Sunday, June 17, 2012

Six Simple Golden Rules to Great Grilled Steak

Six Golden Rules to Great Steak - a Timeless Classic from our Daddy to Yours

Grilled Ribeye, Asparagus in Browned Butter and
Chopped Salad with Blue Cheese and House Vinaigrette.
Steak was a delicacy in our house. Not only was it expensive, but we had to make a special trip to the grocery and it seemed like Daddy had to talk to the butcher for hours in order to procure it. I would twiddle my thumbs, run up and down isles and touch every package of meat in the case, while Daddy talked shop with his butcher pal.

Our dad hunted and between him and the boys, plus Nanny and myself, we managed to put most of the meat on our table from the wild: venison, pig, dove, ducks, geese, turkey, rabbit, squirrel, fish, crab, shrimp and heck, even the odd armadillo – it is Texas after all. So we didn’t see the butcher very often. We even made our own ground meat, chili meat and sausage.

Nephew Graham with Axis Buck taken
on the Nueces River Bottom.
We'll always be thankful to HC or "Hughie" or the Great White Hunter as we often called him for giving us our love of the Texas Hill Country and the outdoors. For teaching us about taking care of the land and the "natural herd" of wild things. For teaching us about good, simple cookin' and for our love of family and family get togethers. We're working on the next two generations now and they already show great promise and love for hunting and fishing and loving the outdoors.

I’m about to pass along a few golden rules for making a truly great (and easy) grilled steak in honor of all the fathers out there. Happy Father’s Day to you all! These rules were passed down from our daddy – a remarkable hunter, lover of the outdoors, cook and fantastic pit boss (barbeque cook for all you non-Texans).

The rules can even be applied to non-steakular meat like pork, chicken, game of all kinds, even burgers and sausage. The only things that alter among these meats are total cooking time and the addition of any indirect cooking time.

Daddy and Mama on "The Steps" overlooking our
favorite part of the Hill Country. Most of us have
been photographed on "The Steps".
Because of Daddy’s prowess as The Great White Hunter, we grew up mostly eating wild game and fish. We’re on the Gulf Coast and back during the 60’s and 70’s, seafood like shrimp and crabs were downright cheap! I was so used to lean, lean meat I couldn’t stand steak or any kind of meat that had visible fat on it.

For some reason, it just grossed me out to look at fat and I hated the texture of it, too. Venison and wild game is very lean and if they remain grass fed foragers as opposed to corn fed from feeders, there’s almost never any visible fat hanging on the meat.

I guess you love what you know. And I knew lean, wild meats best. Dad had a way of butchering and handling meat to take the wild flavor out of game. It simply tasted like the freshest, meltingly tender meat you've ever been priveleged to eat. I've never tasted anything that can compare since Dad passed. Everything else, even steak is a pale second.

Daddy’s Golden Rule #1 to Great Grilled Steak – Buy the best looking meat you can afford. (Meat + Gristle = Gruesomely Gross)

Daddy's Golden Rule #1 Buy the best mean you can afford!
Because of my background, I had to acquire the taste for steak and the rich fat that marbles the meat and adds flavor, moistness and tenderness. The thin white streaks of fat that run through the bright red meat tenderizes the steak by breaking up and interrupting chewy muscle fibers.

Oddly enough, marbling is composed of more monounsaturated fats than the white band of harder fat that often wraps around the outside of the steak. The outside fat usually contains more saturated fat.

When buying meat, Daddy taught me to look for thicker cuts, because you can brown the meat on the outside easier and control the level of internal doneness. He instructed us to buy well-marbled cuts with a thin outside band of fat and to look for pieces with the fewest streaks of gristle. After all these years, I still hear his voice in my head giving buying instructions whenever I’m picking out meat.

These days, with the price of food, steak is once more a delicacy. Sadly, we no longer hunt or fish and all the meat in our freezers is procured through heebing (heebing=shopping at HEB) instead of hunting. I still find myself searching out the types of meat Daddy would have bought. WWDB (What Would Daddy Buy). And although we’re buying many cheaper cuts, including cheaper steak cuts, I still use his Golden Rules.

Although rib eye steaks are among the most tender, rich and flavorful cuts, economical alternatives exist! Look for beef back ribs. These are actually the ribs that hold the rib eye to the carcass! They taste like a piece of rib eye with even greater flavor because you taste the meat closest to the bone. Bones add flavor! They cost less – sometimes as much as 75% less than a rib eye steak. And anyone who’s ever eaten a pork spare rib knows, ribs are fun to eat!

And easy to cook.

