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3 Easy Ways to Ruin a Good Steak

Most people don’t go out for a steak very often – maybe once a week, if they’re lucky. What does that mean? It means that when you do go out for steak, you want to make the most of it. This is the type of meal you look forward to, anticipate, and remember after it’s over.

The same goes for buying high quality steaks at the market and cooking them at home. You want to make sure you do it right, so that you get the most out of your “home steakhouse” experience.

In either case, however, it’s very much possible to come away disappointed. Here are three easy ways to ruin a good steak – hopefully yours comes out perfect!

1. Overcooking

For steakhouse chefs (and steak aficionados, for that matter), the worst thing you can do to a really good steak is over cook it. Instead of a tender, juicy, succulent expression of the steak’s natural flavor and texture, you’re left with a tough and dry steak that isn’t nearly as enjoyable or delicious as it could have been. Obviously, everyone has their own rules and standards when it comes to eating a steak, and some people still prefer their steak well done. Most chefs would argue, however, that if you haven’t tried moving down the scale to “medium” or even “medium-rare,” you don’t know what you’re missing.

2. Over-marinating

Actually, if you talk to a seasoned steakhouse chef, they might not only tell you that over-marinating can ruin a good steak – they might well say that any kind of marinating will take away from the flavor and grandeur of a high-quality cut of beef. We normally think of marinades as a way to enhance the flavor of meat and poultry, and that’s true in so many cases. In the case of a superior steak, however, most professionals prefer to pound the meat with a little rock salt and throw it directly on the heat. This way, the natural flavors of the steak are able to fully emerge, without being lost in the spices and flavorings of marinade.

3. Not choosing carefully

Sometimes, the biggest mistake is made at the moment you order your steak. Now obviously, if you’re at a really good steakhouse, there won’t be any steak on the menu that isn’t good. But not understanding your options, and not knowing what the distinctions actually are, can prevent you from making the best menu selection. That’s why waitstaff are such a valuable resource of information. You should be able to rely on them for quality feedback about the steaks you’re considering, and to help you make the best possible decision.

Where are the best steakhouses?

The American steakhouse tradition has never been stronger, and in fact, there are plenty of international steakhouses (Brazilian, Argentinian, Japanese, etc.) right here in the states. But these establishments should all have one thing in common: They’re passionate about sourcing and preparing immaculate steaks that put a smile on the face of even the most experienced steak lover.

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Can Steak Be a Healthy Part of Your Diet?

When it comes to staying healthy, there is always a new piece of information, a new diet, or a new exercise fad that people are talking about. Obviously, we all want to stay as fit and healthy as possible – but it’s hard to make sense of things when the information is always changing.

Chocolate and red wine are great examples. One minute, we hear that they’re good for the heart. The next minute, we hear that one or the other is linked to certain illnesses. For a lot of people, the experience of a good piece of dark chocolate, or a nice glass of red wine, tips the scales in favor of the “healthy” argument.

Where does steak fit into this picture? There has been plenty of discussion on whether red meat is healthy, and if so, in what measure? Fortunately, we don’t have to guess at these questions – there is plenty of useful dialogue and information available.

One of the potential health benefits of lean beef (much like chocolate and red wine) is that it seems to have heart benefits. According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people with diet rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains experienced lower levels of LDL cholesterol when they added around 5 ounces of lean beef to their diet every day. Some of the fats in beef (namely stearic acid and oleic acid) have been show to improve cholesterol levels.

Another potential health benefit of steak involves the mood-lifting benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. These chemicals appear to protect against depression and anxiety disorders, according to an Australian study. When participates in the study consumed 1-2 ounces of beef per day, their odds of developing depression or anxiety were much lower. It’s worth noting that grass-fed animals produce more of these helpful omega-3 fatty acids.

Let’s not forget that red meat (including beef, lamb and bison) is a great source of protein. There are also many other useful nutrients in a quality cut of beef, including iron, zinc, and vitamin B-12.

