The word "steak’" has the ability to conjure up several images: Fire, charcoal, blood and sizzling fat - these words can make the mouth of any true carnivore water. There’s also a word that may not seem like it relates to steak, but it’s the key to the perfect finished product.
To grill up the perfect piece of meat, you need to know the science behind it. Achieving that perfect medium rare, with a delicious browned exterior and precise seasoning is essentially a scientific formula. My family and friends have dubbed me “King of the Grill,” and I’m about to tell you the secrets behind my fame.
The first goal you need to reach in the quest for perfect steak is a balanced and flavourful seasoning blend. This not only determines what the crust of your steak is going to taste like, it will also affect how well you are able to sear the meat. Getting a proper sear is what seals in the cut’s precious juices, and is how you achieve the perfect textural contrast. The right amount of salt, enhanced by flavours such as black pepper, chili powder and espresso (my favourites), will extract the natural sugars of the meat. These sugars are then browned, or "caramelized," and develop a crisp crust with intense flavour.
After I crustify my steak, (usually rib eye; I like the richness that comes from its heavy fat marbling,) I turn the heat down to low and place it on the top rack. Indirect heat is the only way to cook the interior of the meat slowly enough to gauge its temperature effectively. My method for hitting that gorgeous dark pink medium-rare is old school. I press the tip of my middle finger into my thumb. The firmness of the ball of my hand is the firmness that I want to feel when I touch the center of the steak.
The final and potentially most important step in this process is allowing the steak to "rest." When meat is taken off the heat, the interior juices are still agitated. Cutting into it too early will release these juices, drying out the meat. Allowing these juices to settle into the proteins of the steak will ensure tenderness and moisture, with that ever-evasive but wonderful deep pink colour.
Happy grilling, carnivores!
Chef, writer, musician and wild child, an avid adventurer in the world of gastronomy. Alex has a passion for food, and expresses that passion through cooking, writing and teaching. His body is a temple, built on brioche, burgers and bourbon. He refuses to serve a steak well done.