Alternate cheaper cuts of beef include chuck steak, club steak, hanger steak, flat iron steak, t-bone steak, flank steak, skirt steak, eye-of-round steak, beef back ribs, and beef cross cut ribs. The premium cuts of steak include tenderloin, porterhouse, NY strip and the mighty rib eye. Buy what you can afford, but remember the rules: look for marbling, choose cuts with the least gristle, and limit the fat on the outside to 1/8 – 1/4 inch. Why pay for extra fat?

Daddy’s Golden Rules applied not only to the buying, but to the cooking as well. He maintained that you had to observe the simple rule: Crap In = Crap Out or CI=CO. That’s true of so many things, right? But the main thing he meant was if you don’t have a good piece of meat in the first place – even cheap cuts – no amount of seasonings or cooking would transform it into a great meal. Gristle is gristle. It ruins the eating experience. Avoid it like the plague.

Remember Meat + Gristle = Gross.

Daddy’s Golden Rule #2 to Great Grilled Steak – Season That Steak
(Steak + Spices = Sensational)
Now go on. I’m not telling you to get out the marinade kit or brine! This next recipe, if you will – it’s not a recipe, there are no measurements. It’s just a generous coating of spices – that’s it. Nothing more. This was Daddy’s favorite, his Basic Steak Seasoning, and to this day our guests rave about the steaks.

Dad’s Basic Grilled Steak
Medium Rare Rib Eye - succulent, juicy and flavor packed!
Yield - 2 Servings
Prep Time - 10 Minutes
Cooking Time - 4 to 10 Minutes
Difficulty - Advanced, must be allowed to play with fire.

Steak, any cut (allow 6-8oz. raw, trimmed meat per person)
Granulated Garlic Powder
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Kosher Salt
Worcestershire Sauce
Olive Oil

That’s it. That’s the magic elixir. The prince of dry rubs – well semi-dry rubs, since there’s a splash or two of Worcestershire and a drizzle of olive oil per piece of meat. The only thing to be slightly, and the emphasis is on slightly, cautious of, is the quantity of salt and the quantity of Worcestershire and olive oil.

The garlic powder and pepper should be added liberally. I do mean liberally! You can over-salt the steak. Use a couple of pinches of Kosher salt per side. Use less if using iodized table salt or fine grain salt of any kind. I won't lie to you, it's a messy process and seasoning gets everywhere!

If you want to get really tricky and gourmet, you can substitute real live cloves of garlic for the granulated garlic powder.  The rule is one large (very large) or 2 small cloves garlic for every rib eye-sized steak or beef rib (about 1 pound of meat). Press the garlic, rub it in thoroughly, then continue adding the granulated garlic and freshly ground black pepper. Splash on a couple of shakes of Worcestershire and drizzle with only enough olive oil to lubricate the meat to keep it from sticking on the grill, about 1 tablespoon per steak or rib.

Seal the meat. I use aluminum foil to avoid using plastic (breast cancer precaution).

Daddy’s Golden Rule #3 – Chill The Meat
(Meat + Chilling = Very Cold Center = Better Browning + Rare to Medium Rare Centers!)

Yep, after seasoning the meat, chill it down. Cover it so it won’t dry out or smell up the ice box and chill at least 2 hours and longer if you can. I’ve seasoned as far ahead as 24 hours and the meat tasted divine. I even added the salt and let it sit with little adverse effect. The meat still retained its moisture and tasted juicy and succulent! Letting the steak rest in the fridge allows the seasonings to flavor the meat and allows the internal temperature to chillax!

Don’t take it out of the fridge until your fire is blisteringly hot. It’s much easier to control the internal temperature of the meat when you have a cold center. (I’m sorry Alton, but I suggest a fight to the death on this point. You are just plain wrong when you advise letting the internal temp to approach room temperature. Inconceivable!)

We like rare to medium rare centers and having well-chilled, seasoned meat means we get the best of both worlds – a charred exterior with pronounced grill marks and a center done to our specifications.


Daddy’s Golden Rule #4 – Use a Blisteringly Hot Fire
(Meat + Fire = Good)
That’s right! Blisteringly hot. If using propane or gas, cook on IGNITE. If using charcoal, prepare a high, hot fire. If charcoal grilling, prepare the fire on one side of the grill only. If you have thick steaks over 1-1/2” thick, leave the second side for indirect cooking after the initial grilling. You will do most of your cooking over direct heat.

