This is going to seem like a very simple post on cooking a steak but I think it’s one which needs to be written based on A LOT of pandemic cooking photos I see on social media channels. Also, because my mom asked.
Over the weekend my mother texted me a photo of some veal chops she received and said she was going to need a recipe for them. I said ok, for something like that it’s going to be a very very simple preparation. I started to send her directions via text and then decided hey, might as well make a post of it. She agreed that would be fine. Look at these chops. Beautiful, no? Oh what I’d do to them! Seeing this, I immediately knew there’s really only one way to cook them, and it starts with salt. More specifically, a salt and sugar blend.
Look, the grocery store aisles are full of ready-made marinades and rubs. But really, the only thing you need to properly season your steaks/chops/roasts etc., is already in your kitchen: salt. If you try this ridiculously easy method you’ll end up with a well seasoned, juicy piece of meat which everyone will marvel at. You’re welcome.
Side Roam: America’s Test Kitchen did an experiment on marinades to see if they did actually add flavor to meat and found that store-bought marinades barely scratch the surface (literally) and don’t penetrate your steak/chop/chicken very much at all. Seriously, google it, pretty interesting. I’ll just set this nugget aside for now.
My blend is pretty easy to make. It’s 3 parts Kosher salt and 1 part raw sugar (the coarser kind). If you use this simple blend correctly, your steaks, chops, etc. will be perfectly seasoned and juicy.
Some quick points. Salt is quite a powerful tool and, as you know, too much will ruin the dish. When using this technique be aware of how thick your steaks are (btw, I’m just going to use ‘steaks’ from this point forward but this applies to chops, roasts, etc). The thicker they are the more salt blend you should use and the more time you should give it. For example, the pork chops above are fairly thin, I cut them maybe an inch thick. I coat them liberally with the blend but not a full on carpet. Thus seasoned I let them sit in the fridge for at least 6 hours. Season in the morning and they’ll be fine for dinner. For my mother’s veal chops up top, I’d definitely let them sit in the fridge overnight at a minimum. Maybe even 2 nights. Why so?
Salt draws out water, and eventually the salt dissolves in the drawn out water which then gets reabsorbed by the steak…but it takes time. Thicker means more time. Even thinner steaks should be allowed to sit a few hours in order to let this process work. And it does work. Why the sugar? Helps gives a nice carmelization on the crust. And flavor obv. Feel free to leave it out of the blend if you’re avoiding sugar.
The other thing to note about thickness and cooking is the room temperature or not debate. Thick like those veal chops, yes allow the meat to come to room temperature before cooking. Thin like those pork chops above, not so much. Reason: as a home cook you want to try to control the even-ness of cooking. Fridge to grill/skillet on a thick piece will get you overcooked exterior while waiting for the middle to get up to desired temperature. On a thin steak you don’t want the middle overcooking so it’s ok to put cold meat on the grill. Think of a thick ribeye vs thin flank steak.
Ok, you good so far? Good. Back to my blend for a second. The 3:1 ratio is a great BASE for YOUR flavor creations. While I always have a container of this in the pantry, I also tinker with adding herbs to the mix. For example I added some crushed fennel seeds to a smaller batch and have been using it on my pork chops. Tasty. For my mother’s veal chops above I’d put some rosemary in. Equal to the amount of sugar if you’re calculating things.
Now that I’ve given you’ve got my seasoning, here’s how I cook a steak when I’m not grilling. Foolproof I tells ya. Again, thickness will extend or shorten the times here, it will help you GREATLY if you have a good digital thermometer (like this one). Seriously, you should have one anyway as a kitchen essential. The following instructions are for a 1-1/2 inch thick steak, cooking it to medium rare. As always these times are general estimates based on MY oven so keep an eye on things the first time you try it. No I will not tell you how to cook it well done, get out of here with that nonsense.
Season your steak all over with the salt blend. Top, bottom, sides. Set on a plate in the fridge overnight. Remove and let steak come to room temp before cooking.
Pre-heat your oven to 450F. If you have a cast iron frying pan (another kitchen essential) now is the perfect time to use it. If not, any heavy pan or skillet which can go from stove burner to oven will work.
While the oven is heating up, get your pan sauce “mise” ready. Mince a shallot, some rosemary (or another herb like parsley), slice some mushrooms, mix a Tbs of softened butter and a Tbs of flour together, and get a little red wine and stock/broth.
I start with the pan on the stove top over high heat, heat a couple of Tbs of oil or butter in your pan. Once the pan is hot, sear one side of the steak for 4 minutes. Turn it over and do the other side now for 3 minutes.
Now put the entire pan/skillet in the pre-heated oven for about 7-8 mins. Check the temp on the meat with a thermometer. For medium rare I pull the skillet out when the meat is at about 122F. Don’t worry the meat will still be cooking and the temp will rise during the resting period. Remove the steak from the pan and wrap it in a piece of aluminum foil. Set aside for at least 5 minutes, preferably closer to 10 in order to let the meat rest.
Your steak is good to go now, but hey while. you’ve got that really hot pan you might as well whip up a quick pan sauce while the meat rests.
Drain off most of the oil and fat (leave a little bit maybe a Tbs) keeping any juices (there won’t be much but hey, save what’s there) and put your hot pan on the stove over medium high heat. Add your mushrooms and shallots and let them brown and cook down for about 5 mins. Add a little bit of wine and scrape up the bits. Now go open up the aluminum foil covering your steak. Some nice juice in there, right? Pour that into the pan. If. you need a little more liquid stir in half a cup of stock (or water), let simmer and reduce a little. Psst, here’s a good opportunity to use a spoonful of some of that mushroom paste I told you about a few weeks ago.
It should still be a little thin so whisk in a 1/2 Tbs of the butter/flour mixture and let it cook in. Finish with your fresh herbs. Thick enough? Good go slice your steak and serve. Not gravy-like enough? Whisk in a little more of the butter/flour mix to get it where you like it. Notice I didn’t say anything about salt? The stuff left in the pan should have enough salty residue to season your sauce. Regardless, taste and season further if needed.
Need a side? Do I really need to tell you some oven roasted or mashed potatoes would work just fine here? Sautéed greens with some garlic and a squeeze of lemon too. Simple but they’ll all work in harmony.
I hope this helps, Mom! Enjoy!
PS – for more juicy food photos you can find and follow me on Instagram @sausagekonig