Now obviously – all good things should be enjoyed in moderation. Eating an over-abundance of steak can lead to certain health issues, but this is true for virtually any food. Red meat is a regular part of the diet for a large proportion Americans (and people the world over) who lead healthy and active lifestyles.

The trick may be – as your parents told you – to eat your vegetables. People are much more likely to reap the benefits of high quality red meat when they maintain a diet that’s high in veggies, fruits, and whole grains. If you keep up that side of things, and get plenty of exercise, your doctor is probably going to have a lot more positive things to say about your red meat intake.

Everybody is different, and various dietary choices can affect people in different ways – but one thing is for sure: it’s difficult to argue with the taste, flavor, and satisfaction of an expertly prepared cut from a reputable steakhouse!

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4 Wines that Pair Well with Steak

Pairing wine with food is a very old and complex practice. You’ve probably been to an upscale restaurant where a sommelier, or wine steward, makes recommendations on food and wine pairings. There are professional associations all over the world for maintaining standards in this area, and it takes years of dedication and hard work to gain recognition as a professional sommelier.

At the same time, pairing wine with food is not something reserved only for trained professionals and dedicated foodies. It’s a common practice shared by everyone who appreciates a good glass of wine with a fine meal – and you don’t have to be an expert to know a good pairing when you taste it!

When you think about your next steakhouse visit, wine might not be the first thing that comes to mind. Maybe you prefer a cold beer with your steak, or a craft cocktail, or maybe you’re rather stick with water or soda. But if you haven’t ever tried pairing a glass of wine with a fine steak, it’s definitely worth a try.

1. Cabernet Sauvignon

This red wine is often the “go to” when it comes to steak. Due to its full-bodied and fruity taste, it pairs nicely with the succulent and full-bodied flavor of a high quality steak. A sommelier could explain much better than we can, but Cabernet Sauvignon has a high alcohol content and plenty of tannins from the skin of the grapes. This gives Cabernet a smooth finish that really brings out the flavor of a good cut.

2. Malbec

This Argentinian red wine has been growing very popular lately, and we’re seeing it more and more in restaurants of all types. Best of all, Malbec pairs very well with steak. They love red meat in Argentina, and this is the most popular wine to pair with it. It has a very rich and flavorful profile that accentuates the flavor of a good steak, and it’s often among the more affordable wines on the list.

3. California Zinfandel

Another red wine that makes an excellent pairing with steak is a dark, flavorful California Zinfandel. This is a more acidic wine with fewer tannins than Cabernet Sauvignon, which means that Zinfandel goes very well with fatty steaks. If you’ve got a steak with really good marbling, consider pairing it with this wine. Interesting fact: Zinfandel is also sometimes used as a steak marinade.

4. Rosé

People often gravitate towards red wines when it comes to pairing with steak, and there is good reason for this – but don’t rule out a chilled, refreshing, crisp Rosé. This is always a popular pairing with steak or other grilled meats. A warm summer evening on the patio could be a perfect opportunity to try this combination for yourself.

Ask your local steakhouse for recommendations!

Now that you’ve got a grasp of wines that tend to be paired with steak, ask your waiter for recommendations from the wine list. Wine might not have been your first choice for steak, but once you experience a good pairing, you very well may want to repeat the experience!

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5 Signs of a Shady Steakhouse

There are a lot of steakhouses out there, and let’s face it – not all of them are great. You probably only visit a steakhouse once or twice a month (unless you’re an aficionado, in which case once or twice a week might be more like it) – so when you do go out for a steak, it’s in your interests to pick a good one.

Sometimes you don’t know you’re in a shady steakhouse until you taste the food – other times, there are warning signs that can prevent you from going there in the first place. Here are 5 signs of a shady steakhouse.

1. Nobody’s there

This might not actually mean the steakhouse is ‘shady’; it could simply mean they’re brand new, or else they’ve had consistently negative reviews and people are avoiding the place. A consistently empty house obviously isn’t a good sign for a steakhouse. The old saying “go where the crowds are” is often a good rule of thumb – but not always!

