Are You Neglecting Your Meat?

I'll open this by stating that my wife and I are pretty ambitious amateur cooks, and so we're always on the lookout for new recipes and techniques. I'm in charge of most things involving charcoal, smoke, pan sauces, and/or cast iron. Melissa is in charge of most everything else.

Even our newly minted 13-year-old is getting into the action. Sunday night, not only did he make a near-restaurant quality Chicken Parm with minimal assistance, but for dessert he also made a green tea panna cotta. And this proud dad is happy to tell you the texture was perfect.

So it was with some interest that I came across a Food Network item on the "reverse-sear method," which they promise will make "the best steak you will ever eat."

It turns out the reverse sear is just sous vide without the sous vide equipment, and also without any of the sous vide convenience. Basically you bake a steak at 225 to your desired doneness, then sear it on cast iron. I'm sure it works, but it's also a lot more time and effort than just teaching yourself how to gauge a steak's doneness by the finger test. It's been almost two decades since I last overdid a steak, and my preferred method involves nothing fancier than a Weber charcoal grill with an aftermarket cast-iron grate.

FLASHBACK: Charcoal is Better.

But that Food Network item did nonetheless have one bit of essential advice: Season Aggressively. The Kitchen co-host Geoffrey Zakarian says, “When we’re talking about seasoning like a pro, nobody puts enough salt and pepper on a steak. It’s basically salt crusted.”

I must have been in my late 20s before I figured this out, but it's so true. A properly seasoned steak should be almost invisible underneath all the salt and pepper. I've seen people too many times who, if they pre-season at all, sprinkle a little salt and pepper on top and call it good. But no. Not only do the salt and pepper add to and intensify the flavor, but they help form that perfect crust on the outside. For more tender (but slightly less-flavorful) cuts like tenderloin and ribeye, I usually add a generous helping of both onion and garlic powder before the salt & pepper go on.

Same goes for dry rubs: More is better, provided of course that you haven't applied so much that most of it just falls off, wasted.

Speaking of which, a couple years ago I received this amazing Sriracha Kaffir Lime rub as a stocking stuffer -- only to discover after I'd run out that Williams-Sonoma wasn't making it anymore. So I did a little experimenting and now I make it myself. It's too good not to share, and it's so easy you won't want to skip it.

You'll need:

6 tablespoons McCormick Culinary Sriracha Seasoning.

3 tablespoons Double Cut Crushed Red Pepper flakes.

1 tablespoon Dried Kaffir Lime Leaves Flakes.

Mix everything well in a small tin or tupperware container, and stash in the pantry for spicy steak emergencies. That's it. If you want to make a bigger batch, feel free. Just stick to the 6-3-1 ratio.

A couple hours before grilling, or overnight if possible, give the rub a good shake to undo any settling, then apply almost a tablespoon's worth to each side of a large ribeye or strip. I haven't tried it yet on a hanger or flank steak, but I bet they'd take to it deliciously.

Another thing you can do is apply the rub to multiple steaks, seal-a-meal them, then stash them in the freezer. Take one out 24 hours before grilling, and let it slowly defrost -- and self-season -- on the countertop or in the fridge.

 

ASIDE: If it's raining too hard or if like me you sometimes get caught in one of Monument Hill's famous wind storms, add a little oil to a heavy cast iron skillet and do it indoors.

 

Grill rare-to-medium rare, let it rest five minutes or so, slice and serve. You'll end up with a steak just spicy and garlicky enough to keep your salivary glands telling you to EAT MOAR BEEFS. Pair it with an inexpensive and stupidly full-bodied Cabernet, or with the cold beer of your choice.

It's also a great way to add much-needed flavor to the dreaded boneless-skinless chicken breast, and it makes a nice pork chop, too.

Here's what a ribeye looks like, just finished resting, with nothing fancier or more complicated than the Sriracha Lime rub and my ancient Weber:

Eat and drink well, my friends -- but season your meat first.