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Old 03-13-2008, 05:28 PM   #1
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What do these restaurants do?

I have always wondered this:

There is a local restaurant that everyone in the area agrees has the "GREATEST STEAKS". They are excellent. They are tender and unbelievably delicious. I do not understand how they do this. How do some places make such excellent steaks? Does it have to do with:

* Precooking prep (marinades or seasonings)?
* Cooking practices?
* Quality of the meat that they use?
* Something else?

I ask this question all the time and nobody ever seems to have an answer. I figured that this forum is probably the best place to get some quality opinions. Anybody have insight into this?

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Old 03-13-2008, 05:36 PM   #2
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Yes to your 4 possible answers.

It's just the same as the fact that I can cook indoors, but my dh is the outdoor grill master.

Technique, food quality and the best, freshest ingredients all add up to better food.
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Old 03-13-2008, 05:39 PM   #3
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To add to what jkath said, restaurants can put much more heat on the meat then you would ever be able to do at home. That will also make a difference.
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Old 03-13-2008, 05:40 PM   #4
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To add to what jkath said, restaurants can put much more heat on the meat then you would ever be able to do at home. That will also make a difference.
What do you mean?
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Old 03-13-2008, 05:48 PM   #5
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unless you have a salamander at home, or an IR Broiler, you cant get the ripping hot goodness.

A great steak and marinade shouldn't be in the same sentence imo.

Quality is a big, if not the MAIN factor.

And Cooking is obviously paramount.

Now for lesser cuts, marinade is ok, but I am not a ball tip or sirloin eater if I am out, gimme a ribeye or porter house and I am in.
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Old 03-13-2008, 05:49 PM   #6
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Your grill or broiler or stovetop only gets so hot. A restaurant kitchen can get much much hotter than a home kitchen. Cooking steak at a higher temp will help form the crust while keeping the inside juicy and delicious.
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Old 03-13-2008, 05:54 PM   #7
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I also think that restaurants get better cuts from the supplier. The suppliers get a better price from the premium steakhouses than they do for your average supermarket. If you have access to a farmers market or butcher that gets their meat directly from a processor, you might get better stuff.

They also often age their steaks, oftentimes for several weeks before serving them. And yes, the heat has a lot to do with it.
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Old 03-13-2008, 06:41 PM   #8
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I also think that restaurants get better cuts from the supplier
Bingo. Here in Canada, the best cuts go directly to the big name steak houses. Then, add to that what Tattrat and GB said.
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Old 03-13-2008, 09:59 PM   #9
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Do I ever agree.

First, and foremost, it is the quality of the ingredients. One can make a good meal, a tasty meal, with less than the finest fixin's. But for a truly good steak, as has been said, it is quality, quality, and quality. To me that means cut, grade, and thickness. And yep, the best grades are difficult for us regular folks to obtain. Sigh.

Then it is technique, and I think you can make a darned good steak using what most of us have to cook with. Yeah, the pros have equipment most of us don't, but we can make pretty darn good steaks with what we have. Don't be cowed.

Also, the degree of cooking is very important. A well done steak to me has little flavor. Know folks like different degrees of doneness, but to me a steak on the mooing side of medium rare is perfect.

As far as marinades, rubs, that sort of thing I am going to actually disagree a bit with my fellow posters.

If I want the true cow experience, nothing more than S&P. But with a thick slab, yeah, a lovely rub or a short marinade, don't think of watching a movie and going back to cook it, can give a nice touch. You get the interesting flavor of the rub/marinade at the beginning of the bite and the lovely beef flavor later on.

Normally we don't do that. But it is your beef and your palate and food is about what you like (and of course your family and guests).

I guess my point is even the finest chef cannot take a thin, select grade, not very tender cut and make it a good 'steak'. They may play with it and make it tasty, but it ain't a good steak - it does not have that flavor most folks are thinking about when they want a really good piece of cow.