2. The waiter doesn’t know much

Normally, a good quality steakhouse will make sure that every waiter is properly schooled in the various menu items, the sources of the different steaks, the best combinations, side dishes, and so forth. Once in a while, you see a steakhouse waiter that doesn’t seem to know much about any of these things. They might have just started, in which case, it’s always good to cut the waiter some slack. But if it seems like the waiter doesn’t really care, or doesn’t know much about the food, you have to wonder what’s going on in the kitchen.

3. The menu doesn’t give detailed information

A good steakhouse menu will give you information about where the various steaks come from, and how they are graded – this is important stuff when you’re hoping for an excellent steak. If the menu doesn’t say anything about the steaks other than “filet mignon, T-bone, porterhouse,” and so forth – then the steakhouse you’re chosen probably does not take their steak very seriously!

4. The reviews aren’t great

Before you even go to a steakhouse, you might see a pattern of negative reviews on important sites like Google or Facebook. This is definitely not a good sign, especially if the reviews contain detailed information about why the experience wasn’t great.

5. The interior is shabby

There are examples of good steakhouses out there that make a point of not doing much with the interior of the place. If the quality of the steak is really good, this might work for people. Usually, however, a good steakhouse will put a lot of thought and care into the décor, furniture, lighting, and of course the cleanliness of the dining areas and restrooms. If any of these elements are lacking or not up to par, there’s a great chance that the food will also be disappointing.

Steer clear of shabby steakhouses!

With all the amazing variety out there, there’s no reason to settle for a subpar steakhouse. Recommendations from friends, online reviews, and of course your own experiences are the best way to create a personalized map of which steakhouses in your area are worth visiting.

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Why is the Filet Mignon so Tender?

If we took a nationwide poll asking people what the most expensive, tender and desirable steak is, the most common answer would probably be filet mignon. Maybe it’s the fancy name, or the general association with quality and sophistication. Or maybe it’s because filet mignon, when shipped from a reputable source and prepared by a reputable chef, actually is incredibly tender!

Granted, there are other cuts of steak that are arguably even more succulent and delicious. But for now, let’s focus on the ever-popular filet mignon. Why is it so desirable? More importantly, why is it so tender?

Let’s start with the question of tenderness; and the answer is quite simple. Filet mignon is actually the forward tip of the tenderloin, which is located just below the sirloin. This matters because that particular bit of muscle does not bear any weight, and does very little work. As a result, filet mignon is naturally soft and tender. By comparison, the cuts of beef that come from more active muscle areas will naturally be harder and fibrous, with more connective tissue.

It’s worth pointing out that filet mignon is the most exclusive cut of beef, meaning that the average heifer or steer produces less filet mignon (an average of 500 grams total) than other cuts of beef. This fact, along with the special tenderness of filet mignon, have arguably made it the single most desirable cut of beef in the steakhouse world. Prime rib and other cuts of beef, however, are more flavorful than filet mignon, according to many different steak lovers.

A lot of people don’t know that bacon is often used in the preparation of filet mignon – so if you don’t like pork, take heed. Filet mignon doesn’t contain as much fat or “marbling” as some other cuts of beef, so bacon is often used to compensate this weakness. By wrapping the filet mignon in bacon and pinning it with a wooden toothpick before preparation, flavor and fat is added to the equation. This method also prevents the filet mignon from becoming too dry while it’s being cooked.

All in all, there’s no doubt that a good filet mignon is a special experience. But it’s good to know exactly what goes into the process, and to be aware of some of the ways in which filet mignon might actually fall short of other cuts of beef, in terms of flavor.

Where’s the beef?

Your local steakhouse (provided it’s a reputable establishment) should have some very attractive options in the filet mignon category. Often times there will only be once choice when it comes to filet mignon; but it’s important to know where it comes from, and why it’s good. Your waiter should be able to give you reliable information upon request, and if not, they should have your questions answered directly by the chef. A steak dinner is not the cheapest meal you’ll have all week (most likely), so it’s worth acquiring the knowledge and experience to make the most out of each steakhouse experience!

