Few dishes compare to a hunk of juicy steak.
And even fewer home-cooked steaks compare to those of your local favourite steakhouse.
From fridge to plate, there are a lot of little secrets steakhouse chefs employ.
Thanks to Executive Chef Billy Oliva, we’re now hip to those secrets. Oliva oversees the kitchen at one of Wall Street’s favourite steakhouses, Delmonico’s (56 Beaver St.), est. 1837.
Here, he lists nine common mistakes that keep home-cooked steaks from reaching their full flavour potential.
1. Don’t cook a steak that’s fresh from the fridge.
Oliva says this is the number one mistake people make when preparing steak. “In the restaurant, we always like the steaks to come up to room temperature because you get a more even cooking process … If it’s too cold, the outside will char and the inside will be a little bit rarer than it should be.”
2. Don’t put a piece of steak in a pan or on a grill that isn’t screaming hot.
If you don’t let the pan heat up, you’ll lose out on caramelization and you’ll end up steaming your steak. The juice and blood will escape and you’ll be left with what Oliva describes as “that grey piece of meat.”
3. Don’t be afraid to douse the steak with seasoning.
According to Oliva, people either don’t season the steak enough or they only season one side. “We season both sides. We use a combination of kosher salt and sea salt, and we use a fresh ground pepper mix that has about seven different types of peppercorns in it.”
4. Don’t leave a steak on an open flame for too long.
When grilling a steak, sear it fast and move it to the side — unless you want a charred piece of meat. “What we like to do is sear it to give it colour, and then move it to [a slightly] cooler part of the grill when we’re grilling … You want to cook around the open flame.”
5. Don’t poke the steak with a fork to see if it’s done.
You’re testing steak, not cupcakes. “Once you poke a hole in it, all the blood and all the flavour and juices in the steak are going to leach out.” (Here’s a graphic that shows how to tell if a steak is done without puncturing it.)
6. Don’t flip the steak more than once.
Put it in a hot pan, leave it alone until it starts to caramelize, and flip it only once. “You don’t need to keep flipping it every two minutes because then you’re removing the steak from the hot surface. You’re kind of defeating the purpose of searing the outside and locking in all the juices.”
7. Don’t press down on the meat.
Oliva says putting pressure on the meat with a spatula or pair of tongs is “almost as bad as poking it with a fork.” Your number one job in cooking a steak is to keep the fat (read: flavour) locked inside the meat. The more pressure you put on the steak, the more fat you lose.
8. Don’t serve a steak fresh from the pan or grill.
“After it’s cooked, you always want to let it rest. Let the meat relax and let the juices run back into the center,” says Oliva. The amount of resting time depends on the size of the steak. Oliva lets the Delmonico’s 42-ounce double porterhouse rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving it. But he recommends 10 minutes for most any cut.
9. Don’t forget to re-season the steak before serving.
A lot of the seasonings get lost in the cooking process, so Oliva and his staff give the steaks at Delmonico’s a sprinkle of sea salt before they leave the kitchen.