7 tips for grilling the perfect steak from Executive Chef Louis Pechan
Summertime is the perfect time to fire up the grill and bring your dining experience ‘al fresco’ and enjoy the balmy Southern California evenings. For those of us who shy away from the grill, we asked Executive Chef Louis Pechan for his tips on how to grill the perfect steak – every time. Here’s his expert advice:
1. Let steaks air-dry before grilling. If you have room in your fridge, unwrap your steaks and place them on a wire rack over a pan at the bottom of your refrigerator over-night. Make sure there aren’t an off smells in your refrigerator or the meat will absorb them, and I like to loosely tent some aluminum foil over the top of them to make sure nothing accidentally spills or falls on them. Leaving them unwrapped over-night (or even a few hours if you bought them the day of your barbecue) will allow the outside of your steaks to dry out a little bit – making it much easier to get that delicious caramelized crust around the outside.
2. Allow steaks to warm up before grilling. Pulling them out of the fridge 20-30 minutes early (again loosely tenting some foil over them to make sure nothing gets on them) is enough time to warm them up enough to assure that they cook more evenly.
3. Oil them lightly if at all. A little oil may be necessary to get your salt or whatever seasoning rub you’re putting on your steaks to adhere, but too much oil (even a little bit too much – especially for fattier steaks like rib-eye) will run off and flare up on your grill.
4. Season just before grilling. As soon as you salt your steaks the process of osmosis begins to draw liquid out of the beef. This liquid beads up on the surface of the meat and makes it much more difficult to form the seared crust you want on the outside of your steaks.
5. Once they’re on the grill, don’t move them around too much. Let them develop a seared crust before you move or turn them. If you lift the meat before it’s ready, it’ll stick to the grates.
6. Use the touch-test to check for done-ness. A simple way to figure this out is to make a fist and feel the area right between your thumb and your forefinger. When your fist is clenched tight, this is like medium-well or well-done, and a half-clenched will feel closer to medium-rare. This is perhaps an over-simplification and everyone’s hands feel different, but it’s a pretty good place to start. It’ll takes some practice to get down, but feeling your steaks regularly while they’re cooking will help a lot. You’ll be able to tell easily when they are obviously no longer rare. Continue to feel them as the cook using the “fist test” as a guideline and you’ll be a pro in no time!
7. Let them rest. Once your steaks are off the grill, wait ten minutes before you slice or serve them. As steaks heat up while they’re cooking, their cells contract, expelling the moisture trapped in them. Allowing your steaks to rest allows the cells to cool and expand so that the moisture still in the meat is reabsorbed and redistributed throughout the steak more evenly. This means way more moisture and flavor stays in the meat and way less escapes on to your cutting board or plate when they’re cut!
Wishing you and yours a safe and festive Independence Day holiday.