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Steakhouse Tips to Enhance Your Summer Grilling

Summer is upon us, and that means the grills of New Jersey (and the nation) are hard at work. Grilling is one of our great national past times. It’s the combination of enjoying the great outdoors, good company, and excellent casual dining and entertaining experiences. Of course people want more of that. You might have a patio, or even a pool – but when summer comes, standing in front of the grill is one of the best places to be.

That said, a lot of steaks are going to get ruined this year. Let’s face it. Grilling is also something that takes skill. We’ve all had an experience where the grillmaster was less than masterful, and we all know that person who really gets it done right. There is a wide spectrum of skill-levels when it comes to grilling. Here are some tips to raise the bar on your summer grilling game, particularly with steaks.

1. Don’t overdo it

Cooking steak too long is probably the number one problem in DIY steak grilling. Obviously you don’t want to be eating raw beef, unless you’re a fan of the steak tartar dishes they like to serve in France. But cooking the beef too long for reasons of sanitation is usually a flawed concept. In fact, there are numerous studies out there showing that overcooking beef actually takes away some of its nutritional value and could be unhealthy in other ways. When succulent steak is perfectly prepared, there’s nothing like it. And let’s not forget – they serve raw beef in France.

2. Try skipping the marinades

Nobody is saying that marinades aren’t great. If fact, marinades can be responsible for some downright succulent dishes. But there’s a reason why not many professional steakhouses fool around with marinades that much: It’s because the beef is very high quality, from a reputable source, and marinades would only mask the glorious natural flavor of the beef. Backyard barbeques tend to lean heavily on marinades, but if you’ve gone out and bought some really good steak, we would recommend trying to mimic the steakhouse preparation. Many steak chefs will pound the meat with some rock salt and that’s it. The rest is all about using heat to bring out the amazing flavor, tenderness, and juiciness of the steak.

3. Sell the grill and go to a steakhouse

We don’t really want people to sell their grills. As we said in the beginning, grilling is one of the best summer activities. But it’s also not for everyone. A balmy night in which you walk into a fresh, cool dining room and sit down to a professionally prepared steak dinner – that can also be a very nice summer experience. And there’s no cleanup afterwards.

Treat steak right!

Whether you like to grill your own steak or let others grill it for you, it’s good to respect the beef, not overcook it, and try to bring out its natural flavor and tenderness. Getting really good might take some practice – and a few trips to a local steakhouse for comparison.

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7 Reasons to Try a New Steakhouse This Week

If you could try a new steakhouse every single week, would you? A lot of people would answer ‘no’ to this question. These are the folks that enjoy a steak only every once in awhile, and that’s fine. But there are steak lovers out there who would definitely check out a different establishment every week if they could. Until, of course, they started to realize which steakhouses to avoid, and which ones to book ahead for reservations. Traveling to a new city or country, whether for business or pleasure, is another great opportunity to try new steakhouses. But time, money and other constraints can prevent people from trying as much new steak they’d like to. Here are seven reasons to try a new steakhouse this week.

1. It doesn’t have to be that expensive

You’d be surprised by the values that exist at really good steakhouses throughout the weeks. Specials and promotions can be a great way to enjoy a high-class steak dinner at a cut rate. Even if it’s not a promotional night, you can always skip the adult beverages and order light. A lot of steakhouses keep the bread coming as long as you order a good steak – and that can be a good thing.

2. It’s always a good time

The thing about going to a steakhouse is that it’s always an experience – or at least it should be. Booking your next steakhouse adventure with some good friends doesn’t require a special occasion. You can make a good occasion out of it with good company and food you’ll be thinking about for days after.

3. You’ll know best spots – and the not-so-good ones

Experience is really the only teacher as far as being a steak aficionado. You might have online reviews or even personal opinions from friends or colleagues, but not all of those sources are trustworthy. A steakhouse should definitely have earned a good enough reputation to deserve a chance; otherwise it’s probably not worth going to. But part of the joy of trying new steakhouses in new neighborhoods (or right in your own neighborhood) is know where the best spots are, and being able to rely on your own experiences as a reference point the next time you want to take your friends, family, colleagues, or just yourself out for a good steak.

