22 May 2012

On steak

Grilling steak

Last weekend, I popped into the Whole Foods in Cambridge. They're my go-to source for dry-aged steak. The guy in front of me at the butcher counter was also buying himself some beautiful dry-aged meat. He was having a particularly interesting conversation with the butcher:
"So, how long do I have to cook this on a grill for it to be done?"
"Well, that depends on kind of a lot of things..."
"But, how long? Say, 8 minutes a side?"
"Well, it depends on the thickness of the steak, the temperature of the grill, how well you want it cooked..."
"I use propane. How long you think that takes?"
"I really don't feel comfortable giving people times to cook..."
It was pretty painful to watch. This poor (young) butcher didn't want to tell a customer he was asking the wrong question, and the customer wouldn't take no for an answer.

Steak really made me nervous when I first started grilling it. The difference between an overcooked and undercooked steak is a matter of a few moments on the grill, unlike a brisket, which gives you hours to make your decisions. And steak is expensive. You ruin a couple of dry-aged steaks, you've just wasted $30 worth of meat.

In general, you need to develop steak-sense. You need to practice. You need to recognize how a steak feels when it is medium. How it feels when it is medium-rare. Make a fist. Poke the muscle between your thumb and your hand on that fist. That's medium-rare. Softer is rare. Firmer is medium.

Mrs. Dude likes her steaks medium to medium-well. I put a lot of steaks back on the grill for her to firm them up, before I learned to recognize a medium-well steak without cutting into it.

Practice. Poke. Get a feel for how firm they need to be. This is a good steak recipe to start with. But no one can give you precise times or temperatures. You just need to practice. So go ahead, eat steak more often.

It's not all bad...

Dry-aged steak in Cambridge:

Whole Foods Market
340 River Street, Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 876-6990 ‎
Mon-Sun 8 a.m. - 10 p.m.

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Dave said...

I don't know how many times I've heard a version of that same conversation. Although I tend to cook more by temp than touch, it's good to know what medium-rare feel like. Nice post (and good-looking steaks)!

Bbq Dude said...

Yeah, I've heard several versions of this conversation, but this particular one was the most dramatically wrong. If I were a different sort of person, I would have tried to explain to this guy why he was asking the wrong question. Instead, I post his question to the internets, hoping that someone finds it helpful.

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