thick----- a well-seasoned 'crust to interior' ratio usually works out... Roasts I'd do longer so the center gets some flavor...

                                                    1. jdwdeville, your "swimming in juices" experience is almost identical to mine. If you have the opportunity, could you check your next steaks for signs of being bladed -- possibly similar to this, as shown in my pix on this thread http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8859... -- I visualized them only by "bending" the steak, making the blading cuts open up. The cuts are surprisingly (to me) long, but such a small width that they disappear when the steak is flat.

                                                      My theory is that the blading process reduces the retention of juices in the steak, and also that it creates innumerable little "channels" for the juices to escape while cooking, thus defeating the entire sear-to-retain-juices process.

                                                      In addition to the juice-while-cooking issue, I've also found that the "mouth feel" of the problem steaks to be significantly different, and now putting 2+2 together, I'm pretty much certain the blading is to blame.

                                                      I would describe a "good" steak as releasing a burst of juices with the knife cut and, more importantly, in the mouth. I guess an analogy would be how a slice of orange releases juice -- the slice can be hours old, but juices inside are still there. But the bladed steaks don't have that same juice release and because of that, the mouth feel is quite different. While the steak seems tender, at the same time it's more dense, it takes more chewing for each bite, and there's never the burst of juices.

                                                      I've read that blading is used to make lesser quality meats seem more tender, I'm baffled as to why a Prime quality steak should need treatment. And, of course, there's the whole food safety aspect: http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2013...

                                                      Since my earlier posts on the other threads I've bought non-bladed rib eyes at several different stores / butchers and not had the swimming in juices experience with them.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: axial

                                                        I will check next time I buy one, however I do pretty much only buy beef from specialty butchers or Whole Foods at the very least...

                                                        1. re: fourunder

                                                          That doesn't look like much of a sear. Just some grill marks.

                                                          1. re: mcf

                                                            And if you actually read the thread, rather than just look at the pictures, then you would know I stated I would use a hotter pan, pull sooner and sear longer.

                                                            Whether you prefer a flat pan or grill pan, the reverse sear method and process is exactly the same.....you finish at the end.

                                                            1. re: fourunder

                                                              I love the way my steaks come out, so U wasn't sufficiently motivated.

                                                              1. re: mcf

                                                                the suggestion wasn't meant for you .....but I was sufficiently motivated to provide it to the OP.

                                                                1. re: fourunder

                                                                  See, yannow, there I was, thinking this was a public forum.

                                                        2. I, too, was coming to suggest the reverse sear method. I watch an America's Test Kitchen on it and it changed my life. I regularly have amazing, juicy steaks at home now with out any failures.