It's Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of the summer grilling season. All across America, people will be firing up their grills, many of them for the first time this year. Here in Dallas, of course, we are lucky to be able to grill out all year long, but that doesn't mean that Dallasites won't be pulling out all the stops on Memorial Day. Why not make our annual rememberance of the brave US troops who fought and died for our country special with these top tips on grilling the perfect steak.
A beautiful steak, beautifully cooked, does not really need a sauce, but you can take your meat over the top with a flavorful sauce that enhances, and not hides, the beef's rich meaty flavor. This easy and flavorful Argentinian Chimichurri Sauce recipe fits the bill perfectly. Argentinians love their steak almost as much as Texans do, and the right chimichurri sauce will compliment a fine steak with its zesty flavor. This simple sauce recipe is fast to make either with or without a blender, and chimichurri's vibrant green color is a festive foil for steak cooked to a perfectly rosy medium rare. A nice sauce is also a handy insurance policy against grilling mishaps, especially in a party situation when you tend to pay more attention to your guests than the grill.
Here in Dallas, of course, grilling over charcoal or a gas grill is not the same thing as a barbecue. If you prefer your beef smoked low and slow, try my recipe for Texas Barbecued Beef Brisket.
Happy Memorial Day!
Top 10 Tips for Grilling the Perfect Steak
- Choose your meat wisely. T-Bone, Ribeye, NY Strip and Porterhouse are all good choices for the grill. Choose a steak that is well marbled, with lots of thin veins of fat running through the leaner red muscle. It shouldn't look like fatty bacon, however, so avoid thick white streaks of fat. Filet Mignon is cut from the tenderloin, so it is leaner and harder to cook well on the grill. Choose meat graded USDA Prime or USDA Choice instead of USDA Select.
- Size matters. As with so many types of meat, girth or thickness is far more important then total weight. Choose a steak that is at least 1 inch thick, although 1 ½ inches is even better. If your steak is 2 inches thick or more, consider searing it over high heat first and then letting it finish cooking over a lower heat.
- Keep it simple. Salt and pepper is the only seasoning a quality steak really needs.
- Bring steak to room temperature before cooking. If you throw it on the grill straight out of the fridge, your steak will be tough and it will not cook evenly.
- Pay attention to temperature. For a steak that is 1 to 1 ½ inches thick, heat the grill to medium high. That means you can hold your hand close to the grate and count one-thousand-one one-thousand-two before pulling it away, but no more. If you are using charcoal, make sure to replace the grate and give it time to get hot before you start grilling your steak.
- Make sure your steak is dry when it hits the grill. Too much moisture will steam the steak instead of searing it, so pat it dry before tossing it on the grill. If you're worried about sticking, oil the hot grate with a paper towel just before you place the steak on the grill.
- Salt steak just before cooking. Salt draws moisture to the surface, and you don't want that. Use sea salt for the best flavor; it sticks to the meat better.
- Don't mess with your meat! Plop your steak on the grill and leave it there until it is time to flip it over. Do not move it around, press down on it with a spatula, squeeze it, fiddle with it, squirt it with water or-- Heaven forbid!-- poke it with a fork. A fork has no place near your steak until it is time to eat it! Use tongs or a spatula. The only exceptions to the no-touch rule are if the steak is actually on fire, or when you want to be fancy and give your steak funky diamond shaped grill marks: lift the steak straight up half way though its cooking time, rotate it 90 degrees (one quarter turn) and set it straight back down.
- You cannot uncook a steak. Do not overcook your steak. Pull the steak off the grill just before it is cooked to your liking and let it rest on a plate for five or ten minutes before slicing and serving; your steak will finishing cooking while it rests, and its final temperature will be about 5 degrees higher than when you pulled it off the grill.
- Give it a rest! Resting is mentioned above, but this tip is crucial for a juicy, tender steak: Let the steak rest when it comes off the grill. Resting lets your steak's juices redistribute themselves and the muscle fibers relax after the stress of the grill. If you remember only one of these tips, make it this one. Do not cut into the steak after cooking until at least 5 minutes have passed, and wait 10 or 15 minutes if the steak is an inch and a half thick or more. Resist the urge to peek and you will be rewarded with a tender, juicy and perfectly cooked steak.
Argentinian Chimichurri Sauce Recipe
- 1 cup fresh parsley
- ½ cup fresh cilantro
- 2 Tablespoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 3-4 cloves garlic, smashed
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- ¾ cup olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon dried red pepper flakes, or to taste
- 1 pinch salt, or to taste
Place first 6 ingredients for Chimichurri sauce (up to olive oil) in blender or food processor and process, adding in olive oil in thin stream through the top to combine. Add red pepper flakes and pulse to combine. Add salt to taste. Alternatively, mix by hand, as if making a vinagrette.
Make Argentinian Chimichurri Sauce at least 20 minutes ahead of time to let the flavors blend. Will keep several days in fridge.
Buy it local! Where to buy USDA prime steaks and locally raised beef in the Dallas Metroplex.
In the steak-loving Dallas Metroplex, quality beef is readily available. Many local Dallas butchers, including David's Meat Market and VonGeertsem Butcher Shoppe sell USDA prime quality steaks, as do Dallas Central Market and Dallas area Whole Foods.
Locally raised and pastured beef, including pastured organic beef, is available in Sheds #1 and #2 at the Dallas Farmers Market.
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