Sometimes, nothing else quite hits the spot like a a big, delicious, juicy steak. (Unless you’re a vegetarian – in that case, check out the sweet potato hash recipe below.)
We spoke to chefs from two of New York City’s top steak institutions, Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse and Gallaghers Steakhouse – both AAA Three Diamond Rated restaurants – for recipes and tips on how to cook the perfect steak.
So head to the store and grab your ingredients, fire up the grill and let’s get cooking!
Choosing a steak
First things first, which is the best cut to use? Willie “Jack” Degel, chef and owner of Jack’s Steakhouse, explains that while the popular filet mignon is most tender, he favors the boneless New York strip. “[The filet] does not have the flavor and texture of the New York strip … it doesn’t have as much fat and marbling.”
So fat equals flavor? No surprise there! Gallaghers Steakhouse executive chef Alan Ashkinaze’s favorite cut of meat is the rib-eye. “It’s a lot fattier,” he said, which amplifies the taste.
At both restaurants, the porterhouse for two is the best-selling steak on the menu. Similar to a T-bone but with a larger tenderloin, the porterhouse has both the strip and the filet on each side of the bone, combining the best of both worlds to satisfy everyone.
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When it comes to quality, the first step to how to cook the perfect steak is choosing the best grade. All meat should be USDA Prime. And check that they are stamped that way, emphasizes Degel. “Make sure you are not paying Prime prices and instead receiving Choice!”
Many menus and butcher shops promote aged steaks. Gallaghers especially is known for its dry-aged meat locker, which can be seen both from the street and from a window inside the restaurant. What is the benefit? “When meat is aged you are removing the moisture, so you are intensifying the flavor of the steak,” Ashkinaze said. With quality, well-marbled steaks and time, the humidity-controlled environment enhances the character.
Preparing & seasoning the steak
To help promote even cooking, steak should be cooked at room temperature. When very cold meat is put to heat it tends to constrict, making it tough. Ashkinaze recommends removing the steak from the refrigerator one hour before cooking for best results.
When it comes to seasoning, a good steak should always be allowed to shine on its own. Both chefs agree that when working with high-quality cuts and aged meats, minimal doctoring is required. A simple seasoning of kosher salt and black pepper will suffice.
“Season the steak while it is getting to room temperature,” instructs Degel. “Massage it with the salt and pepper. Don’t be scared to use the fat cap and rub it into the meat. This will melt and enhance the fire and flavor.”
For a kick, Gallaghers uses a sweet chili rub on its aged steaks (recipe below).
Marinades are reserved for inexpensive cuts such as skirt steak or hanger steak, where flavor is not as naturally present. When using these cuts, “a soy-based marinade with agave, sesame, ginger and garlic is very good,” said Ashkinaze.
How to cook the perfect steak
To make steakhouse-quality steaks at home, consider the thickness of the meat and the flavors you would like to incorporate when choosing which cooking method to use.
Degel suggests that thicker steaks (about 2 inches) are best when grilled and charred on each side to a nice dark brown color. The trick is getting your grill well heated and being familiar with its quirks. “Know your grill and how it operates. What is the temperature and where is the hot spot?”
Smaller cuts work better when pan-seared on the outside and finished in the oven. “I love cooking steak over charcoal and lump wood,” said Ashkinaze, “however, I also like pan-searing the meat in a cast-iron pan, then placing in the oven for two minutes with butter, garlic and thyme.”
For steaks that look as good as they taste, try these chef-approved finishing touches:
- Let the meat rest five to ten minutes before slicing, depending on the thickness.
- For nice looking tender slices of meat, look for the direction of the grain and cut across it, not with it.
- Serve with seasonal vegetables like asparagus and potatoes prepared your favorite way.
Willie Degel’s Sweet Potato Hash
Chop up sweet potatoes small; rinse with water.
Saute a little garlic and onion with butter, olive oil and salt and pepper until caramelized. Set aside.
Put the sweet potatoes in a super-hot pan, searing them on all sides. Add the onions and garlic. Cover the pan and let it simmer on the stove for 10-15 minutes.
Gallaghers Sweet Chili Rub
(Provided by executive chef Alan Ashkinaze)
1 box dark brown sugar
1 cup Sugar in the Raw
1 1/4 cups kosher salt
3/4 cup paprika
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons ground white pepper
3 tablespoons onion powder
3 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons celery seed
1 tablespoon ancho chili pepper
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