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Hi, I'm Jaden, a professional recipe developer, food columnist and food photographer specializing in fast, fresh and easy recipes for the home cook. Most of my recipes are modern Asian! About meFast, fresh & easy recipes for the home cook.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Steak Recipe: Turning Cheap “Choice” Steak into Gucci “Prime” Steak

Turn Cheap Steak into Prime Steak Recipe

How to Make the Most Tender, Flavorful Steak Recipe

If you are a steak-lover, I hope that the title of this post + luscious photo is enticing enough for you to read though the entire article. Because I promise you that it’s worth it. Even if you don’t eat steak, this is a must-read…as you can impress the hell outta your carnivorean friends (and sometimes, when you’re a vegetarian in a herd of carnivores…it would just be nice to have that extra, “dude….you didn’t know that about steak???!” in your pocket.)

My entire family (including the 2 yr old kid) just adores any type of steak recipe…you could probably classify us as professional steak-eaters. In fact, it is my husband’s life-long quest to hone his grilling technique so that our steaks at home turn out charred crusty on the outside and perfectly medium-rare on the inside. With grill marks for show, of course. Seriously, we are too cheap to eat out and would rather cook a nice steak recipe at home. For the past 4 months, we have been experimenting with how to get full, juicy, beefy flavor of a ribeye with butter-knife tenderness of a filet mignon without feel like getting ripped off buying Prime cuts. And after 4 months of eating steak 2x a week, I think we’ve figured it out. So, my friends, I am offering you a very juicy secret, one that will turn an ordinary “Choice” cut of steak into a gucci “Prime” cut (And yes, I know what “Choice” and “Prime” means – it’s the marbling. The salting doesn’t affect fat content – I’m using those terms as a figure of speech and something people can relate to)

Do you know the joy of buying Choice and eating Prime? It’s like buying a Hyundai and getting a free mail-in rebate for a BMW upgrade!!!

The Steak Secret: salt your steaks 1 hour before cooking for every inch of thickness.

Here’s two nice pieces of regular ‘ol supermarket steak. They’re about 1.25 inches thick, so I’ll let them salt for about 1.25 hours.

Season liberally with kosher salt on both sides with kosher or sea salt. If you are used to using regular table salt, this may look like a ton of salt, but just remember that kosher and sea salt flakes are 2-3x the size of table salt.

And then just let it sit on your counter.

After 15 minutes, it will look like this — you can see how the meat’s water is starting to come up to the surface — and that some of the salt is still on the surface of the steak.

After 30 minutes, you’ll see more water:

After almost an hour:

And now 1.25 hours – see all that water?  You can also see that there’s still salt on the surface of the steak.

The next step is to discard the water, rinse the steak really well to rid of all the salt. Pat very dry. Very very dry with clean paper towels so that absolutely no moisture is left on the steak.

Then it’s time to cook.

Before y’all throw a hissy fit, just hear me out. I first learned of this technique from Judy Rodgers’ The Zuni Cafe Cookbook: A Compendium of Recipes and Cooking Lessons from San Francisco’s Beloved Restaurant. Judy massively salts her chicken before roasting, and I’ve adapted the practice to steaks. Thanks to a couple of other books (McGee’s On Food and Cooking and Alton Brown’s I’m Just Here For the Food), and a few fellow bloggers, I have an explanation of how it works.

Oh, and if the drawings look like a 3rd grader did it, too bad….YOU try drawing with a laptop touch-pad and a glass of bourbon on the rocks.

How Salting Works

How Salting Steaks Work

All of you who season JUST before grilling – this is what you are really doing to the meat. Did you know that? All the water comes to the surface and if you don’t pat super-dry, you’re basically STEAMING the meat. Plus, your salt just sits on the surface of the steak, leaving the interior tasteless.

How Salting Steaks Work

Now – note that only a little of the salt gets to go back into the meat. Don’t worry – you aren’t going to be eating all that salt!

How Salting Steaks Work

Bourbon does that to me too.

How Salting Steaks Work

I can hear it now..BUT!!! What of all the water that stayed on the surface of the meat? Aren’t you drawing all the moisture out of the meat? Will it taste like a salt lick? (*%!*%!@#!#!!! I DON’T UNDERSTAND THIS STEAK RECIPE!!!

