Making Cheap or Choice Cuts of Meat Taste Like a Juicy Prime Cut of Steak
Indoor Steak Bake: Comparable to Outdoor Grilled Steak
I recently wrote about a steak barbecue grilled slowly over a bed of wild leeks. However, not everyone has a backyard or a barbecue grill to try this.
There are other methods to cook steaks, chops, roasts and other cuts of meat. Notably, this includes the cheap 'value cuts' as well as the more expensive prime choice meats. This is a method that makes them both come out super-succulent and flavorful. The secret, is salt!
Worried About the Salt/Sodium in Your Diet?
I am not a big user of salt in my cooking. Health reasons aside, it tends to hide other natural flavors. But did you know that salting steak does more than just make it salty? It actually changes the protein structures of the meat, tenderizing it.
Lay your steak out on a plate and cover it with salt. Not just any salt though; table salt is finishing salt and does not work as well. You want to use SEA SALT, the coarse-grind type. Kosher salt is also good. You want to cover the steak with a thick layer.
Flip the steak over and cover the other side too. Press the salt granuals in a little bit. What we are doing is desiccating the meat (removing moisture.)
Let the steak sit with this covering of salt for at last an hour.
Salt has an affinity for water, and steak is full of moisture especially on the surface. The salt coating is mopping-up the surface moisture and pulling the moisture to the surface, binding it. We will scrape most of this off later, but let the steak marinate in this salt for at least 30-60 minutes. Longer for thicker cuts if you have the time. Overnight for roasts.
Cover the Steak With Sea Salt (both sides) Marinate for One Hour
(image by author)
By allowing this much time to marinate under salt, it will have done some magic to the meat both chemically and physically. First, the salt pulls the moisture (water content) to the surface. There will still be plenty of moisture inside the steak. This natural moisture will also wick some of the surface salt into the meat from the surface through osmosis, helping to season it internally.
The salt causes the blood cells in the meat to 'explode' and this is part of the 'juiciness' of the end result.
When the hour (or longer) marinating time is over, rinse or scrape away the surplus salt. A quick rinse will do, not a bath.
Pat Dry to Brown the Meat before Grilling
After rinsing, fully pat-dry the meat with paper towels. The meat must not be wet prior to grilling. This is important. You want to remove the surface water from the the meat.
Cooking a steak that is 'wet' causes the water to form a bed of steam between it and the pan. The steak 'floats' on a bed of steam. The heat will of course cook the steak of course, but you are basically STEAMING the steak. Steamed meats can be bland. You want to GRILL the steak and at a higher temperature than the steam bed provides. Patting the meat dry with paper towels before placing upon the lightly buttered pan or roasting grill will causes the meat to sear properly, to BROWN the meat delectably!
The salt that was absorbed into the meat will have interacted with the complex protein chains, partially breaking them down. Salting the meat acts as tenderizing agent. The protein chains are partially 'broken apart' by the denaturing action of the salt, and these frayed 'strings' become 'greedy' and will grab-ahold of the fat molecules and retain them. The flavor and juiciness are thus retained when cooked. Flavors and juices otherwise lost in the cooking process as drippings are sealed in the meat. Your steak will be exceptionally moist and tender. Enjoy!