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Ask an Expert: Ben Eisendrath on How to Grill a Perfect Steak

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August 13, 2018
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Credit:ribeirorocha

Picture, if you will, in your carnivore’s eye, the last steak that made you question whether you’d ever really had a steak before.

Sizzling before you, bearing the brand of the fire. Ringed with burnt-amber fat. Not fork-tender but firm, demanding the knife. Your first cut parts an artful spectrum of caramel to pink, assuring that each bite will deliver the holy trinity of crust, jus, and seasoning. You remember pausing for a moment to drink it all in.

And so it was—your perfect steak.

The steps to such perfection are several: careful sourcing, mastery of fire, meticulous seasoning, and, just as important to delivering an immortal steak is a primary step oft forgotten by home chefs, one that can make a world of difference in the result. This step is tempering.

“Tempering is the most important thing we do to meat, period,” says chef Rubén García, culinary creative director for the José Andrés restaurants.

A large part of the live-fire training of José Andrés cooks doesn’t take place over the grill, but rather in a holding area where the cooks continuously monitor steaks that are on deck, making sure the meat’s internal temperature rises to exactly 95° before a turn on the heat.

“In Spain we cook large cuts of meat, often two inches or more thick,” stresses chef García, “Tempering both loosens the muscle and gets the whole cut to the same temperature before cooking begins. That way we get the perfect sear, tenderness, and even pinkness through to the center.”

Warm tempering is ideal between 75 and 95° Fahrenheit. If your kitchen’s ambient temperature rests much lower than that, there are plenty of ways to cheat centers to the right range. My preference is to heat an oven to 150°, turn it off, then leave the defrosted steaks in there for about 30 minutes.

Credit:Lisovskaya

Warm tempering is ideal between 75 and 95° Fahrenheit. If your kitchen’s ambient temperature rests much lower than that, there are plenty of ways to cheat centers to the right range. My preference is to heat an oven to 150°, turn it off, then leave the defrosted steaks in there for about 30 minutes.

Another option is a zip-top or vacuum-sealed dunk in hot water (don’t directly soak the meat or you’ll damage the texture).

And don’t use a microwave—strange things happen in there. When you’re done, use a meat thermometer to see if you’ve arrived—or if, like me, you’re a “by feel” person, pick up the steak by one end. If it elongates easily and readily, you’re good to go.

Even if you’re an advanced griller and already in the habit of starting with room-temperature meat, try a little warmer, say 80–90°. Steaks will finish faster, more predictably, and, as a bonus, their relaxed texture will accept pregrill seasonings readily.

Don’t let a handful of degrees keep you from your perfect steak.

Credit:thesomegirl
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