Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Great Steak Out

For Christmas I received a Baking Steel, a simple but outstanding kitchen tool that has revolutionized my thoughts on pizza and bread making. The Baking Steel is a 1/8th inch piece of steel that mimics a pizza kitchen's deck oven.  You place the steel in a 550 degree oven for thirty minutes, then flip your broiler on high for ten minutes. Slide the pizzas in, maybe turn them once, keep the broiler on, and in five minutes you have a pizza worthy of an Instagram.

Which is a very long winded way to segue into steaks. Now steaks are a great gambit for a restaurant. Steak, filet especially, is a default order for many restaurant goers, which means higher prices. Plus a good piece of beef needs little more than salt and pepper, meaning there is very little prep involved. On the flip side this creates a popular refrain of, "I don't eat steak in a restaurant because I can do better at home." How to cook the steak at home is a source of endless debate on message boards such as Tigerdroppings and...well that one in particular.

While the above is not necessarily true, a good steakhouse is using a much more powerful stove, oven, or broiler than you are. Commercial steakhouse broilers hover in the 1400 degree and above stratosphere, a temperature you just can't replicate at home. Whether or not this is the ideal temperature to cook steaks is a debate for another day. Restaurants can often get better beef than you or I. A cook who cooks one hundred steaks a day will have a better feel for his grill and the meat, and on and on.

So until recently the jury has been out on whether home cooking a steak is always better than a restaurant steak. That is until I applied the technique of the pizza steel to the steak arts. In lieu of using the pizza steel, I used a cast iron grill pan. Pop it in the oven for thirty minutes at 550 degrees, than switch the broiler on high for another ten. The steak is surrounded by high heat and the grill pan allows you get a fantastic crust.

Medium rare skirt steak with a mint and lime tapenade. Nice tapenade.

You season your cut of meat as you so desire. The pictures in this post are of a skirt steak which got a quick sprinkle of light brown sugar, salt, and pepper. After letting the seasoning sit on the meat for thirty minutes, blot the meat dry on both sides with a paper towel. Onto the hot grill pan. Close oven door. Wait. Wait. Flip the meat. Close oven door. Wait. Wait. Take out when cooked to desired doneness. Let rest for at least half the time you cooked it for. Below is a rare piece just begging for some coarse sea salt.

Obviously the thicker your cut the longer you want to cook it. Now this technique does require you to learn to test the doneness of meat by touch. If you are on the internet and have read this far, I bet you could figure it out on your own. Steakhouses you are now officially on blast. Except for you La Boca. And you Mr. John's. Can't replicate what you do. Yet.


Andris Lagsdin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andris Lagsdin said...

Hi Rene,

Awesome post! I especially enjoyed reading your plug of the Baking Steel.

This is a fine way to cook a steak! Bravo!

willifred said...

Those are some tight shots. For a minute I thought that was Flap. Then I saw the fork for scale. Flap has turned into my go to steak.

Celeste said...

Broiler + cast iron pan is okay. Better is BGE at 750 degrees + cast iron pan.
I want to see the pizza...

Rene said...


Pizza coming. It requires its own separate crust. I found it to be the single best pizza created at home. Lahey's crust + baking steel.

I know tell all my friends I dont order pizza at a restaurant cause I make it better at home.

Anonymous said...

Similar to my at home strategy. I have found though if you have a good broiler pan (which helps catch and contain the excess grease) and a good gas broiler it only takes a few minutes to heat up enough to get a good crust formed on your steak. Key is adjusting the oven rack to the proper distance from the flames to avoid grease flare ups! I figure if Peter Luger's uses the broiler on its steaks it has to be the way to go. Also really like the cast iron skillet to oven for finishing approach, but if you don't have good venting at home your house will smell for a few days.

Rohan2Reed said...

Nice technique. I will try that with a thicker cut of meat here soon. And solid TD shout out! :bow:

Rene said...

Forgot to mention, I position the rack on which I cook about 8 inches from the broiler.

Brian C said...

You know I can't leave this one alone. There are only 5 ways to cook a steak.

1. Hot ass charcoal grill
2. Hot ass charcoal grill
3. Hot ass charcoal grill
4. Hot ass charcoal grill
5. Black iron skillet (only if it's raining).

High choice/prime NY strip.

That is all.

Rene said...


Don't disagree with you that a smoking hot grill is a fantastic way to cook a steak, but not sure it is the best way.

And it was raining.

superioressay said...

Really envious of the gift that you receive - for me, aside from splurging on my about-to-be born baby, I love to receive and get kitchen tools that are 'Top Chef' calibre.

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