1. Always allow your steak to come to room temperature before cooking it!
This will help evenly heat the meat through the cooking process. Also, this will decrease cooking time because the interior of the meat is not heating from a refrigeration temperature to cooked temperature.
2. Dry the surface of your steak before salting it and prior to cooking.
You do not want any moisture on the surface of your meat to interfere with the contact points on the heating element. In the pan, on the grill, or in the oven, moisture on the surface of the meat will inhibit the caramelization process. Note: as soon as you season the meat, the salt will begin to draw moisture away from the surface of the meat. So dry, season and dry again if necessary.
3. Do not season your meat ahead of time.
I don’t care what anyone says, it’s not worth it. Not only will it alter the texture of the meat, but by the time it has any real affect on the interior flavor of the meat (4-6 hours) the salt will have brined the meat and can make it more dense and chewy. So when you are ready to place the steak on the heat, season liberally, pat it dry with a paper towel and place the steak onto the heat. I would make an exception for larger portions of meat like a roast in conjunction with the Larder Meat Co. All-purpose Roast Rub or a whole roasted chicken when using the Larder Meat Co. Poultry Dry Brine. These seasoning blends are designed to dry the surface of the meat and increase the rate of caramelization.
4. As a general rule use high heat first then finish the cooking process with lower heat.
Here are a few examples using different cooking mediums:
Charcoal grill - Two minutes on each side over the hottest coals then move to a cooler portion of the grill and put the lid on (vents open) to finish with some smoke.
Gas grill - Same as charcoal grill. Place meat over the hottest grill surface then move to cooler side and pull down the lid to finish. You will not get the benefit of lightly smoking the meat unless you are using a smoking element in your grill.
Cast-Iron Pan - Sear your meat in a smoking hot cast iron pan with a light coating of neutral oil (Do not use olive oil, If your pan is hot enough to properly cook a steak, it will burn your oil). After a couple of minutes on each side, finish in a 400 degree oven. After a few minutes in the oven, when the steak is just about ready toss a pad of salted butter in the pan with a sprig of thyme and baste your meat with the browning butter and herb. This will make for a really flavorful and dark crust.
5. Use a digital meat thermometer!
There are more ways than I can count to check the “doneness” of a piece of meat, but unless you are using a Thermal Circulator there’s only one way to actually know the interior temperature of your meat and that my friend takes the precision of a digital thermometer. Most work fine, but here are a few of my favorites ranked from most to least expensive.
6. Let your meat rest.
Allow your steaks to rest in a warm place for at least 15 minutes before slicing. This will give the muscle tissue time to reabsorb some of the juices that have been pushed out during the heating process. As the meat cools (even slightly) the warm juices will thicken ever so slightly and hold onto the tissue. During this resting period your steak will continue to cook, called “carryover cooking.” So, remember to take your steak off the heat about 5 degrees lower than your desired internal temperature. This tip is really important with roasts as well!
7. Before digging-in, drizzle some top-shelf olive oil over the steak and sprinkle it with some fine sea-salt.
Both Arbequina Olive Oil and Maldon Sea Salt are on my team for this play. This a chef trick that I’ve used for years. The oil, because it’s a fat, will spread the flavor across your palate while the salt, hitting your tongue first, will make you salivate and ensure a deep flavor experience. Don’t skip this step, it’s really a game changer.
8. Use a sharp knife to cut your steaks.
A dull knife will just smash the meat and a serrated steak knife will just tear the steak. Really, your beautiful steak deserves better than that. A sharp blade will ensure even slicing and will help retain the steaks juices where they belong, first in the steak and then in your mouth.
9. When you’re ready to slice the steak, slice against the grain.
If, because of the cut of the steak, you cannot slice against the grain just cut your steak into smaller pieces. Not only does cutting against the grain and into smaller pieces yield a more tender bite, but it also ensures you will cut through any connective tissue that would be inedible in larger bites.
10. Dry aged steaks don’t need any sauce, pan drippings and blood will do.
But if you must, and often I must, I recommend a classic Worcestershire sauce. It’s the timeless fermented condiment, white-boy fish sauce if you will. I’m a Lea and Perrins man myself. The blend of spices, the umami-bomb tang that can only be achieved with the brand’s secret ingredient (a spike of anchovy and tamarind!, what?!!) and the paper wrapper (which is inevitably grease stained) all make for the perfect complement to a fatty dry-aged steak.