Pull your pants back on and keep reading…

How Salting Steaks Work

Verification on Technique

How Salting Steaks Work

Cook’s Illustrated January 08 issue (and you can also find it on their paid portion of their website. Just search for “Improving Cheap Roast Beef”) They salt a 4lb roast beef (big, fat, thick meat) and they are using 4 tsp kosher salt – therefore their steak recipe recommends salting for 18-24 hrs. It’s all related: thickness of meat : amount of salt : time.

Salting Steak Recipe Key Points

  • Use kosher or sea salt, not table salt <– that is important. It will not work well with tiny tiny grains of table salt. Plus, table salt tastes like shit.
  • Use steaks 1″ or thicker.
  • Follow my timetable (below)
  • If you are Harold McGee, a member of Alton Brown’s research team or Mr. Burke my high school chem teacher…..and think I’m full of B.S…. please let me know. But guys, none of this was in your books. I had to formulate, extrapolate, hypotholate and guesstulate based on your stuff. Highly mental activity.
  • I know this sounds awfully like salt-curing, which dries out meat (like beef jerky). But with salt curing, you use A LOT more salt and leave it salting for A LOOOOOONG time. We’re talking about a little tiny nap here – not weeks – just enough to break down the proteins and flavor the steak throughout.
  • Again, don’t worry about all that salt. Just enough of it gets absorbed into the meat. Most of it gets washed down the drain when you rinse off. Really.
  • I know you’re going to ask…so I’ll answer it for you. Why not brine? You could if you really want water-logged diluted-tasting crappy steak.

I understand that this method will cause chaos, confusion and controversy in your household. But I encourage you to experiment: try adding spices, crushed garlic and rosemary sprigs to the salt, which will then act like Christina Aguilera dragging its entourage of flavors with it into the meat. If confusion in the household becomes unbearable, just whack’em with the hunk of salted steak..

Grilled Steak Recipe with Garlic-Herb Butter

Print

Grilled Steak Recipe with Garlic-Herb Butter

Servings: Prep Time: Cook Time:
Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 3.02.35 PM

Revised 9/13/10 to make salt ratio and timing easier to remember.

Ingredients:

Directions:

1. Buy a good sized Choice steak. I like mine 1.25 to 1.5 inches thick. Any cut of steak: Filet, Sirloin, Rib Eye, Porterhouse, T-Bone and NY Strip - they all work. Though, please remember to get steak that you'd normally buy to grill. Don't go buying some weird cut like the cow armpit and expect it to taste just like a NY Strip. You can do this with steaks less than 1", just really watch your timing. If your steak is already superbly marbled - cut back on your timing and your salt! The fattier (more marbled) the meat is, the faster the salt works its way through the meat.

2. Sprinkle 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of kosher/sea salt PER SIDE. Use the photos at beginning of the post as guide on how much salt. For every inch thickness of steak, let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.

  • Less than 1-inch steak: 30-45 minutes
  • 1 inch thick steak: 1 hour
  • 1.25 inch steak: 1 hour and 15 minutes

If you don't have that much time -- well then, add more salt, cut back the time it sits. It's all related:

Thickness of meat : Amount of Salt : Time

And vice-versa, if you need to stretch your time, use less salt. Example: the above steaks that are 1.25" thick - I should salt for 1 hour 15 minutes. But if my timing works out that I'm not grilling for 2 hours - then I'll cut back on the salt and let it sit for 2 hours.

If you want to salt for more than 2 hours or overnight - sprinkle the steak with 1/2 the amount of salt that I've instructed (look at photos for reference), cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

3. Rinse all salt off on both sides, pat very dry with paper towels on both sides <- that part is important. Season with fresh ground pepper (no more salt is needed). Grill to your liking. Top with Garlic-Herb Butter immediately to let it oooooze and aaaahhze all over the steak.

