1. Cows Are 40% Steak:
Of the 1,200 pounds of animal you get with the average cow, about 40% of that makes for good cuts of beef. That equals about 450 pounds of steak per animal. Should be about enough for you and the boys at the next tailgating party, right?
2. Don’t Let The Name Fool You:
Don’t let the National Beef Council pull one over on you. They give all their beef cuts names that make them sound gourmet and top quality, but there’s a big difference between the different grades.
Prime – This is the good stuff. You’ll find Prime cuts at nice butcher shops and fancy steak restaurants. This is going to be the juiciest, most flavorful cut of beef.
Choice – Eh. Not bad, but it’s not Prime. Choice cuts are a little easier on the wallet, but still taste pretty great.
Select – Unless you’re a prisoner or a wild animal, skip the Select cuts.
3. Know Some Chemistry:
The reason why steak is better after it’s been marinated for a while is because the aging process allows natural enzymes to break down the tissue that holds the muscle together; thus, the longer it marinates, the juicer and tenderer the cut will be.
4. Don’t Start With A Frozen Steak (Or Even A Cold One):
This one should seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people screw it up. If you have to use frozen steak, make sure to move it down to the fridge a couple days before you cook it, then take it out of the fridge about 30 minutes before it hits the grill. Screw this one up, and all you’ll have is a burnt meat popsicle for dinner.
5. Easy On The Heat:
If you really want to do it right in the end-game, take that sucker off the grill when its thermometer hits the sweet spot: between 115 and 125 degrees. Steaks’ temperature will keep rising after cooking, and to get it in “the zone,” aka medium-rare, you’ll want the range to get up to about 120 or 130 degrees. Make sure you get a real classy meat thermometer though—preferably a digital one.
6. More Fat = Less Meat:
Don’t get me wrong, you want some fat on there. Fat is good. It makes steaks delicious and juicy. What you want to avoid are cuts of beef with too much gristle, or cuts with big slabs of fat. That fat is taking up precious space on your plate that could have been meat. Look for a cut with some nice fat marbling instead.
7. Fake It ‘Til You Make It:
When going out for steak, you want to look like you know exactly what you’re talking about, even if you don’t completely know what’s going on. (You don’t want to look like an idiot in front of your date, idiot.) So when that bad boy gets plunked down on the table, scope it out for a nice char on the outside. Check. Next, make the first cut—you want it to be easy to cut into and not too brown, not too pink (though your own tastes might vary here).
8. Advanced Lessons:
Want to step into the big leagues? Consider these pro maneuvers: dry aging and wet aging. Dry aging is for the real champ, as it requires up to six weeks of storage in a temperature-controlled cooler. This wipes out most of the moisture and eliminates any chance of mold. In the end, it’ll shave off a cool 20 percent of the steak’s weight. Wet aging is easier and still produces a leaner, meaner steak than marination. Just refrigerate the cut in a large Ziploc and let it tenderize in its own juices for a night or two. Because there’s no evaporation, no moisture is lost and that pup will be juicy as hell.