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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


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.



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. Peg — 7/15/12 @ 4:11 pm

    Hi, That was very interesting; my problem though, is that my husband MUST eat a very low sodium diet so I cannot even use salt – he would have a fit. I am right now marinating with honey, barbecue seasoning (from Tastefully Simple) and garlic, pepper, steak seasoning (sodium free) onions and a little – very little barb sauce. I was wondering if I should broil it or fry it up in a pan…if I don’t hear back, i’ll keep checking. Good tip, just probably not for us. Maybe I can use it when I’m at friends’ homes.

  2. Mike — 7/20/12 @ 11:13 am

    I plan to try this next time I cook a steak. I love to marinate a steak in moores sauce and I want to know if I did what you said salt the steak for hour or so can I marinate steak in moores sauce? or will that undo the salt brine?

    • SteamyKitchen — 7/20/12 @ 12:25 pm

      I’ve never tried Moores Sauce, so I don’t know what it tastes like. Try the salt method without the marinating first and see if you like it. If Moores Sauce contains a lot of salt, then salting + marinating will render the steak too salty.

  3. Mike — 7/20/12 @ 1:37 pm

    Your right, did not think of that.


  4. Denise — 7/31/12 @ 5:29 pm

    Our steak was super tender, but very salty! Did I just not rinse it enough??

  5. Victoria — 8/1/12 @ 10:49 am

    This is the first time my meat is perfect! Thank you very much!

  6. Tracy — 8/5/12 @ 5:56 pm

    This was a complete waste did not tenderize and it was salt beyond belief !

  7. Kelli — 8/8/12 @ 2:20 pm

    I LOVE your drawings and the editorial comments with them! I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time–SADE?! I about died.

  8. Furthea — 8/10/12 @ 12:23 pm

    Thank you! Recently Applebees came out with a Roasted Garlic steak that I adore. Well this salting thing with some fresh garlic comes so wonderfully close.
    I like eating at Applebees but they never get the steak quite as rare as I like.

  9. Mr ElMarks — 8/12/12 @ 11:05 pm

    It works for me, tender, juicy and not salty. Thanks, I’m going to do this every time.

  10. Gaz — 8/13/12 @ 7:48 am

    Hey! I’ll do this tonight, but now another question – to tenderize or not to tenderize. I guess you are saying don’t bother because, well, its not in your recipe, but WHY not? Should I only tenderize certain cuts?
    Thanks, Love,

  11. Barb Bunton — 8/13/12 @ 1:27 pm

    No need to use any tenderizer….this method takes care of that and the steak will be so tender you won’t believe it. I use kosher salt when salting and I would recommend that over regular table salt. I’m gonna try the suggested garlic next time I do this. Thanks for the suggestion Furthea.

  12. Pingback: Grilled steak with garlic-herb butter « Yi Qing Sim

  13. Nickmac77 — 8/17/12 @ 9:28 pm

    Gonna try it tonight! Can’t wait! Thanks for sharing!!!! :)

  14. Hobbes — 8/21/12 @ 10:29 am

    Curious, when salting you are drawing the water out of the steak, but by rinsing (the salt off), are you re-introducing water into the steak?

    • SteamyKitchen — 8/21/12 @ 10:53 am

      Well, it’s a quick rinse and you’re not soaking the steak in water, just rinsing the salt off.

  15. John — 9/3/12 @ 9:06 pm

    Random question… I also had a Mr. Burke as my science teacher… Did/do you live in Long Beach

  16. Cathy — 9/7/12 @ 2:00 pm

    Absolutely Amazing. It really worked!!! The meat was super tender. And that is saying something because it was a cheap cut. WOW!! Thanks so much.

  17. Dave — 9/8/12 @ 4:51 pm

    Seems counter-intuitive. However methods don’t worry me as much as results–the ends justify the means, as they say. I’ll give this a try next time I’m at the grill. thanks for the tip.

  18. John — 9/9/12 @ 11:08 am

    Tried this last night and everyone loved it.

