From butcher to BBQ
MarkMaker and award-winning chef Chris Fischer fires up the grill and explains how to cook the perfect steak.
It may seem easy to cook the perfect steak to some. A good steak, paired with a robust glass of red wine is never a bad idea. But a lot of steps need to be taken before you get to that post-grilling place of bliss. After a lifetime of trial and error, I would like to think I am now on the road to a happy future grilling steak for any occasion. Who needs a reason to eat a good steak after all?
You may not need a special occasion to grill a steak, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to the details. Here’s how to get the perfect result.
1. Source your steak
The key to getting the right steak starts at the butcher counter. Just as getting the right piece of fish from your fishmonger takes patience and questioning, so too should your conversation with your butcher. Ask them where the meat comes from and always make sure you’re getting the best quality, not what is priced to move. It’s also helpful to tell your butcher how many people you’re cooking for, how you plan to cook the meat and what your budget is. I find most butchers are well versed in cooking the products they spend all day expertly carving.
In my opinion, the king of grilling cuts is the ribeye. Usually very well marbled, filled with flavor and always tender, the ribeye is both a crowd pleaser and generally a forgiving piece of meat to cook due to its high fat content.
2. Turn up the heat
My preferred method for cooking steak is a grill, but don’t discount a nice bit of slowly simmered brisket or shoulder. I almost always cook over a wood fire, so I’m sure to have newspapers, kindling and some dry and aged oak around that has been split into 2” slivers. The smaller the oak, the sooner you will have nicely burnt down embers to cook over. I like to make my fire at least a half an hour before I plan to cook, but often times earlier if I have the time. If you’re using a gas grill or charcoal the time to preheat is usually closer to 15-20 minutes.
Build your fire in a safe place by first starting with your bundle of newspaper, then your kindling, then work your way up from smallest to biggest pieces of wood. Stack them so there is ample air flow, then light the fire.
3. Final prep
As the fire burns, prep a nice big green salad and boil some potatoes, then toss them in melted butter and rosemary to serve next to the steak. Unwrap your steak and place on an oversized platter. Toss the steak in crushed garlic, chili flakes, a few chopped anchovies, oregano, salt, pepper and olive oil, then allow it to come up to room temperature while you set the table and monitor the fire. Crack open a beer at this point. By now you are halfway home.
4. Time to grill
When the coals have burnt down, rake them flat and evenly with a fireproof tool or another piece of wood. Clean the grill grates first with a wire brush, then with a rag you don't mind dirtying that is lightly coated in olive oil. At last, you’re ready to cook.
Bring a pair of tongs (and your beer) with you to the grill, then cook the steak over the hottest part and move it around based on the grill’s heat and the thickness of the cut of meat. Remember, you can always cook something more but never less. Also meat continues to cook after it has been taken off the grill. Always allow your steak to sit for 5-8 minutes before testing for doneness one final time. This resting period allows the steak’s juices to be reabsorbed into it making it its juiciest, best self.
For a finishing touch, salsa verde – the Italian version made from freshly minced herbs – is always my choice for an accompaniment to a perfectly cooked steak. Once carved, don’t forget to pour the meat’s cooking juices over the top to serve – then dive in and enjoy!
After dinner, take a comfortable seat and wind down with one of five whiskey cocktail recipes from Chris Fischer’s favorite New York distillery.