"Treat Me Right!" Says Steak

Julia Bainbridge
Food Editor
February 7, 2014

Photo credit: Getty Images

So you bought an expensive steak. Like, cha-ching expensive. And you want to cook it, medium-rare, for yourself, at home, with a big glass of red wine, your feet up on another chair, and a big, satisfied smile on your face. Sounds great, huh?

This is what the rare (pun intended!) night off is like for Adam Rapoport, whose day job as editor in chief of Bon Appétit magazine and night jobs—as father to a very energetic little boy and as a bon vivant about town—keep him busier than a cake bagger in China. ”I’m a ribeye guy. I like a nice rich, fatty steak, cooked medium-rare,” and he has the Instagram feed to prove it. To serve alongside, “I make a nice green salad and roast potatoes. It’s very elemental—meat and potatoes are a cliché for a reason.”

Because of these nights grilling at home, and because his office contains both a professional kitchen and food editors producing at least forty recipes a month (and testing each at least three times!) the man knows how to treat an expensive cut. Here are his basic tips:

1. You did right spending that dough.I’ve said this before, but typically the steak you make is only as good as the steak you buy. If we’re talking premium cuts like a rib eye or porter house or strip steak or filet mignon, the fact is, they cost a lot of money, like 20 bucks a pound. But this it a case where it’s worth it.” Why? “You see a well-marbled ribeye—those seams of rich fat throughout the meat—and you get richness in taste. Fat is flavor, bottom line.”

2. Now season it. ”About an hour before I cook it, I will take it out of the fridge and season it liberally on both sides with kosher salt.” You’re allowing the salt to penetrate the meat, so it’s nice and flavorful later. “A lot of times I’ll put it on a cookie rack on a sheet tray. Because while it’s sitting there—you want it to come up to room temp—liquid will leach out of the meat.” You want to avoid letting it sit in a pool of what’s basically just water. Then sprinkle a bunch of freshly cracked pepper on it.

3. Meanwhile, “Unplug your smoke detector. Open a window. Turn on the vent.” It’s gonna get smoky in here.

4. Be patient. “Get a cast-iron skillet as hot as can be. Turn on the heat and wait a few minutes. Add a neutral oil like canola oil, if you want. Then just lay that steak in that smoking-hot pan and wait. Just wait 3-4 minutes. Do not touch it. Then flip over and do the same thing. Don’t touch it!” If the steak is more than two inches thick, or bone-in, you’ll want to finish it in the oven for 3-4 minutes at 375 degrees (for medium-rare).

5. Again, be patient. “Once you’re done cooking it, just take it off the pan and let it rest a few minutes on a cutting board or rack. Then slice against the grain and sprinkle it with Maldon sea salt” to finish. “If feeling Italian you could give it a drizzle of really good olive oil; if you’re feeling Peter Luger, you could put some butter on there and let it melt and get all luxurious.”

6. Restrain yourself. “The French will make an au poivre or béarnaise, and generally people aren’t going to complain about sauce being served with steak, but with really good meat, this is all you need.” Point is: “It’s not that complicated if you have a great steak.”

Remember that “every steak varies in thickness, fat content… So these are the guidelines,” says Rapoport, “but you always have to follow your instincts.”

Our instinct: Put your feet up, fill that glass, slice, and smile.

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