Sorry to go on so long but I tend to do that. Sorry.
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Old 03-13-2008, 10:10 PM   #10
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Auntie D, you hit the nail on the head, great input.
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Old 03-13-2008, 10:31 PM   #11
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Auntie D, you hit the nail on the head, great input.
Aunt Dot said it well. Marinades are for tougher less tasty cuts, a dry rub adds flavor but when you have a high dollar cut of meat it's the cooking method and nothing more than salt and pepper. A good cut of beef needs nothing more that's why it costs so much it's perfect on it's own. I love the crispy fat cooked on high heat the sides of a good steak have so much flavor it's unbelievable. The marbling is a big factor in a great steak.
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Old 03-13-2008, 10:38 PM   #12
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I disagree partially on the quality issue; while it's true that you can't turn a crappy piece of meat into a delicious entree, most of the steaks you're ordering in restaurants are the same grade available in stores. Prime is a rare find in US supermarkets and butcher shops alike, as was mentioned, most of the prime meat goes to the best steakhouses. However, just as prime meat makes up a very tiny portion of the beef market, the steakhouses that sell prime make up a very tiny portion of all steakhouses. The fact is, if you're eating prime beef, you'll definitely know it by the emptiness of your wallet.

Most steakhouses serve choice beef, and in most supermarkets you will find both choice and select beef. While in theory it's true that choice will always be better than select, and prime will always be better than choice, I think it's much too easy to sit back and say that the beef is doing all the work. The very BEST steak I have ever had, is from a local steakhouse, well-known in our area, but certainly not a fine-dining type of place, serves choice beef. My father, who has been eating there for much longer than I, has made it a personal mission to try to find a better place than the one near our home. About a month ago he went to a famous Chicago steak house, and paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $70 for his steak, and while he admitted that it was more tender than the local joint, he said there was no contest in flavor.

I think what may happen at some high-end places, is that the owners don't truly know how to handle their wonderful product. They think because it is prime, the ingredient will do all the work for them. Thus, things like proper seasoning, proper garnish, proper heat, and proper service fall out of the scope in favor of simply procuring the best beef possible.

I've been to a few different places where I was appalled to find my steak served to me already sliced! God knows that the busy line cooks didn't let that steak rest before they sliced it and threw it into the window so they could work on the next order. And all of the juice was just streaming right out of my poor steak.


If you want to make great steak at home, you need to handle the ingredient properly. Season it well- SO many people underseason their food in general, and their beef in particular. If you're grilling, make sure you get your grill the very hottest it can possibly handle before you put the meat on. If you're pan-searing your steak, you want your pan smoking hot, literally, and if the fire alarms don't go off a few minutes after you drop your meat into the pan, you're not getting your pan hot enough. Don't overcook it! Even a well-done steak, done properly, should not be dry. Remember to compensate for the carry-over cooking. You should let your steak rest at least 5 minutes before serving it, and this time will also continue to cook the meat. If you want to garnish your steak, which is certainly not necessary, keep away from bottled sauces, and go with garlic/herb butter, or pancetta butter, or just plain butter. Save the worcestershire for Ceasar salad.

If you think you're doing everything right and still aren't getting the results you want, there is 1 marinade I will recommend, and it is the ONLY marinade I will recommend: Marinate your steaks in the fridge for 2 - 3 days in olive oil (VO if you can afford it, though EVOO is probably unnecessary) crushed fresh garlic, and crushed peppercorns. This is the only marinade I have found that will compliment the flavor of the beef. Wipe the excess oil from your steak before cooking, and remember to season it, cook it at high heat, cook it to the proper temp (get a thermometer!), and let it rest.
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Old 03-14-2008, 12:52 AM   #13
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Bingo. Here in Canada, the best cuts go directly to the big name steak houses. Then, add to that what Tattrat and GB said.
I have discovered that by buying my beef from a farmer at the Greenmarket, and handling it minimally, I can still get that steakhouse taste at home. and I don't "age" the meat. The grass fed/grass finished beef is the difference, I THINK! In any case, the flavor for me is reminiscent of that we used to get from the beef we ate on my uncles' farms when I was a pup. and the texture of the grass fed/grass finished is more "rustic," if you will... chewier, denser, and infinitely more satisfying.

Yes, it is also significantly more expensive, but I would rather have better quality less often.
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Old 03-14-2008, 08:09 AM   #14
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This forum is SUPERB. There has been a lot of quality insight provided. Thank you!

