The folks at Canadian Beef asked me to talk about the difference between the three main categories of steak – grilling, marinating and simmering – and who am I to turn down an excuse to grill a good steak for dinner? Besides, most of us seem to have questions about cuts of meat, especially beef. Chicken is easy: breast, leg and thigh are pretty self-explanatory. But what’s a tri-tip and what do I do with it? It’s a shame to wind up with a tough steak because it’s been grilled rather than simmered.
Fortunately, most butchers know what they’re doing, so if there’s someone behind the counter, you can ask. Once you get into the kitchen to prep that meat, here’s some mood music.
A grilling steak (T-bone/porterhouse/top or bottom sirloin/strip loin/tenderloin/tri-tip/rib eye) can be grilled without any extra prep or effort, except perhaps a sprinkling of salt and pepper.
A marinating steak (sirloin tip/inside round/eye of round/outside round/flank) is best marinated before you cook it, whether you do it on the grill or stovetop.
A simmering steak (blade/top blade/bottom blade/brisket/cross rib) is like a thin pot roast; it needs a nice long bath – a slow simmer in liquid to break down connective tissues, making it ultra-tender.
These babies – a prime rib steak and a striploin – are destined for the grill. That means they need no more than a quick pat with a paper towel (to ensure a sizzling exterior) and a brief shower of salt and pepper, and they’ll be done in under ten minutes – that’s real fast food. I don’t know of any frozen pizza nor fish sticks that can cook in such a short time. When you get a nice piece of meat, there’s no need to adorn it with much else, but there’s nothing wrong with rubbing it with a cut clove of garlic – especially those fat, sticky cloves that seem to be all over the markets right now.
Over medium-high heat, whether it’s a grill or nice hot cast iron skillet, a 1-inch steak will take 6-7 minutes to cook. (You can find a full grilling time chart at BeefInfo.org – I find it helpful when pressured to perfectly cook a $17 steak on a temperamental grill.)
Don’t poke at it on the grill – let it develop a nice bottom crust before you flip it. Some say flip only once, others say as often as you like – do what works for you. But if you find it sticking, letting it cook for a few minutes without touching it will help. And it will need a few minutes to rest before you cut into it, if you can wait.
So that just about covers the simplest cut, doesn’t it? I’m going to leave the marinating and simmering steaks for other days, since there’s only so much steak one can eat for one dinner. (Not that I wouldn’t be forever considered a dinner superhero for serving all three at once.) I have my eye on an Asian marinated flank steak salad, and Mike’s favourite childhood meal was Swiss steak – I’ve been meaning to recreate it for him for approximately a decade and a half. What’s another day?
Do you have any steak secrets to share? With the weather still believing it’s August, it’s nice to still be able to cook dinner on the grill and eat outside.
Thanks to Canadian Beef for sponsoring this post!