During the week, it is seriously crazy around here, like any household today juggling work, school, and everything else that gets thrown at us all on a regular basis. It is VERY easy to get into the habit of finding any excuse not to make supper when you get home at night, and believe me even those of us that LIKE to cook are not immune from this tendency. Cold cereal or a fried egg sandwich certainly have their regular turn as a substitute for a real weeknight meal in this house. If there was a Pizza Hut closer than 60 miles away I would have it on speed dial.
After an undisclosed period of not sitting down to the table in the evenings for a family meal, guilt finally motivates me to reward the family with a meal that actual requires setting plates and silverware on the table. Especially following a weekend of the family having to endure another cake-making project taking over the kitchen, it is nice to reward them with some grilled steaks. Never mind that it happened to be about four degrees and snowing. Seriously, that shouldn’t stop you from rolling out the grill (unless the drifts on the driveway are actually large enough to physically prevent you from rolling out the grill). We had a friend over a few weeks ago who reminded me that there is no law against grilling year-round, and my mouth has been watering for a fire-grilled hunk of meat ever since.
It wasn’t actually snowing when we started this project, but as you can see by the time the grill was pre-heated it was snowing right along. One benefit of this versus grilling in the summer is that the beer you are drinking while you grill stays nice and cold. This is as close up as you get to see my grill so you can’t actually see that it is long overdue for a good scrub. Priorities, people – it gets 550 degrees in there which I consider to be “self-cleaning.”
Several years of practice and a very particular husband (who is adamantly anti-marinade and anti-frou-frou anything) have taught me a few things about grilling a perfect steak. If you’re still reading at this point, then you get to share in a few of our secrets (which probably aren’t so secret but probably are things you may not always think about):
1. Make sure your steaks are thoroughly thawed out and if possible even let them sit out of the fridge for a bit until they are almost room temperature. They grill much more quickly, cook evenly and won’t “seize up” (like when the sides curl all up and you get a little crater on top) when they hit the hot grill. This requires a little pre-planning on our part as that same husband is also anti-microwave and we do not own one of those abominable contraptions, but that is a topic for another day.
2. Preheat your grill. Also known as the self-cleaning cycle on my grill. If you haven’t yet sprung for a top-of-the line grill that gets screaming hot, like me (it’s on my list, but hey I’m cheap) then basically just fire that puppy up on high and let it heat up while you make the side dish, set the table, change a diaper, whatever – until the temperature dial is all the way to the right (assuming the temp dial still works on your cheap grill). If you do have a nice grill, then look for it to hit that 550+ range. You want the snowflakes to sizzle when they hit the outside.
3. Kosher salt, fresh-ground pepper and good-quality beef are the three legs of the mouthwatering-steak stool. Check out the marbling on these babies. Whoever came up with the term “marbling” is a marketing genius. That beautiful intermingling of white fat is what will give every bite of these steaks a flavor like you don’t get from any run-of-the-mill Wal-Mart steak or definitely from any piece of chicken. Use a liberal amount of kosher salt (or a large-grain sea salt – the large grains are important) and grind a good amount of pepper on both sides. The kosher salt will form that yummy crust on the outside when it hits the grill, as opposed to a fine-grained salt which just dissolves into the meat. Don’t season your steaks until just before they are ready to hit the grill.
4. Now for the fun part. When your grill is preheated, lay the steaks on the grill over the flame and don’t move them. You want nice pretty grill marks. Sometimes I will rotate a steak 90 degrees to get the nice criss-crossed grill marks, but you really have to babysit them to do that and usually there are three little people vying for my time louder than the T-Bones. Still, you can’t leave them alone too long, because this really doesn’t take more than about five minutes total if you are doing it right. Start at about 2-3 minutes on the first side, with the grill still on high and the cover closed. If you try to lift the steak and it doesn’t release from the grate easily, then let it be for another 30-60 seconds until it does. Flip onto side 2, give it another couple minutes (probably less than the first side since it’s already starting to cook in the center), and just when you start to see the red juices seeping out of the top side you are DONE. Also don’t use a fork to poke the steaks when you turn them – that releases the yummy juices and you want those to stay inside. Use a spatula or tongs with rubber grips.
5. Let the steaks rest on a plate before cutting into them. This may be the most difficult step because at that point your mouth will be watering like a rabid dog’s from the smell of that grilled meat. I will admit that the resting period doesn’t always last as long as the Food Network will tell you it should in this household. Remember, sometimes it’s been a few days since these poor people had a decent meal.
Here is what you get for your efforts.
If you are one of “those people” that doesn’t like a medium rare or rare steak, I won’t judge you, but I will highly recommend that you reevaluate your opinion and at least give it a try. What I always shoot for is the hot reddish-pink center, which is what you will get if you follow the steps above including letting it rest. The meat is hot when it comes off the grill and will continue to cook assuming your ravenous family hasn’t already devoured it. There is no such thing as a juicy, flavorful well-done steak.
These T-Bones barely lasted long enough for me to take a picture. The kids especially like the T-Bones so they can gnaw on the bones, but I am a sucker for the fillet side of these bad-boys which you can cut with a fork and it melts in your mouth. The fillets (small side to the right of the “T”) were especially good-sized and flavorful on these steaks.
Also I don’t mean to imply that you can’t get good (enough) beef at Wal-Mart. I am sure their product is perfectly safe and they have probably opened up a whole new market for our industry. However, I guarantee it is not going to taste like the beef you can get direct from a local ranch, it probably has about 2,000 miles on it before it gets to your house, and for sure it makes the owners of Wal-Mart even richer instead of supporting your local economy. If you kept track of the price of every retail meat purchase you make, I bet you would also find that local beef is actually more affordable when bought by the whole, half or quarter. For those of us that live in a rural area that also makes it much more accessible.
As you can see, a better-than-restaurant-quality meal is possible at home on a weeknight. Throw together a simple spinach leaf and tomato salad and throw some spuds in the oven to bake (those are potatoes for those not from Montana) or any of a million other simple sides, and sit down at the table with your family for a meal. Happy grilling!