Keep it coming if you have anything to add. I might even be a great steak chef by the end of this.
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Old 03-14-2008, 09:39 AM   #15
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Steakhouses also tend to add butter in horrifying quantities to get that glisteny shine and texture
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Old 03-14-2008, 09:55 AM   #16
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Steakhouses also tend to add butter in horrifying quantities to get that glisteny shine and texture
Ah, yes, the dreaded BUTTER!
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Old 03-14-2008, 10:03 AM   #17
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The country club I work at uses CAB beef (Certified Angus Beef), USDA Choice grade. I was taught in college by my instructors that CAB is really somewhere inbetween USDA Choice and USDA Prime. That said, you'll have to try it for yourself and determine how you like it.

Marbling is everything. Also, you really need to let your preference for doneness dictate what kind of steak you like, as far as tenderness goes. So, if you like your steak "on the mooing side of med-rare", just about any steak will do, whereas if you like your steak well-done (IMHO, "murdered", Dead-cow-walking as I call it at work), you need the tenderest cut to start with, a filet mignon.

I have found one way to improve the cheap, thin-cut steak. I've only done it once, and it was by accident that I found this out. My other half, PeppA, decided to splurge and bought some steak for the family. She got a big Round Steak. Cheap, big, and about 1/2" thick. Can we say "Bootleather"??? It wasn't quite big enough to feed the whole family at that time, but I remembered that I had a little piece of round steak in the freezer, so I started that thawing. When I went to cook the steaks, the one I pulled out was still half-frozen, but I cooked it anyway. Well, guess what? The outside was nicely seared, but the inside of the thin, cheap piece of bootleather was still nice and pink, a healthy med-rare. I downed that one with a smile on my face.

Now, yes, I will admit that I preach charcoal for a grill, and the sins of propane (Hank Hill, forgive me). However, at work, I have a gas grill to work with, and yes, that thing puts out more BTU's than any home grill ever will. So yes, we can get a good sear on a steak, and still have the inside nice and rare. Also, our filet mignon is between 1 - 1 1/2" thick. Bone-in Ribeyes are about 3/4". So we are using thicker steaks.

And yes, when I plate the meal, I do put a bit of "Steak butter", basically Maitre d'Hotel butter, onto the steak. But, I only use about a teaspoon of the stuff. I don't put any fat on the steak when I cook it.
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Old 03-14-2008, 11:45 AM   #18
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I have discovered that by buying my beef from a farmer at the Greenmarket, and handling it minimally, I can still get that steakhouse taste at home. and I don't "age" the meat. The grass fed/grass finished beef is the difference, I THINK! In any case, the flavor for me is reminiscent of that we used to get from the beef we ate on my uncles' farms when I was a pup. and the texture of the grass fed/grass finished is more "rustic," if you will... chewier, denser, and infinitely more satisfying.

Yes, it is also significantly more expensive, but I would rather have better quality less often.
Do you cook grass-fed beef any differently? I'm asking because there is a local farmer who sells it "by the cow" a few times a year. Several women I know are looking to go in together on a cow. The ones that have purchased before said the same thing you did - that the meat has a different taste, one she considers superior. But she said you have to be careful to cook it right.
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Old 03-14-2008, 03:29 PM   #19
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1..aged beef!! Nothing helps like having quality meat.
2. A proven seasoning
3. Professional cooking surface. A top notch flame grill cooks the same EVERY time. They can have low heat to extreme heat.
4. they also usually have a cook that has as their only job--cooking steaks.
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Old 03-19-2008, 07:21 AM   #20
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The ONE kind of steak that you can reliably get steakhouse-quality results on at home is probably the filet mignon.

This is because they are often done entirely in the pan and not put under an IR broiler, and thus it isn't anything that's beyond the capabilities of a well-outfitted home kitchen.

Great meat, S&P, and the hottest thickest saute pan you can muster. If it's a big enough filet you might want to finish in the oven, but your quality of sear should be about the same regardless.

It might not QUITE be Smith & Wollensky, but it'll be really darned close if you do it properly.
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