Review the technique we used for the Jerk Chicken and Pork recipe. You will use a similar method of fire control. It’s a simple formula:

1. Place steaks on pre-heated super-hot grill over direct heat.

2. Close lid. Cook 1 minute by a timer.

3. Raise lid. Cook 1 minute by a timer.

4. Flip steaks. Close lid. Cook 1 minute by a timer.

5. Raise lid. Cook 1 minute by a timer.

(Note: You are now at 4 minutes. You’re honing in on doneness now if your fire is blazingly hot. There will have been flare ups and charring. Hopefully, when you flipped the steaks, you moved the steaks to a new part of the grill where there is no flare-up. Watch the time carefully at this point. Depending on the thickness of your steaks, you’re almost ready to remove them at 4 minutes. If the steaks are thin, less than ¾” – take ‘em off now! They may already be overcooked!)

This grill technique works fo all meat! From Pork and Chicken
to Rib Eyes and Tenderloins!
6. Flip steaks and turn 45° to get those diamond shaped cross hatch grill marks! Close lid. Cook 1 minute by timer.

7. Flip Steaks one last time and turn 45° to get those diamond shaped cross hatch grill marks on the opposite side. Close lid. Cook 1 minute by time.

(Note: You are now at 6 minutes. For any steak ¾” to 1” you are at rare. Rare steak has a cold red center and areas of medium to med-rare on the margins or outside edges. This is my favorite temperature but Denny prefers medium rare. Medium rare steaks have a warm, red center. Medium rare is only 1 minute to 1-1/2 minutes away at this point. Be careful and watch closely! Move steaks to an area of the direct fire absent of flare-ups. There will have been flare-ups during this past cooking time. That’s ok!)

8. Cook 1 minute lid up by timer. (7 minutes total now.)

9. If necessary, flip steak one last time and cook 1 minute lid up by timer. (8 minutes total now.)

(Note: You are now at 7-8 minutes. Most 1”-1-1/2” steaks will be medium rare at this point. I’m sorry, but I cannot give you the instructions for medium or well done meat. In Texas that’s a hangin’ offense. It’s as bad as giving you a chili recipe that includes beans. In polite company,
one simply does NOT tell another how to moiderize meats on a grill or pit. Sorry. Not gonna.)

10. If you have steak thicker than 1-1/2”…LUCKY YOU! If this applies to you, read on my lucky friend! If you have steaks thicker than 1-1/2” then go back to Step #6, skip Step #7 and continue from this point instead. You’ve flipped and rotated the steak and closed the lid. You’ve cooked the steak for 1 minute lid down by the timer. (You are at 5minutes after completing this step.) Go on to step 11.

11. Raise lid. Cook 1 minute by a timer. (This step applies only to steaks thicker than 1-1/2”.) (6 minutes)

12. Flip steak, rotate 45°. Close lid and cook 1 minute by a time. (This step applies only to steaks thicker than 1-1/2”.) (7 minutes)

13. Raise lid. Cook 1 minute by a timer. (This step applies only to steaks thicker than 1-1/2”.) (8 minutes)
(Note: You are now at 8 minutes by a timer. Most 1-1/2” steaks will be rare to medium rare at this point. You may, operative word MAY, need 1-2 minutes more at the most at this point for 1-1/2” to 2” steaks. From this point forward, you will use the indirect heat method to finish the meat to your particular doneness.

If your steaks are thicker than 1-1/2 inches and are closer to 2 – 3 inches. You = SUPER LUCKY. Congrats. You have a REAL MANLY steak there, buddy! It will be beautiful and charred with well-defined grill patterns on the outside, but the inside will still be bloody! Whooooo doggy. Although, I love that, most others will be grossed out! Cook on my friend!

If you continue to cook over direct heat, you will moiderize the meat at this point. I don’t recommend it. You have great color, now it’s time to use your grill as an oven. And if you don’t have a large enough grill for that or are cooking on a small hibachi or little Weber or something, just bring it inside to finish in a 350° oven.

If you have a 2-3 inch steak, I recommend using an instant read thermometer. You can find cheap ones at Tuesday Morning or Big Lots or Dollar Stores. Rare to medium rare is done at 125-130°F. There’s a little bit of carry over cooking that happens once it’s removed from the fire.)

14. If using gas or propane, turn off the heat on one side of the grill. Place steaks on the side without the fire and close lid. Cook 2 minutes with the lid down, by the timer. Raise lid and check for doneness. Look for 125-130° for medium rare.

