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Old 02-05-2007, 03:13 AM   #1
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My first post - some questions about steak!

Hi all! I just finished making this (it looks m-well in the picture, but it was about medium. Next time I'll try for medium-rare):




I'm curious how people are making steak. I've got a few things I'd like to discuss that I think prevent me from making a truly "great" steak! :)

Well, the method I use to cook/season, is fairly simple. Some course salt, and some fresh pepper rubbed on a dry steak (I normally let it sit 30 mins after I take it out from the fridge...)

Is anybody here making their own cracked pepper? I live in Hawaii, and so far haven't found any stores that even sell cracked pepper. So I've been buying peppercorns and crushing them with the broad side of a knife. Any better methods?

I then heat up a pan on high (I think I'm going to try medium high next time, more on this later...) and then I put the steak in. If it's thick, I'll do 1.5 mins on each side, thin, 1 min on each side. The reason I'm going to try a bit lower, it seems like the pan is charcoaling the peppers (as you can see in the picture.) It doesn't taste bad, not by any stretch of the imagination, but it doesn't look the most appealing. I think it'd probably taste better (more flavor) if the peppers weren't burned. Do you think it's the pan temp that's causing this? It's turning that blackish color prior to putting it in the oven, so it's something going on when pan-searing.

After that, I put it in the oven (preheated at 450f). This is another part I'm having trouble on. Could just be the thermometer (one of the cheapie probe with a dial on it types.) Everywhere I've read says medium rare is about 5-6 mins on a thicker cut of steak. This never seems to work out for me! The steak in the picture you saw was in the oven for 12-15 minutes or so! Some might argue it's overdone, and it might be a little overdone (therm. said 145, but I don't really trust it, it never seems to read right.) Still, even if it's overdone, it's only slightly overdone - and there's a BIG diff between 5-6 mins and 12-15 heh. What am I doing wrong? :) :)

Also, should I be "baking" or "broiling"? Oven, of course, has both settings. Broiler is adjustable I believe, but not sure. (Can't wait till I move to a new home, gonna get me a wolf/subzero kitchen worked out, woohoo!)

I used to always grill my steaks outdoors, and that was kinda nice for the environment/setup of "grilling", but quite honestly - pan-seared, oven baked steaks are far better from what I've seen. I just have these little niggles I'd like to work out so I can truly have the "perfect" steak.

So, in summary, here are my questions:

#1 - How can you (best way) make "cracked" pepper when all you can get is whole peppercorns?

#2 - Is the reason that the pepper is burning because I have my pan too hot? I always assumed you should sear at the highest heat possible, but I think that might be causing the pepper to charcoal.

#3 - Why is my oven cooking time SOO LONG compare to everything I read? I double checked the oven with an infrared thermometer, it *is* at 450F. I'm using it on "bake" mode.

#4 - (New one, didn't have this in the long version) What is the best way to measure steak's doneness? The "press test"? I would assume thermometer is best, but if so - what's the BEST thermometer to buy? I cook a LOT of steak, so money isn't an object here. I've seen some digital ones with probes, so they can sit outside while you cook your steak, and will set off an alarm when the steak reaches a certain internal temp. Would those be ideal? It's strange, when I leave my current probe/dial thermometer in the steak, it ends up getting WAY too high, and the steak is nowhere near done. If I pull the steak out of the oven, and spear the probe *all the way through* the steak, it'll eventually read the proper temp - but I don't like doing this. I'd like a better alternative. :p

#5 - Bake or broil?

#6 - What do you think about my steak as it is now? :p Need some criticism, I might be missing some things!

Thank you all very much, I look forward to being a part of this community, I LOVE to cook!!!

Cheers,
David

PS - Yes, I'm eating the steak on a paper plate on a keyboard slideout from a desk. I'm single, live alone, and don't like to do dishes (no dishwasher here.) I'll upgrade my "lifestyle" once I move out of Hawaii and get my own home. ;) Planning to move in the next 4-5 months so don't want to invest in a bunch of nice cooking equipment I'll just have to ship back to the mainland! Got my eye on a lot, though. :p

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Old 02-05-2007, 04:22 AM   #2
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david, shame on you for using paper plates. that's just flat out being lazy, especially because you are single. how long does it take to wash a real plate? there's no excuse for a single guy to be that lazy. wait 'till you have kids.

as far as pepper goes, the best thing you can do is to crack or grind your own when you need it. a peppermill, such as one by peugeot, will allow you to freshly grind peppercorns to the size you desire by continually adjusting the nut on top as you grind.

