Sunday, April 18, 2010

Learned a new trick

As I mentioned on Facebook and Twitter, I've learned a new trick with steak that produces remarkable results with almost zero effort. I've done it twice, and both times the steaks have been wonderfully tender and flavourful. Moreso than if I had done what I usually do.

What did I learn and where did I learn it? I'll address part two first. I stumbled upon a web blog called Steamy Kitchen a while back. In particular I came across this page. "How to turn cheap "Choice" steak into Gucci "Prime" steak." I absolutely love a good steak, so it sounded interesting and I read on. What I read was so crazy simple it seemed a little exaggerated. In a nutshell you take your steak, cover it in Kosher or non-iodized sea salt, let it sit for a while, rinse it off (yep, run it under water), dry it and cook it. That's it. Easy peasy cool and breezy. I was skeptical. But wait, there was science content.

It turns out that salt relaxes the protein strands, allowing them to trap the juices when heated instead of tightening up and squeezing them out. That's not to say that there is no moisture loss. Just salting the meat draws out some moisture. But, like a good dry-aged steak, this method allows for the partial breakdown of the protein, which creates a juicy and tender end result.

We tried it a little while ago with a couple of rib eye steaks, finishing them with some garlic butter. Very nice. But last night was the true test. We had 3 New York strip steaks. I salted two of them and left the third plain (I even forgot to salt it before it hit the grill, which is what I always used to do). I cooked all three for about the same length of time (the unsalted one got a bit less because I nearly forgot to get it on the grill). Oddly, when I did the "finger test" to check for doneness the two salted steaks were much more yielding than the unsalted one. But off the grill and after they'd rested, the unsalted one was slightly rarer, but also tougher. And when we tasted them, there was no question. The texture of the salted steaks was far superior. Soft, buttery, juicy. The other one was familiar, in that it was what we've always been used to in a New York strip. But it was a far cry from the other two. It was merely sufficient, while the salted steaks were wonderful.

In reading, it looks like it's possible to add some flavour during the salting phase, like fresh garlic. I'm going to experiment. But to really try this salt method out I am going to have to try it on a couple of top round steaks, or some other such tougher cut. I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be a beautiful summer.

*ETA - You can find this post linked on Around My Family Table's Thursday Tip Day

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