Steaks: A Love Story

I’m a low-carber, on purpose, for weight loss, which I think I’ve enumerated here a couple of times. The low-carb lifestyle works for me, as my primary foodlust includes wings, burgers, steaks, and cheeses.

In my search for the perfect steak, I’ve done my best to consume as much as I can, of both the meat itself, and knowledge about the cuts, the preparation, and miscellany related to meat-craft. BBQ and slow-roasting and smoking are a difficult thing to do at home. They require equipment that is difficult to obtain ($$), hard to maintain, and the craft itself is exceptionally time consuming. I’m happy to be party to excellent BBQ, and will do so at any occasion. I make no secret that my favorite is Black Hog, in Frederick, MD. Their ribs are sublime, and their mustard sauce is the only proper mustard sauce I’ve had north of Columbia, SC.

Steak is an interesting topic to me. Couple of things that matter, and you should know about steak, in no particular order:

Filet Mignon and Tenderloin are not the best Cut

Filet Mignon and Tenderloin are basically the same thing, as the Filet is taken from the smaller end of the tenderloin. This cut is often praised as the most tender piece, and heralded as a lean cut, with not much fat. The cut is served at weddings, banquets, even cruise ships. People love the filet.

However, filet is no more flavorful than a basic sirloin. In fact, often times a top sirloin will have a cap of fat that adds much needed flavor to a steak. Perhaps the most basic understanding should be that steak tastes good for two reasons: fat content and salt content. Salt can do a lot for a poor meat choice. Fat is the basic building block on which taste stands.

But the texture, Jesse! Yes, yes, the texture. I have never understood the fascination with tender meat, I’ll admit that. When I eat a piece of steak, there is a primal feeling, and tearing flesh adds to that.

Fat is awesome

In the US, the USDA grades beef at the request of the cattle farm. Now, this isn’t required, but since the grade can fetch much higher prices, its often desirable to do so. USDA rankings (for steak, you’re not going to get canner meat for a steak) go from Select, to Choice, to Prime. There are cuts that are above Prime, such as the oft-famed Waygu beef that is beyond-ridiculously fat marbled.

Waygu (literally Japanese for Cattle) come from Japan. No actual Japanese beef gets into this country, and though cattle from Japan have been imported, it’s still not proper Waygu. There is a marbling index that is present in Japan that is really intense, check it out:

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So, odds are you haven’t had Waygu. You haven’t had a Waygu burger. The Japanese Hibachi restaurant “Kobe” has absolutely nothing to do with intensely marbled beef, though I’m certain they’d love for you to believe that you were. Tajima beef that is of the highest quality are fed only rice straw, corn, barley, and other grains, and only fresh, clean water. These are seriously spoiled cows.

The takeaway here is that fat is awesome, and the more fat, the more intense the flavor. Filet being a lean cut makes it inferior, from the start.

Because fat is awesome, Ribeye is awesome

Ribeye is “the steak-eater’s steak.” Its often nicely marbled, it can withstand high-heat without turning into rubber. 

Because fat is awesome, grass fed steak is not

“But Jesse,” you’d postulate, “Isn’t grass-fed beef better for the environment?” Some sources point to no, and it stands to reason, as whether corn or grass fed, a beef cow’s job is to become fat for slaughter and butcher. If corn does the job much faster, versus grass taking longer, or requiring more land, then there are loads of things that could factor into this not-so-black-and-white-like-a-cow matter. But we’re not talking about sustainability or nature, we’re talking about steak, and flavor. Grass promotes a leaner cow. Leaner means less fat. What did we learn about fat?

Sauce is a weird way to make garbage meat “better”

Au poivre. Oscar. Persillade. Blue-cheese-crumbled. A1. Worcestershire. All of these sauces hide a steak’s true flavor. I’m of the belief that there is one true sauce for steak of any variety: Salted butter, slightly browned.

OK SO, you’ve gone on at length, Jesse, whats the point?

Steak is very easy to cook. 

Get your steak out of the refrigerator. Set it on the counter on paper towels, and make sure its dry. Don’t get garbage cuts, get ribeye or New York, at LEAST select, and at least an inch thick. Inch and a half is fine too (thicker than that is outside the scope of this method. If you’re buying that kind of beef, you better know what to do with it). Let it sit there for 20 minutes to bring up meat’s resting temperature. 

At this point, I take a sheet of tinfoil and cover the stove and surrounding area. We’re gonna get messy. 

Get a pan, about 12”, and put your stove on about 6-7 (of 10). Get the pan hot. Drop in half a stick of butter, and when it melts completely, generously throw salt on both sides of your steak. Put that thing in the pan. Wait for 4 minutes. Flip. Wait for 4 minutes. Turn the stove to the lowest setting, and remove your steak. Put it on a plate, and grab one of your sheets of aluminum foil and cover it on the plate. 

Optionally, Take about a teaspoon of granulated garlic and drop it into your butter. You can still it around until your beefy butter absorbs the garlic. Uncover your steak. Dump the butter over it. Enjoy with vegetables. Thats really all it takes.

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