What’s at steak? – Salting your proteins!

 

Spring training started this weekend. Summer time is just around the corner and grill masters everywhere will be dusting off their mitts, tongs, skewers and other outdoor culinary paraphernalia.

Cooking the perfect steak (or burger, or pork chop) can be quite the challenge. You have to take into consideration a number of things including thickness and initial temperature of the meat itself. Then factor in the temperature of the grill or pan and how well or not well done you like your meat.

Add all those things into the mix and the equation becomes a bit more difficult to complete. It may even remind you of the dreaded high school algebra problem of two trains heading away from each other at different speeds over different distances. Which one will arrive first and at what time? You may not have cared about the trains, but cooking your steak is a different story!

The real key to a good steak has as much to do with the salt you use as any of the above cited concerns. (not like that should be a big surprise if you are a regular reader of this blog!) When and how you salt your protein makes all the difference in the world with the finished product.

And so it begins:

First take your proteins out of the fridge (or chill chest as Alton Brown says).

Then allow the protein to warm to close to room temperature – approximately one hour.

Preheat your grill or pan – cast iron is preferred for either method.

Just prior to starting the heat on your grill or pan, SALT YOUR PROTEIN! (this is a crucial step)

Salt both sides, then allow the meat to sweat for approximately twenty minutes before cooking.

Sweating the meat with salt brings moisture to the surface. That moisture also contains enzymes that when coming in contact with high heat during the searing process will produce the delicious flavors you’ve come to know, love and EXPECT from every steak experience.

The combination of sweating your protein and the high heat searing produces the enzymatic crust that is full of flavor. Most of the flavor is actually in that seared crust. It’s a vital part of the flavor profile.  If the cooking element isn’t hot enough you’ll wind up with and un-seared (grey and poached looking) steak with little to no real flavor.

So don’t be afraid to crank the heat up! Wait for the grill to get good and hot! Salt your beef or pork (not chicken, that’s a different story) approximately 15-20 minutes before you cook it.

Remember to let your protein rest after cooking so that the juices can redistribute. Feel free to finish your steak with a bit more salt, say a Sel Gris, or a Fleur de Sel, a smoked salt, or even a Black Truffle salt…you won’t be disappointed and neither will your friends.

Additional note: Don’t pepper your steak before cooking! High heat makes pepper bitter. Save the pepper for the table when you add your finishing salt.