unless you taste something bitter, you're not burning your peppercorns. burning almost anything will cause it to turn bitter. so, so long as it tastes ok, don't worry about how "toasted" it looks. that's all in your head.

searing meat in a hot pan does 2 things. it carmelizes the surface sugars, giving the meat more flavor, as well as helping to keep the juices in the meat. i've heard both that it "seals" the surface so that the moisture cannot escape, and also that it drives the juices inward, creating the same effect of keeping the meat moist.

if you really want to be a steak expert, learn the "press" method as you've described. it will take trial and error, but once you get it, you'll always be able to cook a steak perfectly, no matter where you are (at home, outdoors, camping, in a strange kitchen, without well used/known tools, etc. ). i also have found variables when using both instant read and probe/digital type thermometers. that's why i go by the feel. since you cook a lot of steak, it should be easy to gauge once you try and begin to remember your results.

if you insist on a thermometer, you have to remember that, depending on the mass and type (bone-in or boneless, lean or fatty cut) of the meat, it's internal temp will continue to rise upwards of 15 degrees after you've removed it from heat. pull it out earlier than you think you should, averaging around 10 degrees lower, since you appear to like well cooked shoe leather, er, meat.

i like to broil my steaks in the middle slot of the broiler, one of the least used pieces of equipment in the average home kitchen. learning to use a broiler will expand your culinary horizon exponentially.
with a 1" or thicker steak, put in the broiler 5 to 7 minutes per side to start, then begin pressing, flipping the meat every 2 minutes thereafter until the desired doneness is acheived. when tyou've got it down, you'll only have to flip the meat once to get it perfect.

if the steak is really thick, searing in a cast iron pan then finishing in a 400 degree oven works for me. if it's well over 2", i will use a probe thermometer because the margin for error increases with the thickness after a certain point (it's a roast, not a steak at that point anyway).

your steak looks like a tasty ny strip or club steak, if not a little overdone for me. i prefer rare to medium rare. an old buddy prefers very rare, often saying to the waiter when ordering "just knock the horns off, wipe it's butt and wave it over the fire".

your picture reminds me of a camping trip a coupla years back. i made a few london broils over the campfire in my secret dry rub, and sliced them on paper plates. once the meat was eaten, the plates were markedly cut up, soaking in the juices that had run out of the steaks. two of the guys were still so hungry that they ended up eating some of the serving plates not aware of what they were doing. ok, it was really dark and we were really drunk, but i patted myself on the back for being able to make paper plates taste good.

hope this helps. now go plant a few trees and we're cool.
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Old 02-05-2007, 11:11 AM   #3
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What is the "Press Method" I've seen Bobby Flay using it all the time ? The softer the feel the rarer it will be ?
PS - David, " we all use paper plates from time to time" !
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Old 02-05-2007, 01:05 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ormandj

#1 - How can you (best way) make "cracked" pepper when all you can get is whole peppercorns?

#2 - Is the reason that the pepper is burning because I have my pan too hot? I always assumed you should sear at the highest heat possible, but I think that might be causing the pepper to charcoal.

#3 - Why is my oven cooking time SOO LONG compare to everything I read? I double checked the oven with an infrared thermometer, it *is* at 450F. I'm using it on "bake" mode.

#4 - (New one, didn't have this in the long version) What is the best way to measure steak's doneness? The "press test"? I would assume thermometer is best, but if so - what's the BEST thermometer to buy? I cook a LOT of steak, so money isn't an object here. I've seen some digital ones with probes, so they can sit outside while you cook your steak, and will set off an alarm when the steak reaches a certain internal temp. Would those be ideal? It's strange, when I leave my current probe/dial thermometer in the steak, it ends up getting WAY too high, and the steak is nowhere near done. If I pull the steak out of the oven, and spear the probe *all the way through* the steak, it'll eventually read the proper temp - but I don't like doing this. I'd like a better alternative. :p

#5 - Bake or broil?

#6 - What do you think about my steak as it is now? :p Need some criticism, I might be missing some things!
Answers:

#1 Place some peppercorns on a large, hard, flat surface, like a really big cutting board. Using a small skillet, crush the peppercorns by placing the skillet on top of the peppercorns, and pressing your hand inside the pan while scraping the pan sideways across the peppercorns. Make sure that the pan bottom is CLEAN! Also, peppercorns will tend to act like ball bearings, so be prepared for some fun. I also have a meat tenderizer that is basically a solid disk of 1/2" thick stainless steel with a handle coming out from one side. This works even better than using a pan.

HOWEVER, like Buckytom, I prefer to just use a good peppermill.