  19. roy — 9/11/12 @ 11:35 am

    this really worked! I had steak 2 nights in a row, the other night with the first steak I marinated in a teriyaki marinade sauce for about an hour then fired it. It did not taste good at all. it really did taste like I boiled the meat.

    last night, i tried your way by salting it and getting rid of the water in the meat then rinsing off the salt. I then put some steak rub and garlic powder then fried on a griddle for about 3-4 minutes each side (meat was about half inch thick or so) and when finished I poured just a small amount of teriyaki sauce (without cutting the meat) and it was super yummy! the meat was really tender this time and was cooked just the way i like it!

    I am going to use this method each time I cook my steaks from now on. thank you for sharing :)

  20. Vespa Woolf — 9/17/12 @ 4:18 pm

    I’m intrigued by your salting method (I know it’s not “your” method but you explained it really well). I’m having steaks for dinner tonight and our beef here in Peru is anything but tender, although I bought a decent cut. I’m going to photo document and if it works out well, would you mind if I do my own write up, giving you the credit for introducing the method to me? Please let me know.

  21. Gene — 9/18/12 @ 8:17 pm

    This is the MOST INTERESTING information I have ever read about salt & steaks! I DID NOT KNOW THIS AT ALL. Going to try to print this all so I can have it to refer to.

    Thank you so much!

  22. Louis — 9/19/12 @ 8:58 am

    God bless you.
    I’ve been eating naugahyde up until now.
    Not bad with ketchup.

  23. JimW — 9/19/12 @ 8:39 pm


  24. Monica — 9/24/12 @ 5:07 am

    I tried this twice before and worked both time and was GREAT! My only problem is using the right amount of salt, because I leave it overnight in the fridge and until I come back from work!

    I’m actually doing it again today and used very little salt on both sides. QUITE EXCITED! :)

    Thanks for tip!

  25. Julia — 9/26/12 @ 4:40 pm

    Um, why are you washing off the pellicle formed by salting the meat in advance?

    I’ve grilled many a steak which would run laps around a steak grilled with this technique. Two things – 1. Let the steak sit, uncovered, in the fridge for a day or two before cooking it. It WILL lose a little moisture, but it will be much more tender and taste all the more beefy for it. 2. Salt the steak LIBERALLY (esp. the bone if it’s a bone-in steak) the morning you’re going to grill it and put it back in the fridge. DO NOT rinse it before cooking, but take it out of the fridge 30 min. or so ahead of time. A room-temp steak will cook better than a cold one.

  26. Tanya — 9/29/12 @ 5:25 am

    Tried this method last night. Worked like a charm. Our steaks tasted like butter. Don’t listen to the naysayers; they probably didn’t follow the instructions.

  27. Lee — 10/1/12 @ 8:00 pm

    Tried this tonight and found that the tenderizing aspect worked well, just left the salt on too long causing the meat to be very salty.

  28. Jim — 10/7/12 @ 5:32 pm

    Thank you for this delightful article. You’re rediscovery methods of food preparation known quite well by our not so long ago ancestors. Ancestors who did not even have a word to describe a heart attack. Pure natural unprocessed sea salt, grass-fed beef, fat, and real butter go hand-in-hand and always have(until the 100 years or so).

  29. Kathy — 10/13/12 @ 8:17 pm

    I am trying this tonight…but I only have table salt! I salted the steaks quite a bit and plan on broiling them. Should it take more time with just table salt or less time?

  30. MissKris — 10/24/12 @ 12:05 am

    For those of you complaining it was too salty:

    Did you use iodized table salt? That kind of salt will make anything too salty in a hurry.

  31. Renee N. — 10/29/12 @ 6:10 pm

    I’ve been using this method since you posted about it in 2007, so over 5 years.

    It absolutely works. Every time I use this method, everyone tells me its the best steak they’ve ever had.

    Making it again tonight. And I can’t wait.

  32. Kate — 10/29/12 @ 8:27 pm

    TOO SALTY??? – Like the lady said, DON’T GO FOR THE TABLE SALT! **USE KOSHER SALT, PEOPLE** If you don’t have Kosher salt, go buy some, ask a neighbor, or use this method a day you do.

  33. Barb Bunton — 10/30/12 @ 4:07 pm

    I agree 100% with Kate. I cook only with Kosher Salt…..it’s a must have in my kitchen.

  34. Paul — 11/1/12 @ 5:00 am

    Hi! Your recipe of “salting” sounds great! I am just wondering, since I have to rinse off the already salted meat, should I also seasoned it with other ingredients, does the rinsing washes away the flavor I intended to add into it?