Sure, there’s always next week.

The steakhouse tradition isn’t going anywhere soon, and the quality of the food is getting better and more inventive all the time. But there’s no time like a present, and there’s a lot of steak out there to try. There are also plenty of steakhouses out there to avoid. How do you know which ones? Too many negative or mediocre reviews on popular social channels is a good place to start. Look for steakhouses that have earned good review scores, and even favorable reviews in magazines and news outlets. Some of the best steakhouses are places you wouldn’t expect, but the locals know about them. Good luck finding your next great steak!

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What are the 3 Most Popular Types of Steak?

What kind of steak did you order on your most recent visit to a steakhouse? Do you remember the cut, the source, the preparation? Do you remember how it looked on your plate, and how that first succulent bite tasted?

If it was a really good steakhouse, the answer to these questions is probably yes. If it was a mediocre steak from a mediocre establishment, or a steak from a restaurant that doesn’t specialize in steak, you might not remember much about the experience.

But if we had to guess what type (cut) of steak you ordered that evening, it was probably one of the following:

1. New York Strip

We mentioned this one first because it’s less expensive and more widely available – you tend to see a lot of New York Strips in markets, and at restaurants. It’s a solid steak, to be sure, but it’s a little too chewy for some people, and it doesn’t have a great deal of marbling (fat content) inside. If it did, the price would be higher. But a high quality New York Strip, expertly sourced and prepared, is nothing to shake a stick at.

2. Filet Mignon

This cut is usually at the top of people’s lists – and for good reason. It’s a very tender muscle that does not perform a lot of exercise in a cow’s life. The result is a very smooth and buttery piece of steak, and if prepared right, your steak knife should easily cut through it. The taste is incredible, but some steak aficionados think that the lack of fat in this cut of beef creates a very mild flavor.

3. Rib-eye

This is, of course, another treasured cut of beef. It doesn’t always come with the rib bone in place – sometimes that bone has been removed. Unlike filet mignon, ribeye is quite fatty, both on its edges and inside (this is called marbling). The result is a vibrant and succulent flavor. These cuts are generally not as buttery and soft as the filet mignon – but they’re still tender, and the chewiness adds to the experience of the flavor.

Your next steakhouse experience…

Whether you’re new to being a steak aficionado or you’ve been at it a long time (or maybe you’ve just had your first high class steak dinner, and are curious about having more), it’s interesting to know what the popular cuts actually are. Far more important, however, is the quality of the source. Good steakhouses are very particular about where they source beef, fish, and anything else on the menu – but especially the beef. It should be from a highly reputable source, and it’s always nice to see some local farms on the menu as well. Once you get really good steak into the hands of a fully equipped and experienced steakhouse chef, you’ll be able to fully enjoy the merits of each different cut.

Choose your next steak carefully, and ask where it comes from! Your waiter should be able to give you specific information that enhances your knowledge and enjoyment of steak. Enjoy!

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3 Great Steakhouse Desserts

When you book a table at a new steakhouse ­– someplace you’ve never been before – you’re not entirely worried about the décor. You’re not thinking about whether the chairs will be the most comfortable you’ve ever sat in, or whether they’ll have your preferred brand of beer or wine. There are a thousand details involved in a steakhouse visit, but they all pale in comparison to one simple question: How is the steak?

Because let’s face it – if the steak falls flat, the entire experience will fall flat too Everything else can be done exactly right, but if you’re not enjoying that cut of beef on your plate, it’s simply not going to rank up there among your best steakhouse experiences. In fact, you’re probably going to log on to social media within 24 hours and let the world know about your experience.

That said, a great steak on its own – when the other aspects of the experience are sub-standard – is not the greatest thing either. That’s why the best steakhouses take extra care to deliver a complete experience. It may revolve around steak, but it definitely includes atmosphere, service, sides, and of course dessert.

