Steak has a reputation not only for being a crowd pleaser, but for being a delicacy. Because it’s such a prestige meal (as well as a delicious one), people are often particular about the best way to prepare and season steak — whether they’re grilling at home or dining at the finest steakhouse. Chefs from around the world claim that their individual methods for seasoning steak are the only way to go. The question is, how should you prepare your steak before you throw it on the grill? Here are few different methods that can richly enhance your steak’s flavor.
A simple salt seasoning
Some people claim that steaks are unbeatable when you simply sprinkle and rub a generous amount of kosher salt on the beef about 30 minutes before placing it on the grill. With its larger crystals, kosher salt clings to the meat better than table salt. Letting the seasoning sit on the meat for longer than 30 minutes tends to draw the juices out of the center, making the steak less juicy altogether. This method also works best when the steak is allowed to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes prior to putting it on the grill. Allowing the meat to reach a warmer temperature before grilling shortens the time the steak has to stay on the grill. Before grilling, a bit of black pepper can also be massaged into the meat — along with a light brushing of clarified butter.
At home (and in some restaurants), marinating is more common. It’s also suggested when you are working with a lower quality cut, such as round steak or flank. In addition to flavoring the meat nicely, a marinate will also tenderize the steak as it soaks. This tenderization occurs due to the presence of some kind of acid in the marinade, such as vinegar, soy sauce or citrus juice. Many steak experts advise against marinating prime cuts, such as filet mignon and New York strip steaks because you probably wish to preserve the original texture of these cuts. If you decide to create your marinade from scratch, a good rule of thumb is to use a 2-1 ratio of oil and acid.
A seasoning blend
Some prefer to use a blend of seasonings — in addition to the kosher salt and black pepper described above. Common seasonings include garlic and onion powder, thyme, oregano and paprika. Some folks also like to use chilies and garlic cloves in their seasoning, depending on the flavor you’re going for. For example, if you are aiming to achieve a Mexican flavor, you might also include chili powder, cumin and lime in your pre-grilling ritual. If the flavors of Asia are your thing, you might include sesame oil, Sriracha, or sesame seeds in your blend.
Discovering your distinct taste
These three different methods for seasoning steak capture different flavors, but the best way to discover which method best suites your distinct taste is to experiment with them all — and to ask the staff at your favorite steakhouse next time you order. The art behind grilling steak takes time and practice — but it’s all worth it when you end up with that next-level flavor.