Daddy’s Golden Rule #5 – Rest Your Meat!
(Grilled Meat + Resting = Moist Even Juicy Texture)
I know you’re gonna be tempted. Who doesn’t like blisteringly hot charred meat cut fresh off the fire? But don’t do it! Cutting before resting will result in all the glorious meat’s liquid gold running all over the platter or cutting board. Give it a rest.

Ten minutes. Just ten little minutes will give the steak time to redistribute all the juices to the very center of the meat. Juice will still run, but there will be less moisture loss and the steak will have a beautiful even red tint throughout the entire cut.

Trust me. Cover the meat lightly with a piece of aluminum foil and just walk away. Walk away. Alton and I agree. Ten minutes.

Daddy’s Golden Rule #6 – Slice Your Meat!
(Grilled Meat + Slicing Thinly Across Grain = Tender, Juicy, Feeds More People)
Well who doesn’t prefer getting a huge hunk o’ grilled steak on a plate? I know I do! But look, steak is ‘spensive Lucy! And you can maximize the number of servings you get out of a steak by slicing it thinly across the grain. And if you’re using a cheap cut, it will actually yield steak that’s easier on your jaw and teeth! You won’t have to chew so hard!

Most women will be satisfied with 3-4 ounces of sliced, cooked meat when served with sides like salad and low carb veggies. Most men will be satisfied with 4-6 ounces of sliced meat. (You think I don’t, but I hear you coughing “bullshit” under your breath over there.)

If you serve the steak in “hunks”, you will most usually need to figure almost twice those quantities. You will need to visually satisfy your guest as well as fill their tummy! Uncut steak takes up less plate real estate so your eyes will tell you that you need to get a bigger piece on your plate!

SusieT’s Notes –
Congratulations! If you’ve followed Daddy’s 6 Golden Rules to Great Grilled Steak, you are now a Steak Man or Steak Babe! Wooot! Pat yourself on the back and go serve yourself some of that Loaded Broccoli we talked about fixin’ the other day! Whoooo boy! Does that go well with grilled steak!

Loaded Broccoli is outstanding with grilled steak!

It's a simple side dish and so quickly made! Three to four minutes gets you al dente broccoli. Add toppings similar to those you would have with baked potatoes and you will have a satisfying and healthy alternative to high starch potatoes for a fraction of the carb level!

A terrific caprese salad or fresh tomatoes work well too. Since it's summer time and the tomatoes are fresh off the vine, we often go that route. Or heck, try making oven fried green tomatoes. They taste great with grilled items of all kinds.

Grilled veggies are another fast and easy side dish for grilled steak. Mix zucchini, yellow squash, red bell pepper, onion, jalapenos, and mushrooms together with a splash of olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Maybe add a pinch of dried basil or Italian Seasoning and throw them into a grill basket. Grill over direct high heat for 6-10 minutes or until al dente and slightly grill marked. Delicious!

Cauliflower Daphinois and Asparagus
make a very upscale side for Basic
Grilled Rib Eye
Asparagus or broccoli almost always accompanies our steaks. Sometimes smashed cauliflower or roasted loaded cauliflower appears. And oh my, the special days I make Cauliflower Daphinois, well just stop it! It's so good! Sauteed mushrooms are another favorite. And of course, what's steak without a gorgeous salad? Blue cheese, toasted walnuts...*drool*

Now look, you can deviate from the Basic recipe. Sure you can! Sometimes I add herbs to that basic ingredient list. I love adding fresh ginger and fresh rosemary together. Yum! I love adding fresh rosemary and sage, too. Fresh thyme, oregano and grated lemon zest along with a few drops of fresh squeezed lemon juice is tasty too.

But I always come back to the Daddy’s Basic. Half the time I don’t even try to deviate off the granulated garlic to use fresh garlic. He mainly had granulated garlic. Daddy was a simple man.

Go try it. It’s so easy. Lid down. Lid up. Lid down. Lid up. Timer. It’s easy. You do that to control the heat level.

Go. Shoo now. Go grill.

Master your grill! Play with the cooking times.

 Be fearless, use high heat, fast cookin'! You won't regret it. 

 And don't forget, you can also do butterflied leg of lamb or lamb steaks the same way!


  1. I enjoyed your post. Very interesting! Today I'm using your Daddy's steak rub. :)

    1. Oh yeah! I hope you like it. No. I hope you love it! Will you come back and give your review? It's one of our go-to non-recipes round this joint!!! Hugs and hope you are having an awesome week!

      Everyone, be sure to visit this notable kitchen queen and cookbook author at her fabulous blog and pick-up a few of her 8 cookbooks while you're there! Visit her at http://low-carb-news.blogspot(dot)com

      MUAH, lady!!!


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