A funny side effect of the recession is that we have been eating more high quality steak at home. With the downturn in the economy, steak wholesalers are unable to sell all of their prime beef to restaurants. This is why we have been seeing prime beef at Costco lately – for $9.99 a pound, no less! On Friday night, we enjoyed two 16-oz prime rib-eye steaks (perfectly seared!), a lovely bottle of 2007 cabernet from Concha Y Toro (Chile), and some spinach salad all for under $40 total. This meal would have easily cost close to $200 at a nice steak house.
As a person with a tiny urban kitchen, I was really looking for a way to make restaurant quality seared steaks without causing so much smoke that I would set off various building-wide fire alarms (ahem . . I learned the HARD way from past experience).
I found this great method in Cook’s Illustrated May 2007 issue. Unlike most methods, you bake the steaks at low heat for 30 minutes before searing them on a cast-iron grill pan. The resulting steak is amazingly tender and juicy, very nicely and evenly browned, and does not cause as much smoke as the traditional method. I’m sold.
You can use strip steaks, rib-eye, or filet mignon with this method. If you are using filet mignon, buy a 2 pound center cut tenderloin roast and cut it into four 8-oz steaks.
For a printable version of this recipe, click here.
2-rib-eye steaks (1 1/2 to 1 3/4 inches thick)
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 T vegetable oil
Step 1: Preheat oven to 275 degrees and adjust oven rack to middle position. Dry the steaks with a paper towel and cut the 16-oz steaks in half to make 2 8-oz steaks (still same thickness!). Generously sprinkle the steaks on both sides with sea salt and pepper. (Ideally the steaks would be at or close to room temperature)
Step 2: If the steaks are not even thicknesses, try to press down on the thicker steaks to bring all the steaks to a uniform thickness, if possible.
Step 3: Put the steaks on a wired rack set in a rimmed baking sheet. Since I did not have a wired rack, I just cleaned one of my oven racks, placed the steaks directly on top, and put a rimmed cookie sheet right below the rack with the steaks to collect any drippings.
Step 4: Bake the steaks at 275 degrees until they reach an internal temperature of 90-95 degrees (rare or medium rare) or 100-105 degrees (medium). It took my steaks about 14 minutes to reach 90 degrees (it started at around 50 degrees).
This slow baking at a low temperature allows enzymes in the meat (cathepsins) to break down connective fibers, making the meat super tender. It’s sort of like dry aging at turbo speeds in the oven. This enzyme only works at temperatures below 140 degrees, which is why hot broiling the steaks for a short amount of time does not cause this tenderizing effect. In our case, we have slowly baked and “aged” the steak in the oven under low heat for 15 minutes (or longer, if you like medium steaks!)
You can use an instant read thermometer. I used this cool thermometer which beeps at you when your desired temperature is reached. You stick the probe in the meat and then the unit sits outside. I picked up this Taylor one at Target for only $20 (the one at Williams-Sonoma was $50!). It worked like a charm.
When you take the steaks out, they will look a little scary, but don’t worry! We will sear them and then they will be beautiful!
Step 5: Heat your cast-iron grill pan (or aluminum grill pan) to high heat with vegetable oil until the oil is smoking. Quickly put the steaks onto the grill. Cook for 1.5 – 2 minutes on one side (lifting the steak halfway to re-distribute the fat), and then flip and cook another 2 – 2.5 min on the other side. Warning, this is where there will be smoke. Open windows and vent as necessary!
Step 6: Let steaks rest on rack while you do the next step.
Step 7: Pick up two steaks, put them side by side with tongs, and sear all sides of the steak to lock in the juices!
Step 8: Let the steaks rest for 10 minutes loosely tented with foil (important! don’t eat them right away!)
Step 9: Serve!
This is now my preferred method for making steaks at home. Although it’s by no means smoke-free, it does create less smoke than our old method, which was to sear the whole steak on a grill pan on top of the stove. By opening the windows and turning on the vents, we were able to clear out most of the smoke relatively quickly. And the steak that you get at the end of the endeavor is TOTALLY worth it.
No fire alarms were set off in the making of this blog post. 🙂
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