Speaking of dessert, what are some standout desserts being served at reputable steakhouses? A good dessert is the figurative cherry on top of a fantastic steak dinner, so it’s worth taking a closer look at this underrated area of the steakhouse experience.

1. Cannoli tacos

Imagine a lightly fried flour tortilla filled with a perfectly mixed blend of ricotta cheese, cinnamon and powdered sugar, orange peel, vanilla, and whipping cream. This (or some variation of it) is the cannoli taco – and it’s a giant hit with steakhouse aficionados. It’s the kind of dessert you may need to share with a friend or two, especially after a succulent steak dinner. But there’s no better way to round off your steakhouse experience!

2. Lemon and/or butter cakes

There are many different takes on lemon and butter cake in steakhouses around the country – but one thing is for sure: When they’re done right, these cakes are a positively sublime way to follow up a steak dinner. Especially when they have just the right amount of crispiness on the outside and softness on the inside.

3. Ice cream sundaes

There is no shortage of ice cream sundaes out there, but so many of them fall short of the highest expectations. Not so when you visit a high-class steakhouse with a variation of the ice cream sundae on the menu. It’s truly the little things that matter, from the quality of the ice cream to the flavorings and toppings.

Is your steakhouse serving delectable desserts?

Obviously you don’t want to choose a steakhouse based solely on the dessert menu – but fortunately, most of the steakhouses with really good dessert menus are also serving really great steaks. People often skip dessert because they’ve eaten too much, or because they don’t want the extra calories. But sharing one of these light (or not-so-light) desserts after a steak dinner can truly be the icing on the cake.

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How Well-Trained are Steakhouse Chefs?

The media is always talking about Michelin star restaurants, up-and-coming chefs, and of course those culinary TV shows where young professionals are put through the paces. People love to watch and read about the high stakes game of professional culinary arts. It’s a competitive field, and some people are willing to do whatever it takes to reach the top.

But do chefs in the real world really go through that kind of training? Are they really all that well trained, or does the media tend to sensationalize it?

Let’s take your average steakhouse, for example. There are an awful lot of steakhouses out there, and many of them could be described as average. What kind of training do these chefs have? Can even be described as “chefs,” or are they more like “cooks”?

These are interesting questions for anybody who is fascinated by the restaurant business. They also have a direct bearing on the quality of the food that comes of the kitchen.

There are certainly exceptions, but if you took a detailed survey of the chefs in “average” steakhouses, you’d probably find more experience than formal training. Make no mistake – experience is valuable in the kitchen, especially when you’re putting together orders for dozens of tables at the same time, and trying to make sure all the plates come out on time and on point.

That being said, formal training is a characteristic that virtually every high-level chef possesses, whether that training was undertaken at a culinary school or as a formal apprentice to a master chef.

When you start looking at the higher-level steakhouses – the ones that earn great review scores, and maintain sterling reputations in their communities – you’ll probably find that a lot of those chefs have formal training in the culinary arts. You might not even have to ask in order to confirm this fact – the evidence will be right in front of you, both in the execution of the steak and sides you order, and in the presentation.

Let’s be honest – when you go to a steakhouse, you probably aren’t overly concerned about presentation. What you want is a high quality steak, prepared to absolute perfection, with an array of irresistible side dishes. You want craft beverages, a comfortable and inviting atmosphere, and a warm style of service. Those stuffy, uncomfortable, overly formal restaurants aren’t exactly what you have in mind when you go to a steakhouse – you want to relax and enjoy yourself!

If you’re wondering about who is in the kitchen, and what kind of training they have, it never hurts to ask your waiter. In many cases, the steakhouse chef will come right out and introduce him or herself to you, and answer your questions in person. At the very least, the waiter should be able to tell you about the qualifications of the chef, if that interests you.

What interests most people, however, is the quality of the meal. That’s why the highest rated steakhouses often maintain their high ratings on popular social channels, and always keep their customers coming back for more.