#2 I agree with BT. You peppercorns are just getting toasted. If they were burned, you'd definitely taste it.

#3 All ovens are different. Does you oven have a "hotspot"? Is it convection, or conventional? How much experience do you have using it?

I never trust the dial on any oven I've ever used. I prefer to keep an oven thermometer inside the oven. I also have a pizza stone in my oven that helps to even out the temperatures, but does tend to make the oven burn a little hotter, and take longer to get up to temp.

Go ahead and try broiling a steak or two and see what your results are. Experience with your cooking equipment is the best way to know what's going on with your food, and the best way to get great results.

#4 If you decide to get a probe thermometer, get one of the cheaper, non-digital ones. Calibrate it by placing it in a glass of ice water, give it a minute to stabilize, and read the temp. If it doesn't read 32 - 33 degrees F, use a pair of pliars and adjust it by rotating the hex nut under the dial until it reads correctly.

The "touch" test is good, but not fool-proof. Experience with this will, yes, give you a leg up on how done your steak is. To get a good idea of what meat should feel like as it cooks, hold your left hand palm up. Take your right finger and poke the tissue at the base of your thumb. That's rare. Now, take your left thumb and left forefinger, and touch the tips together and HOLD. Poke the tissue again with your right finger. That's med-rare. Keep going up, and when you connect thumb and pinky, that's well-done, or so the theory goes. Again, experience plays a lot with this. Cook a couple hundred steaks, and you'll get the hang of it.

#5 I hardly ever cook steaks in a pan like that. However, since you've already mentioned that you've baked, but not broiled, try broiling a few and see what the results are.

#6 I prefer my steak to be medium. Yours is a little more done that that, by color, I'd say med-well. Without actually touching it, temping it, or eating it, myself, I couldn't say, although it looks good. Now, where's a napkin so I can wipe up my drool?
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Old 02-05-2007, 01:14 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by buckytom
david, shame on you for using paper plates. that's just flat out being lazy, especially because you are single. how long does it take to wash a real plate? there's no excuse for a single guy to be that lazy. wait 'till you have kids.
I work 16-18 hours a day, with a 1 hour commute each way. It doesn't leave much time for anything, even cooking is pushing it. (See intro forum for why I work so much/why I cook.) Also, it's not like I'm attempting to impress anyone - so what difference does it really make? The paper doesn't influence the taste of my food. I hardly think you are in a position to call me lazy, no offense - but I did take offense.

Also, as I spoke, I am moving soon - it wouldn't make a whole lot of sense to buy a bunch of dishes onto to pack them and boxes and find half of them broken from the 3000 mile journey across the sea. Stuff that survives moving vans doesn't survive so well crossing the Pacific. ;) I'll pick up a nice set of dishes and other assorted cookware once I'm relocated. I've got a huge shopping list of things I want to buy for cooking already.

Quote:
Originally Posted by buckytom
as far as pepper goes, the best thing you can do is to crack or grind your own when you need it. a peppermill, such as one by peugeot, will allow you to freshly grind peppercorns to the size you desire by continually adjusting the nut on top as you grind.
How do you "crack" the pepper, though? I understand freshly ground/cracked pepper would be best, I've been using the broad side of a chef's knife to do it - just curious what other methods there are. I'm going to check out the peppermill you mentioned, that sounds really great! Thanks. :)

Quote:
Originally Posted by buckytom
unless you taste something bitter, you're not burning your peppercorns. burning almost anything will cause it to turn bitter. so, so long as it tastes ok, don't worry about how "toasted" it looks. that's all in your head.
Ahh, ok. It didn't have a funny taste, just looked blackish. I'm still going to try a bit lower heat when searing, I'd like the steak to look a little better. :p Good to know I'm not totally botching the job!

Quote:
Originally Posted by buckytom
searing meat in a hot pan does 2 things. it carmelizes the surface sugars, giving the meat more flavor, as well as helping to keep the juices in the meat. i've heard both that it "seals" the surface so that the moisture cannot escape, and also that it drives the juices inward, creating the same effect of keeping the meat moist.
Sounds about right to me, that's the effects I have noticed since I started cooking this way.