Garlic-Herb Butter Recipe

Garlic Herb Butter

1 stick of unsalted butter, softened (not melted, just softened)
handful of fresh herbs (any combination is fine. My fav is basil and parsley)
1-3 cloves of garlic, smushed in garlic press

To make the Garlic-Herb Butter, combine all ingredients. Lay out a sheet of plastic wrap. Spoon butter mixture on wrap. Roll and shape butter into a log. Refrigerate to firm up for 30 minutes. Slice into 1/4” disks to top the grilled steaks. You can make butter up to 3 days in advance. Make sure you use unsalted butter - the steak is seasoned perfectly already.

Another use for herb butter? Grilled Corn with Lime Cilantro Wasabi Butter

Notice the consistency in ingredients (first photo and the one below): perfect steak always go so well with homemade shoestring fries or homemade potato chips. The green stuff is just to give color to the plate. Unless it has garlic-herb butter slathered all over it too.

Grilled Steak Recipe with Garlic-Herb Butter

Other steak recipes you might enjoy:

dry-bag-aged-steak-40 How to dry age steaks at home with Drybag method

Grilling Kobe Burgers and Sliders Watch me talk about Kobe Beef Burgers on CBS

Artisan Steak Tasting – taste test of 6 steaks from small artisan ranchers

Chipotle Skirt Steak Tacos Skirt Steak Tacos Recipe & Parking Adventures of La Tacqueria

No Knead Bread – so easy a caveman 4-yr old can do it

Negative Calorie Chocolate Cake

Garlic Truffle Shoestring Fries

Tropical Island Salmon: cooking fish low ‘n slow creates the most dreamy, silky fish

 

*NOTE – I’ve been getting a lot of spam lately, just on this post, so I’ve closed off comments. Thank you! 



1,310 Responses to “Steak Recipe: Turning Cheap “Choice” Steak into Gucci “Prime” Steak”

  1. Elisabet — 12/4/12 @ 7:35 pm

    Seems like some people (above) have trouble following simple directions. I am looking forward to trying this method as we can rarely afford really good cuts of steak. It’d be nice to have a way to tenderize the tougher ones (and putting butter on steak? I never would have thought of that). I have sea-salt, but I have a feeling it is too fine; so, I will wait until I can get some kosher salt to try this as my tastebuds are very sensitive to foods that are too salty. If it works for me, then I will know that the people above complaining about the saltiness didn’t follow the directions correctly (as to type of salt to use and how long to leave it on, washing it off, etc).

  2. Bonnie — 12/5/12 @ 8:34 pm

    Thank you. Tried this tonight on a pair of round steaks that weren’t a great cut (it was like 5.66 for 3 of them) and they were moist and delicious. Definetely works!

  3. I’m really enjoying the theme/design of your weblog. Do you ever run into any internet browser compatibility issues? A number of my blog readers have complained about my site not working correctly in Explorer but looks great in Opera. Do you have any solutions to help fix this issue?

  4. Tyrt3 — 12/7/12 @ 9:04 am

    Tried this it worked pretty good and the steaks were not really salty because I RINSED THEM OFF. I only let my steaks sit for a couple hours if I’d had more time I’m sure they would’ve been even better.

  5. Tyrt3 — 12/7/12 @ 9:12 am

    I would like to also point out that I used kosher sea salt and not iodized table salt I’m thinking that the people that complained it was too salty may have used table salt.

  6. L. S. — 12/9/12 @ 11:51 pm

    I don’t know if there’s any reason to try this on an “uber expensive” steak. Also, the instructions specifically say 1 hour per inch of thickness–not overnight!!!

    To anybody considering trying this…I recommend trying it on a cheap/on sale cut first, so you won’t be too upset if it doesn’t work out.

    And if your steaks turn out too salty, DON’T THROW THEM AWAY! Make a stew or something…cut them into chunks and slow-cook them for a few hours, that salt will come back out into the broth. :D Sure, it will be an awfully expensive stew, but at least the meat won’t get wasted!

    The sea salt that I have is quite fine. I used kosher salt to be safe. I would only use *really* chunky sea salt.

    Also note: it says less time if the meat is well-marbled.

  7. ED — 12/12/12 @ 12:06 am

    You people complaining about your steaks being too salty are obviously using too much salt. She says that they used 4 tsp. of salt for a 4 Lb roast, that’s 1 tsp. per pound. Use some common sense people.

