By Rosanna Bauman
Everyone knows that Kansas is windy, right? Well, there’s a fact about Kansans that isn’t as well known: We like
our wind ! The weather here can get pretty hot, but it’s a rare day when we don’t have at least some breeze blowing. That wind helps keep the humidity down and enables life without air-conditioning. But those hot summer evenings still zap our enthusiasm for cooking up a storm in the kitchen, so we do a lot of grilling outside. Multiple times a week, supper comes from the grill. For a large family that doesn’t even spend $50 a week on groceries, we eat a lot of steaks. That’s because we get to eat the damaged goods from the meat we sell: ripped packages, expired dates, etc. At one family get together, I paused to calculate the price of the protein we were consuming: “Do you realize that these expired steaks had a retail value of $200?" A classic example of food-rich and cash- poor farmers !
When customers ask me how to cook their steaks, I actually have an answer, because we have grilled enough steaks to form some opinions. So, as a farmer, butcher, and cook myself, here’s some opinions about Steaks:
What kind of steak? Bone-in steaks, please! Oh, you meant, what cut of steak! My point exactly. Most steaks are available bone-in or boneless, and I always opt to cut around the bone. It may seem like you are just paying for something you can’t eat, but that bone does lend a lot of flavor to the meat. Filets are priced high because the cattle never really use that muscle, so it’s guaranteed to be tender, even if it’s an old cow. Personally, I think filets are over- rated. I’ve not noticed much tenderness difference between the filets and, say a ribeye or KC strip sjeak, but perhaps that’s just because we have good quality beef. One of the ”sleeper steaks” is the lean little fJank steak. Grilled and cut across the grain, this is a juicy, tasty steak, but there’s only a couple on each cow, so don’t plan on serving it at your family reunion!
What breed is best? While Certified Angus Beef has done a tremendous marketing job, it is scientifically proven that the breed is not a strong determining factor on tenderness. There is actually a “tenderness gene“ that is in all cattle, so it depends on that particular cow’s genetic makeup how tender the steak is. But even cattle with ”good genes” can
beCome tough due to poor handling on butcher day and overlooking at home.
Select your grill. Offset heat is the best, be it charcoal or gas, the end result will be much better if the meat does not come into contact with flames.
Thaw - I was at the farmers market last night when a customer asked me how long she should let her steaks thaw. I was baffled. How long? Until they are thawed! There are many methods for thawing meat: the refrigerator, the microwave, water bath and sunlight. The cold water bath and refrigerator methods are the best, but we don’t always plan far enough a head to use them. But the most important thing is to thaw the steak — never, ever, put frozen steaks on the grill! Frozen hamburgers are okay, but steaks are a no-no. Allow the thawed steak to come to room temperature. This may sound like a food safety no-no, but any bacterial growth that may occur on the outside of your steak should get seared off in the grill’s heat. Tenderized steaks are the only exception, but any steak that has been tenderized is best pan-fried anyway. Warming up your chilled steak is a little-known prep method. We forget that the steak is a muscle. What happens when you put a cold steak on a hot gritty The muscles contract! You may either Jet the steaks warm up in their package or remove them from the packaging to season.
Season the Steak -. You can do this after you have placed the meat on the grill but I prefer to rub it on the steaks while they are coming up to room temperature. We always apply a bit of salt, and possibly some pepper and garlic salt or a rough-ground steak seasoning. But you won’t need much if you have quality meat. Just last week I had a customer tell me that her family raved over our grassfed beef steaks, because they “could actually taste the meat, and not just the seasonings!"
COOK CAREFULLY! Our household has never really cooked using meat thermometers, but I have come to appreciate them. Using a meat thermometer doesn’t mean that you are a novice chef, it means that you value consistency. Sure, I don’t need a thermometer to tell if a steak is done — the juices will run clear instead of red, but there are so many varying degrees of doneness that a thermometer really helps you hit your target whether that is well-done, medium or rare.
Let Rest 5-10 minutes before eating. No one ever tells you why you are supposed to let your meat rest, so I will give my own opinion about it. Eating a hot-off-the grill steak is, first of all, asking for a burned tongue. Secondly, the juices that were bubbling under the heat have a chance to retreat back into the meat. Thirdly, this is food, a gift of life, and we should remember to be properly thankful for it. Letting the steaks rest after removing them from the grill gives us ample time to wrangle everyone into their seats and give a prayer of thanks.
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need a thermometer to tell if a steak is done — the juices will run clear instead of red. But there are so many varying degrees of ”doneness" that a thermometer really helps you to hit your target, be it