Everything You Need to Know About Buying, Prepping & Cooking Steak
To keep your grill busy, Rouses maintains a robust stock of choice and prime beef—the two highest grades of beef by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Grades are determined by marbling (fat spread throughout the beef), tenderness and cattle feeding practices. “Other companies will buy select beef and ungraded beef—which is the lowest quality beef that you can buy—and then push it cheap,” says Nick Acosta, the meat director for Rouses Markets. “For us, it’s only choice beef—which tends to be most popular—and prime beef, both sold at great prices every day.”
Once you choose a cut and buy it, it’s time to prepare and cook your steak. The big three options are charcoal, propane and stovetop. (Sorry, smoker people. Maybe next time.) No matter which method of heat you choose, general steak preparation is universal. Never poke your steak with a fork or use a fork to flip it. It’s tongs or nothing in this game, as puncture wounds will cause moisture loss. You didn’t go all the way to Rouses to buy the best steaks in town just to eat the dry stuff some other stores sell. And just as certain grill, oven and stovetop temperatures are vital, so too is the temperature of the raw meat.
“You don’t want to take your steak directly from the fridge and put it straight onto the barbecue pit,” says Nick. You want to let the meat reach room temperature before cooking it. “If it’s still cold when you put it on the grill or cooktop, it will burn by the time you reach your desired doneness.”
As Hank Hill would happily tell you, the best way to prepare a steak is on a propane grill, using propane accessories. In terms of cooking accuracy and even heating, you just can’t beat a gas grill. The secret is to give the grill a good half-hour, at least, to reach the proper temperature. Preparation of the gas grill in many ways is the same as preparation for the charcoal variety. It’s a good idea to clean the grates before grilling, and to oil them up so your steaks flip easily. If you trimmed fat from the steaks, you can use the fat to grease your grill, which is the sort of next-level grill master move that will impress your friends and earn the respect of your enemies.
Paint a little avocado oil on both sides of your steak before grilling, and season them with rosemary. If barbecue sauce is your thing, have at it, but there’s no need; the whole point of steak is to taste the steak. Save the sauce for the burgers. When grilling on a propane stove, be sure to avoid laying your steaks directly over the flames, as dripping fat will cause flames to well up and singe the beef, undermining the whole point of your gas grill: an even cook.
For a standard-issue inch-and-a-half thick steak, grill it for five minutes on each side on a propane stove to get it to rare. For medium, you’re looking at nine minutes on each side. For well done, find some other free grocery store magazine for advice, because I want no part of your awful decision-making.
CHARCOAL AND MEAT: A LOVE STORY
Some people swear by charcoal, because making fire is fun and cooking meat is fun and cooking meat while making fire is just the cat’s pajamas. As with a propane grill, make sure you get those grates extra clean before slapping on the steak, and the steak fat grease method is still a winning plan. As for the charcoal itself, we need to talk about charcoal chimneys.
Growing up, I had never heard of such a thing, but somewhere along the line, charcoal chimneys became ubiquitous: the avocado toast of the grilling world. (I blame Food Network for this, but I bet social media hasn’t helped.) In short, rather than heat your charcoal in the grill, you heat it in a big metal canister. Note: Be sure to buy an actual charcoal chimney from the hardware store; do not just find a big metal container and improvise. We don’t need a repeat of the Thanksgiving fried turkey emergency room visit.
Once the charcoal in the chimney is totally ashed, dump it into the pit. I do not know why a chimney is necessary for this, but it seems to be the consensus, and who am I to argue with charcoal people? (#teampropane.) I have seen it recommended that rather than spread your charcoal evenly once in the barbecue pit, you will want to dump it all to one side, so that half the grate is over direct heat, and half is cooler.
While all this is going on, your steak has reached room temperature and you’ve seasoned it as above. Do you have a grill thermometer? If not, you’re going to want a grill thermometer. Before slapping steaks on metal, you want the grill at 500 degrees. Be sure to keep the grill covered so that the heat does not escape. When ready to cook, we are going to go for four bursts of two minutes each for a medium-rare steak. (You can take it back to a minute or one minute and 30 seconds for rare, though the height of the grate from the charcoal and the size of the steak are going to have a say in all this. It might take experimentation, so if there is someone at the cookout that you don’t like, cook theirs first.)
The process of cooking on a charcoal grill will look like this: Once the pit reaches 500 degrees, open the lid, add your steaks to the charcoal side, close your lid immediately, and grill for two minutes. Then open the grill, give the steaks a quarter turn, and close the grill again. Two more minutes. (The point of the turn is to get that perfect grid of grill marks on the meat.) After two minutes, flip the steaks. Cook two minutes. Again, open the grill and give the steaks a quarter turn. After two minutes, remove them from the pit.