  8. David — 12/15/12 @ 3:17 am

    When you have washed of the salt and dried the steak, do you rub sunflower/ any other oil on the steak or grill as i have seen done in restaurants?

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  10. Cliff — 12/25/12 @ 1:04 pm

    Proven with chuck eye steak. I Was conservative on the amount of kosher salt. Will be more aggressive with it and the pepper and garlic next time.

  11. Zoe — 1/4/13 @ 4:23 pm

    Will try this tonight. The instructions were LOL hirarious and entertaining, so I have to try it!!

  12. Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular post!
    It is the little changes which will make the biggest changes.
    Thanks for sharing!

  13. Jobrazen — 1/21/13 @ 9:32 pm

    You did not read the directions properly Jon. Depending on the thickness of the steak the salt (course kosher preferred) should only be on the meat for about an hour. If you left it overnight yes it is going to taste salty.

  14. Furthea — 1/21/13 @ 11:15 pm

    @jobrazen (and others)

    Jon was obviously being sarcastic and taking a shot at those here putting forth the complaint and claiming that this was a horrid idea because they have used this on expensive cuts that don’t need it or have used too much/the wrong salt or let it sit too long.

  15. John — 1/22/13 @ 12:00 am

    good idea! So far the best steaks i ever had were from smartfoodplan.com and stockyards.com.

  16. Tammy — 1/22/13 @ 9:05 am

    Thank you. I’m excited to try this and to learn that it came from the Zuni Cafe.

  17. Pingback: Clearly Delicious » How To: Tenderize a Steak

  18. Slumpy — 2/5/13 @ 11:24 pm

    I tried this and was impressed by the tenderness and flavor of the inside of the meat. I used 2 1″ Choice Ribeyes from Walmart and pan fried them in a cast iron skillet using Alton Brown’s method:

    http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/pan-seared-rib-eye-recipe/index.html

    Unfortunately I messed up a bit on the salting process. I did the first part right, let it sit about 45 minutes with the recommended amount of salt. I think my first mistake was not fully rinsing all the salt off. Then after drying them I added a bit more salt with the intention of cooking immediately, but I got interrupted for about 30 minutes. (3 year old, go figure.) In the meantime the steaks were sitting in more salt. They tasted a bit too salty but we ate them up greedily regardless. I definitely will try this again the right way now that I know how it should work.

  19. Sara — 2/7/13 @ 10:11 pm

    Best steak I ever made! Thank you for the super-clear instructions!! I broiled the steaks since we don’t have a grill.

  20. Dave — 2/9/13 @ 1:51 am

    Holy cow! I used coarse Kosher salt and it was super salty! I must have used way too much but then again I thought I was being liberal with the amount I was putting in. The steak was about 1.5″ in thickness so I left it at room temp for 1 1/2 hours.
    On the other hand the t-bone steak was tender! Next time I’ll just try using less salt. I just re-read the entire article and it seems I skipped over the “herb butter steak recipe” where there is a suggested amount of salt to add. Live and learn but damn tender and juicy steak!

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  23. S. Diamond — 2/20/13 @ 1:47 pm

    Looks interesting. Will try. Too bad you felt the need to use foul language in your instructions.

  24. Pingback: And I once ate a big heaping bowl of salt: Using salt to prep your steak | Krystal cooks.

  25. stan — 2/21/13 @ 9:35 pm

    the writing style is just painful

  26. Make A Blog — 3/10/13 @ 9:13 am

    Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you writing this article and the rest of the website is extremely good.

  27. billy sharpstick — 3/12/13 @ 9:30 pm

    I have a ribeye salting now.
    I have one issue with the method. “Just lave it out on the counter.”??!! Obviously you have no pets! I have a herd of cats that would drag that steak off and be fighting over it before you can shake a salt shaker!

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  29. Pingback: Steak Recipe: Turning Cheap “Choice” Steak into Gucci “Prime” Steak | Steamy Kitchen Recipes | Recipes, Gossip & More!

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  32. Connie Two Kids in College Nickelson — 3/30/13 @ 3:00 pm

    Excellent!! I needed this! I have 2 kids in College and cannot buy Kobe beef. Thanks.