Quote:
Originally Posted by buckytom
if you really want to be a steak expert, learn the "press" method as you've described. it will take trial and error, but once you get it, you'll always be able to cook a steak perfectly, no matter where you are (at home, outdoors, camping, in a strange kitchen, without well used/known tools, etc. ). i also have found variables when using both instant read and probe/digital type thermometers. that's why i go by the feel. since you cook a lot of steak, it should be easy to gauge once you try and begin to remember your results.
Yeah, I've been slowly learning. So far I can pretty much always get the meat to some form of "medium", but I'm about 50% at getting it to medium rare. Guess I just need more practice! Thanks. :)

Quote:
Originally Posted by buckytom
if you insist on a thermometer, you have to remember that, depending on the mass and type (bone-in or boneless, lean or fatty cut) of the meat, it's internal temp will continue to rise upwards of 15 degrees after you've removed it from heat. pull it out earlier than you think you should, averaging around 10 degrees lower, since you appear to like well cooked shoe leather, er, meat.
You know, I've heard this many times, and I'm curious how this might work. Is the rise in internal temperature simply the extra-hot outside transferring thermall energy inwards, almost like it's still in the oven? Obviously the heat energy has to come from somewhere, it's not like it's just being pulled out from the air. :p Thanks for the note though, that *could* be why my press testing is landing me medium steaks instead of medium rare.

Quote:
Originally Posted by buckytom
i like to broil my steaks in the middle slot of the broiler, one of the least used pieces of equipment in the average home kitchen. learning to use a broiler will expand your culinary horizon exponentially.
with a 1" or thicker steak, put in the broiler 5 to 7 minutes per side to start, then begin pressing, flipping the meat every 2 minutes thereafter until the desired doneness is acheived. when tyou've got it down, you'll only have to flip the meat once to get it perfect.
I'll give that a shot, it sounds great!

Quote:
Originally Posted by buckytom
if the steak is really thick, searing in a cast iron pan then finishing in a 400 degree oven works for me. if it's well over 2", i will use a probe thermometer because the margin for error increases with the thickness after a certain point (it's a roast, not a steak at that point anyway).
Most of my steaks are generally 1-1.5" or so thick. I'll try 400 instead of 450, the lower heat might make it cook more evenly. I'll go pickup a better probe thermometer too, the one I have is terrible.

Quote:
Originally Posted by buckytom
your steak looks like a tasty ny strip or club steak, if not a little overdone for me. i prefer rare to medium rare. an old buddy prefers very rare, often saying to the waiter when ordering "just knock the horns off, wipe it's butt and wave it over the fire".
Yep, NY Strip. I agree, I think it's overdone a little. The pictures make it look more done than it really was (low light, so the colors didn't come out correctly) - but it was about "medium" instead of "medium rare". Gotta work on the press test. :p I can't eat rare steak, or at least - I don't enjoy it. Medium rare is my choice.

Quote:
Originally Posted by buckytom
your picture reminds me of a camping trip a coupla years back. i made a few london broils over the campfire in my secret dry rub, and sliced them on paper plates. once the meat was eaten, the plates were markedly cut up, soaking in the juices that had run out of the steaks. two of the guys were still so hungry that they ended up eating some of the serving plates not aware of what they were doing. ok, it was really dark and we were really drunk, but i patted myself on the back for being able to make paper plates taste good.
Haha. Great story!
Quote:
Originally Posted by buckytom
hope this helps. now go plant a few trees and we're cool.
Not much for planting trees (planted over 150 at my old home, lost ALL interest in yardwork/trees/whatever after that), and Hawaii really doesn't need help with the vegetation. ;)

Thank you kindly for all of your advice/input, I really do appreciate it.

Cheers,
David
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Old 02-05-2007, 01:17 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Barb L.
What is the "Press Method" I've seen Bobby Flay using it all the time ? The softer the feel the rarer it will be ?
PS - David, " we all use paper plates from time to time" !
Well, for me, I learned when grilling. I'd just press on a piece of steak when I "thought" it was done, and try to remember how it felt. I'd check to see how done it was, and then I had an idea "if it's kinda mushy, it's rare; if it's a bit springy, it's medium; if it's firm, it's well". I'm still trying to work on getting the stuff inbetween, medium rare being sometimes difficult to judge. I think it just takes practice, lilke most things!

Best wishes,
David
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Old 02-05-2007, 01:23 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AllenOK
Answers:

#1 Place some peppercorns on a large, hard, flat surface, like a really big cutting board. Using a small skillet, crush the peppercorns by placing the skillet on top of the peppercorns, and pressing your hand inside the pan while scraping the pan sideways across the peppercorns. Make sure that the pan bottom is CLEAN! Also, peppercorns will tend to act like ball bearings, so be prepared for some fun. I also have a meat tenderizer that is basically a solid disk of 1/2" thick stainless steel with a handle coming out from one side. This works even better than using a pan.

