There is nothing quite like a perfectly cooked steak. Who doesn't like a big, juicy, medium rare New York strip steak with a nice charred crust and some creamy mashed potatoes? Aside from crazy people...oh and vegetarians (perhaps there's a correlation there. Just kidding my fine animal loving hippy friends). The problem is, most people love to cook the shit out of their meat and next thing you know you have shoe leather on your plate and even the sharpest of steak knives can't do their job.
Want to have good steaks at home? The first thing you need to do is find a decent butcher. Skip your local SuperDooperMart. Go to a small, locally owned grocery or butcher shop where they care about their product. If the meat looks terrifying and grey, you don't want to put it in your mouth. Next build up a rapport with your butcher. Become pals and before you know it she/he will be telling which cuts are the freshest and tastiest.
Okay, so what kind of meat should you buy? Well, let's have a look at the cow, shall we?
Rib - Just back from the shoulder is the rib section, and this is the home of the prime rib roast, and not surprisingly, the rib steak and the rib eye. Very well marbled and flavorful, the rib section is about the tastiest of all the steaks, and is tender and succulent enough for a quick treatment on the grill. Some common cuts of the rib are:
Rib steak, which if you can imagine is just a slice with the bone of a prime rib,
Rib eye steak, which is just the boneless interior of the rib steak
The Loin - Directly behind the rib section is the loin, and the loin meat is the tenderest section of beef. Although not as well flavored or marbled as the rib, the loin accounts for the most expensive and tender of all the cuts of steak. Some common cuts of the loin are:
The Tenderloin, the tenderest cut, the most expensive, and some say less flavorful.
T-Bone, A bit of everything, the T bone has a T shaped bone which sub divides a small section of tenderloin, with a larger section of strip steak.
Porterhouse, similar to the T-bone, but with a larger section of tenderloin.
Strip loin (NY steak), a rectangular strip of very flavorful steak, like a T-bone without the bone or tenderloin. This is one of may favorite steaks.
Sirloin - Directly behind the loin is the sirloin. Less tender and cheaper than the loin, sirloin steaks are very tasty. Try to pick sirloin steaks as cut close to the loin if possible (if the bone is flat that means close to the loin, and round means farther back).
Round - The round section is the hind leg of the cow, and although some of these can be very flavorful, all are less tender than even the sirloin. I save round cuts for stews and braised dishes. Perfect for chili and carne asada. Some common cuts from the round are:
Top round is an acceptable steak for the grill, inexpensive and flavorful. Marinate or throw on some rub.
Bottom round is OK for the grill, but you should probably marinate well as it can be a bit chewy.
Eye of round is too tough for quick cooking methods. Leave it for stews and long cooking methods.
Okay, so now you know the cow, how should you cook it? There are several ways to do this. If you happen to be one of those lucky people who have a yard and a grill (how come you never invite me to your BBQs?!), grilling over charcoal is the best. Gas grills work fine too but there is something about that delicious charcoal grill smell that turns me on (not in a creepy way, really). If you're like me and don't have a house the next best thing is to get a nice grill pan and throw it over high heat. If that's even too much work ya lazy jerk, for ya grab a nice frying pan and pan fry your steaks. For steaks about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick about 4-5 minutes each side over high heat will get you a nice medium rare. How can you tell if your steak is done? Here, I'll let this creepy serial killer looking guy tell you how the professionals do it.
So I cooked up some beautiful New York strip steaks on a scorchingly hot grill pan to a perfect medium rare. A little bit of salt before grilling and that's it. After the steaks were done I pulled them off the heat and let them rest for 7-8 minutes to let the juices redistribute through the meat. In the meantime I added some sliced crimini mushrooms and fresh thyme to the grill and let them cook. I then deglazed the pan with a lovely red Bordeaux wine and scraped up all the delicious steak fond (the brown bits of deliciousness on the bottom of the pan). Salt and pepper and a little European butter to give the sauce a nice sheen. I also made a quick smoked Rogue Creamery Oregon blue cheese butter to top off the steaks. Half butter, half blue cheese. Throw it in your mixer and cream for a minute until blended and soft. Roll into a tube using a sheet of plastic wrap. Freeze and slice off some when you want it. With a side of creamy mashed potatoes, you be riving your local steakhouse and saving $150 while your at it. Serve it with a nice bottle of red wine and you'll impress the hell out of anyone. Hell, it might even get you laid. Good luck!