  33. I almost never create responses, but i did a few searching and
    wound up here Steak Recipe: Turning Cheap “Choice” Steak into Gucci “Prime” Steak | Steamy Kitchen Recipes.
    And I actually do have a couple of questions for you if
    you tend not to mind. Could it be just me or does it look like
    some of the remarks appear like they are left by brain
    dead folks? :-P And, if you are posting at additional places, I would like to follow anything new you have to post.
    Could you make a list of every one of your communal pages like
    your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

  34. KJ — 4/4/13 @ 2:54 pm

    I came across this recipe by mistake and I am so thankful that I did. This by far was the best steak I have ever cooked for myself. Although I did use a porter house cut, the only think different I did was add a marinade of spicy brown mustard, olive oil, and a little red wine. I did this for both sides and let it sit at room temp for about another hour after I rinsed the salt off and patted it dry. Oh so good!!!

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  41. Brian — 4/13/13 @ 10:58 am

    This recipe is better if you substitute Rum for the Bourbon while preparing it. Thanks for the awesome technique.

  42. ロレックス — 4/14/13 @ 6:49 am

    You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter
    to be really something which I think I would never understand.
    It seems too complex and very broad for me. I’m looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!

  43. Jordan — 4/14/13 @ 3:33 pm

    We all know meat has a high water content…. So you salt it ahead of time to draw the moisture out. Than you go and rinse ur steak under water, no matter how quick you do it your putting moisture back into the steak.

    As your title states, turning a cheap cut into prime cut you are thinking of this all wrong. A cheap cut of steak has no marbling (fat) and is tough. And I can tell just from the first picture it is a good cut of meat. At least AA which is better than average.

    Now turning a cheap cut into a prime cut is something totally different. Boiling the steak or not has nothing to do how good it is. All that means is that you will not develop a nice crust. But actually turning that cut of meat into something better than what it is doesn’t mean sucking all the moisture out of it, which in the end most will turn into tasty juices and the rest evaporate. If your cooking your steak on a piping hot pan, which you should be, you will absolutely be not boiling it. And if your going to try and say its bad having all that moisture because when you go and cut it, you plate turns into the Red Sea. Well after cooking you rest your steak for as long as you cooked it for or close to it. Than the fibres suck up all that delicious juices you tried wringing out by pre-salting.

    So now to actually try turning that tough cut into a juicy tender piece of meat. There is a couple of ways. The best I find is by leaving your steak on a cooling rack for at least a day. 2-3 is better, and every day just makes it that much better. What it does is tenderizes the meat and also dries it out just a little on the outside because of the cool air circulating around the steak in your fridge, which is almost like your pre-salting. Except it will be just as juicy and more tender in the end. Almost like a quick dry aging the butcher will do. Than this way you can still salt your steak without rinsing it off.

    The only downside to this is it will need to be done a couple days ahead of time. If you don’t have the time to do so, put the steak out on the counter an hour per inch before you cook it. Which makes the inside room temp so when you cook it you don’t have to warm up the inside which make a more uneven cooking. Than you can still salt it and pepper after cooking, since the high heat burns pepper easily. Than you have to let it rest!

    Just covering a steak hours ahead in salt the rinsing it off with water just baffles me. Even if it is a crappy cut of meat…. Just wrong

  44. hollye — 4/17/13 @ 6:39 pm

    Thank you for the tip. That was the best steak ever! What a difference that salt makes!

  45. Catherine — 4/22/13 @ 1:23 pm

    just wanted to say how much I enjoy your posts – they are so well written and funny that i laughed out loud reading them. And also the recipes rock – will definitely give this a try!

  46. Debi — 4/22/13 @ 8:11 pm

    I was replying to ropa interior masculina. That was a hot mess. I really enjoyed your post. Tried your recipe ( mostly)! When I told the family I was going to rinse the salt and garlic powder off in a few minutes they said no way, and scraped it off. So I put more garlic and pepper on them. Family was so impressed with the tenderness and flavor. Thanks much.

  47. Pingback: Perry's Plate: Progressively Paleo Recipes » Five Spice Steak with Ginger Butter + Nambe Giveaway