HOWEVER, like Buckytom, I prefer to just use a good peppermill.
Sounds like that's the way to go, then! I'll pick one up ASAP.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AllenOK
#2 I agree with BT. You peppercorns are just getting toasted. If they were burned, you'd definitely taste it.
Phew! Ok, sounds great. :)

Quote:
Originally Posted by AllenOK
#3 All ovens are different. Does you oven have a "hotspot"? Is it convection, or conventional? How much experience do you have using it?
It's a terrible oven, so it has multiple "hotspots". It's convential, I do have a fair amount of experiencing using it - that's why I know it's terrible. :p My old oven was much better. When I relocate, I'll be getting a much better one. Here in Hawaii, I'm merely renting, so due to my impending move, it doesn't make much sense to pick up a better one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AllenOK
I never trust the dial on any oven I've ever used. I prefer to keep an oven thermometer inside the oven. I also have a pizza stone in my oven that helps to even out the temperatures, but does tend to make the oven burn a little hotter, and take longer to get up to temp.
Yep. The temp on the dial on my oven was far off. I used a baking thermometer to find a spot inside that's actually ~450. I marked it on the dial. :p

Quote:
Originally Posted by AllenOK
Go ahead and try broiling a steak or two and see what your results are. Experience with your cooking equipment is the best way to know what's going on with your food, and the best way to get great results.
Sounds like a plan!

Quote:
Originally Posted by AllenOK
#4 If you decide to get a probe thermometer, get one of the cheaper, non-digital ones. Calibrate it by placing it in a glass of ice water, give it a minute to stabilize, and read the temp. If it doesn't read 32 - 33 degrees F, use a pair of pliars and adjust it by rotating the hex nut under the dial until it reads correctly.
Ahh, great idea! Will do.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AllenOK
The "touch" test is good, but not fool-proof. Experience with this will, yes, give you a leg up on how done your steak is. To get a good idea of what meat should feel like as it cooks, hold your left hand palm up. Take your right finger and poke the tissue at the base of your thumb. That's rare. Now, take your left thumb and left forefinger, and touch the tips together and HOLD. Poke the tissue again with your right finger. That's med-rare. Keep going up, and when you connect thumb and pinky, that's well-done, or so the theory goes. Again, experience plays a lot with this. Cook a couple hundred steaks, and you'll get the hang of it.
I think that's the key, I just need more practice. I can judge "medium" well, but the steak varies from m-rare to m. Just need to get it to always be m-rare, my preferred doneness. :)

Quote:
Originally Posted by AllenOK
#5 I hardly ever cook steaks in a pan like that. However, since you've already mentioned that you've baked, but not broiled, try broiling a few and see what the results are.
Will do!

Quote:
Originally Posted by AllenOK
#6 I prefer my steak to be medium. Yours is a little more done that that, by color, I'd say med-well. Without actually touching it, temping it, or eating it, myself, I couldn't say, although it looks good. Now, where's a napkin so I can wipe up my drool?
Hehe. It was about medium, as mentioned before, the lighting kinda botched the photos. It was pinker in person. I would have preferred medium rare, however. Hopefully with more experience I'll finally be able to cook the steak I wanted!

Your advice was invaluable, thank you very much!

Ciao,
David
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Old 02-05-2007, 03:27 PM   #8
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medium rare should take about 10mins to cook even on a 6 oz sirloin but i guess it will depend one what cut it is.

Also when seared the pepper will usually darken. I think the steak looks fine but if you are going for a lighter color try using a little oil when searing the steak.
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Old 02-05-2007, 03:32 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tsi88kid
medium rare should take about 10mins to cook even on a 6 oz sirloin but i guess it will depend one what cut it is.

Also when seared the pepper will usually darken. I think the steak looks fine but if you are going for a lighter color try using a little oil when searing the steak.
I tried oil, but it made it smoke badly. I don't have good ventilation in my current home, unfortunately. I'll resolve that in the move.

I was thinking, maybe I should sear the side with the fat-strip first, to give me a little fluid to help prevent the pepper from darkening as much. Would that make sense? I've heard some chefs actually like to sear all the edges of the steak first, then sear the flat parts. Worth a shot, I figure!

Thank you,
David
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Old 02-05-2007, 03:36 PM   #10
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well if you are planning on making the steak au poivre you might try and sear it with just a little bit of the wine you are going to be using because it will add flavor to the steak and it will also help the pepper from burning while you're searing.

you actually might just want to try adding the oil and then put it on heat and once the oil feels hot enough when you hold your hand above it then you can sear it and it might not turn them black because you wouldnt want to sear in a burning pan at least i wouldnt want to
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