  35. Furthea — 11/1/12 @ 12:29 pm

    It depends on what you want to season with. Seasonings like Garlic powder can be put on the steak with the salt and will be infused by the actions of the salt. The only thing salting alone does is make for a better steak and add a little salt to the flavor so don’t put more salt on it. Feel free to season otherwise as usual, unless you’re talking marinade and I’m not sure how that would affect it.

    Be sure to use coarse sea salt and not fine or table and be careful with your timing, the steak can come out too salty if it’s done too long or with fine salt.

  36. Melody — 11/3/12 @ 9:56 pm

    Tried this method tonight….ABSOLUTELY the best steak we have ever grilled!!! I followed your instructions to the letter, even adding some Cavender’s Greek Seasoning with the kosher salt. I will use this method from now on. Thank you!

  37. Roger — 11/5/12 @ 1:44 pm

    We have tried this approach 3 or 4 times now and have been extremely pleased with the improved taste and texture. Thank you for your suggestion.
    Note: We still treat the steaks with a mechanical tenderizer (multi-blade knife type) after completing the salt process.

  38. Great explanation of how salting works,and salting steak recipe ideas. Thanks I will try them for sure.

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  41. Krystal — 11/24/12 @ 4:57 am

    Oh my gosh, I love you, thank you so much.

  42. Sue Kershaw — 11/27/12 @ 8:11 am

    Tried this last night on a couple of nice, 1″ thick, rib eyes. Disappointed, unfortunately. Didn’t do anything that either my husband or I noticed. Was so hoping for something extraordinary. Maybe will attempt on a less-expensive cut to see if that improves it. Thanks for offering the suggestion.

  43. barb — 11/27/12 @ 10:55 am

    Sue, I think the whole point of the recipe is to make inexpensive steaks taste like your rib eyes. I have used it several times and it is amazing what it will do to a chuck eye steak or a top round. Give it a try as you suggested with the cheap steaks and save the good ones for eating without this method!
    Good luck

  44. Pingback: Tenderizing with salt? Really? Perfection at last! | Sous Vide Science

  45. Espen Skjervold — 11/28/12 @ 11:45 am

    Thank you so much for this article! I’m currently into “sous vid”, but my steaks weren’t turning out perfect despite my fancy cooking. After trying you salt-tenderizing-thingy, I’ve now cooked my hands down best steak ever! I tried your trick with garlic in addition to the salt, and it produced an absolutely brilliant juicy, tender, mouth-watering steak! I’ve written down some of my experiences here: http://sousvidescience.wordpress.com/

    Thank’s again Jaden

  46. Espen Skjervold — 11/28/12 @ 11:51 am

    Hi Peg,
    If you need to cut down on the salt, I highly recommend this marinade: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/the-best-steak-marinade . I’ve actually compared it to the salt-tenderizing technique on my blog (http://sousvidescience.wordpress.com), and they actually BOTH produced lovely juicy, tender and mouth-watering steaks! The marinade contains some soy sauce and worchestershire sauce, but if you use low-salt soy sauce I think you should be good.
    Happy cooking,

  47. JIM NICHOLS — 12/1/12 @ 4:56 pm



  48. Katrina — 12/1/12 @ 6:57 pm

    I tried this for my steaks tonight and can say without question I will NEVER use this recipe again. The steaks were so salty and still tough. Wish I would have just stuck with turning the steak into jerky….oh wait…the saltiness and the toughness….I guess I did. Well thanks for the jerky recipe anyway.

  49. Saundra — 12/2/12 @ 12:29 pm

    A man after my own heart, or at least my “theory” of why my great grandparents and grandparents lived healthy lives. They raised their own (antibiotic, hormone-free)meat, grew own veggies, and ate meat 3 meals per day – with salt! My great grandmother cooked with crisco for 50 years, didn’t know what cholesterol was, didn’t have high blood pressure, diabetes, or anything else. She simply lived until she died….at 96! No health problems! Thanks for an entertaining recipe. I’ve used the method before and it does work well.

  50. Jon — 12/3/12 @ 5:19 pm

    Tried this on an uber expensive grassfed ribeye. Left it overnight, so salty that it was not edible. $50 down the tubes. I’ll try again with less salt and less time (with a cheaper cut).