Steak. It's Tasty. It's Cow. It's the American Way.
Just The Facts
- The world's largest steak was served in Milan, Italy in 2008. That badboy was 305 square feet of bovine goodness.
- Woke up this mornin' feelin like P Diddy? You can drop $33 an OUNCE on Japanese Wagyu beef. If all your friends have expensive taste, you can pony up $2,800 for 20 pounds of Wagyu beef from Craftsteak NY.
- The word "steak" is from the old Norse word "stiek." Hell yeah, Vikings ate steak. They cooked it (this is true) on pointed sticks. Then they burned your village down.
- Porterhouses are named for coach stops in the 1800's, where you could stop for a steak and ale.
Beef. It's What's For Dinner.
Steak is more than a classic main dish; it's substance, it's style, it's art. Steak is the Chuck Norris of food.
The substance, or meat of the matter if you will, of steak depends a lot on how it is cut and then prepared. Any beefophile* can tell you that different parts of the cow make very different types of steaks. Here is a rough guide to steak:
- Rib parts. This is where the prime rib, rib steak and ribeye come from. Ribeyes are prized for the fat that is marbled throughout, giving it a tender, juicy quality. If the ribeye has the bone left in, it is simply known as a rib steak.
- Loin (try to forget "loin"="crotch"). The loin is behind the rib section. The loin often produces the most tender cuts of meat. Because you get what you pay for in this world, tender also means expensive. The tenderloin is a common cut from this region-- the texture is soft and buttery, but some people don't like the mild flavor. Ladies often like a filet mignon, which is bacon-wrapped tenderloin. It's so cute, so tasty, so French sounding. Need to impress the father-in-law? Try a NY strip. The strip is very flavorful and is normally evenly cut, making it easy to grill. The T-Bone, so named for the bone shaped like a you-guessed-it, has a tenderloin on one side and a strip steak on the other. T-bones are a good all-purpose choice because there's something for everyone there. T-Bones with a large tenderloin are called a Portherhouse.
- Sirloin steaks came from behind the loin. These cuts have a lot of flavor but are firmer. Grilling these to past medium may result in a tougher steak than you'd ideally want.
- At the hind leg are the round steaks. These steaks, like top round or eye of round aren't tender enough to grill. Stick to less manly cooking methods, like slow roasting with a good marinade, for these cuts.
- *Yes, beefophile is a word. It wasn't when we started this topic, but it's on the Internet now so it exists.
The style here is the quality of your meat and how you cook it. Since the dawn of man, steaks were meant to be cooked on manly grills, with manly tools, while drinking a manly beverage. Here's how it goes:
- Pick the best cuts you can afford. "USDA Prime" is the best option, if you can. Otherwise, Choice or Select will work. If you choose to buy aged meats, don't marinate. Just sprinkle with salt and pepper. Don't poke holes in your steak-- like lots of good things in life, you want it to remain hot and juicy as long as possible.
- If you marinate the meat, do this in the fridge. Spice rubs are another nice way to go.
- Preheat the grill for at least 20 minutes. You want a nice char mark on the meat from the second it touches the grill
- Some people advocate grilling quickly on high (less than 2-3 minutes a side) while others like a lower heat for up to 5 or 6 minutes a side. As a rule, low heat is better for thick cuts, while you can get away with higher heat for thin steaks. Marinades and fat drippings can cause the fire to flare up, be prepared with a water bottle to douse unwanted flames.
- Really want to impress? Lift the steak half way through cooking time for that side, and rotate it 45 degrees. This gives the perfect hatchmarks that scream "awesome food."
- Always let steak rest for a few minutes before cutting. Keep those juices flowing to the center, not out onto your serving platter.
- Serve steak with potatoes. This is America, for God's sake.
Steak is mega-business. The Food Network holds an annual steak cookoff (in 2010 it was in Oklahoma). The prize? $2,500 for the best grilled steak. And that's just for the technique. Consider this: an Omaha steak, which is good quality Midwestern beef, will run you $180 for 8 Porterhouse Steaks. Each steak is 24 oz, so you're looking at $22 and change for the piece of meat. An Omaha Porterhouse (or one of its non-Midwestern bretheren) will cost you at least $35 at most decent restaurants. For a top-notch place, like Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, it's $80.50. Sure, they may give you a slice of fried onion on top, but we're talking a LOT of money for the restaurants that deal in high-end steak artistry. The way-out-there wealthy snobs who can use dollar bills as Kleenex? They can easily drop over $1,000 a meal for four Wagyu steaks, sides and a drink, especially when the cost of the meat itself in some Japanese restaurants is $150 for the steak alone. Check out the links for some of the delights you'd have to sell your car to afford.
The Final Thought on Steak:
The only time to eat diet food is while you are waiting for the steak to cook."
Julia Child (1912-2004)