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A steak question for you restaurant folks

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
I have never been behind the scenes in a restaurant but in many cases we are able to see the cooking going on from a distance. I am wondering how you guys turn out those beautiful steaks. I have been using charcoal (actually natural lump charcoal - not briquettes) but wonder if I should make the change to a gas grill. It would be a lot easier logistically.

I know you are using gas but how do you get the flavor? Are you using some type of wood chips in the fire? Can I expect the same type of results you are getting from a gas grill on my patio or should I stick with the lump charcoal?

I am cooking new york strip and ribeye and I always buy usda "prime" cut whenever they are available.

I have been to the finest steak restaurants in Seattle and have yet to see a charcoal grill sitting in the kitchen!

Thanks
post #2 of 17
Just a couple of possibilities.

Grades of beef go from best down, Choice, Select, then prime. Better steakhouses will use a dry aged Choice piece of meat. At the grocery store you are unlikely to find anything better than Prime.

Also, I sprinkle just a little salt and black pepper on my steaks before grilling. This makes a difference, though I expect that some other chefs reading this will say no salt at all.

Finally, it is hard to duplicate the temperature of a commercial grill with a home BBQ, the grill itself is usually skinnier metal too, this also makes difference.

As for woodchips, I've never seen that done in a restaurant. It would be difficult at best to make sure the chips hadn't burned away. In a smoker, yes, but not a grill.

I'd suggest going to an old fashioned butcher and talking to the guy with a knife beind the counter. (Not at the grocery store.) Real butchers can both cut meat properly, and also tell you the best cooking methods.
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Will work for a bed and shower... I want to find a place to live that isn't Vermont. I am interested in seeing a few sites.
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post #3 of 17
You got confused Grease. There are 8 grades and Prime's the best. The other 5 grades are not generally seen in stores, but end up in processed foods and animal feed.

See also http://www.ezinearticles.com/?USDA-B...ware&id=194720

and

http://www.bbqreport.com/archives/ba...rading-system/
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #4 of 17
A little more info is required.

The grading of beef changed a few years back because of the concerns about fat. So some beef that would have been labeled as prime before was shunted down to another grade because of it's generous fat and marbling. That beef is still highly sought after in the restaurant trade and that's where it often gets sold.

USDA grading isn't cheap. That grading and inspecting adds to the cost of the beef. There is a little bit of stamp fraud in the market. So you should consider your vendors carefully. Other frauds involve using similar inks to "stain" other cuts of beef to make them appear to have received a higher grade.

Because of the added costs of USDA grading, many grocers are buying un-graded beef and applying their own grades to it. Nothing wrong with that. But do you know what their grades really mean? Generally, they peg their grade to the USDA grades and say their grading meets or exceeds that of the USDAs. But what are they willing to do if you bought their label and it didn't really meet that grade?

All beef is federally inspected, but not all is USDA graded. The inspection guarantees beef fit for human consumption according to their own requirements. Whether their requirements meet yours is something to consider.

I've personally found the USDA label to be more reliable than in-house grades.

http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets...able/index.asp

Phil
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #5 of 17
Searing is very important. Let the fire get very hot, "seal" the first side before turning, quarter turning same side is okay. If you are after rare to med, turn the steak before the blood accumulates on the top. It's to late to sear the second side if it is wet, with blood (juices!!!) coming to the top. Look at "locking up" the natural moisture in the meat. Many times I dust the meat with a let oil, just to ensure the meat browns off swiftly. Try not to turn the meat from side to side.
post #6 of 17
Hey Phatch, you're right, prime down to canning. I should have been more clear in my post. Just wanted let Rick know that Prime is not as good as it gets.

I am curious about dry aging now though, I suppose that you could have a choice piece that is not, and a prime piece that is. In that instance, I'd take the dry aged prime.
Will work for a bed and shower... I want to find a place to live that isn't Vermont. I am interested in seeing a few sites.
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Will work for a bed and shower... I want to find a place to live that isn't Vermont. I am interested in seeing a few sites.
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post #7 of 17
Thread Starter 

A steak question for you restaurant folks

Thanks for the input. I knew that prime was "prime". Still trying to figure out what makes a restaurant steak so much better. I know about searing and not overturning the meat. Is it the grill temperature you guys use?
I know that either our El Gaucho or Daniel's broiler cook the meat at over 800 degrees. Is that the answer? No way I can come close to that temp on my backyard grill.

Here's what I am doing:
Prime cuts of meat (patted dry) and let to sit at room temp for 30 minutes
Olive oil, Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
Turned twice on the grill
Let to rest for 5-10 minutes
Compound butter melted on meat before serving

Don't get me wrong. Everyone says it is great and it sure is expensive for those cuts of meat. Just wondering if I can do the same thing with a gas grill instead of the charcoal.
post #8 of 17
Personally, I think that oil on the beef spoils the taste. If it is a good cut, it doesn't need oil. IMHO
Will work for a bed and shower... I want to find a place to live that isn't Vermont. I am interested in seeing a few sites.
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Will work for a bed and shower... I want to find a place to live that isn't Vermont. I am interested in seeing a few sites.
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post #9 of 17
I'm glad nowIamone used quotations around the word "seal", because the idea of sealing the meat to preserve its moisture is now debunked. Harold McGee (who was a guest here a couple of months ago) puts it elegantly in a chapter entitled, "The Searing Truth" in his book, The Curious Cook. Searing is great for flavor reasons, but actually can promote dryness in some circumstances. It does NOT seal in anything.
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post #10 of 17

Restaurant Grills, Flavor and Meat

Here's something else. With the grills we use in restaurants, often there is a heavy bar shelf under the gas jets, but above the drip pans. Many places, including where I currently work, will put in a chunk of hardwood to aid in flavoring. Our restaurant uses mesquite which has been soaked in water.

Seasoning: Salt, pepper, granulated garlic. Mix that together in equal amounts then add/subtract whatever flavor component you like or dislike for future use.

Heat: "FULL BLAST" does one thing well.. sear. With that being said, all grills have hot and cold spots. A good grill cook knows where these are and uses them to his/her advantage. A well done steak doesn't necessarily sit on a hot spot all the time. If it did, it'd be charred. (Not that I believe any steak deserves such a horrible death as well done.) But if a patron's paying for it, they're also helping to pay the cook's wage. Anyway, use direct and indirect or high/low heat to your advantage.

Grade: The grade of the beef will delineate marbling (fat content) and tenderness. It does NOT have anything to do with wholesomeness. A prime cut can also be rancid.

Grilling, like everything else in life, takes practice. The good news is you can still eat most of your mistakes.

Ciao,
Order In/Food Out ~ It's NOT magic.
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Order In/Food Out ~ It's NOT magic.
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"It's not getting any smarter out there. You have to come to terms with stupidity, and make it work for you." Frank Zappa
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post #11 of 17
Hey there :)


I can't remember the exact temperature...but I remember once hearing that Ruth Crists broilers reach temperatures (somewhere) over 1,000f. That aside...there is no reason why you couldn't reach temperatures easily over 700f using a good lump. My kettle thermometer will peg at 700f...so I don't know the exact temp inside...just that it's greater than 700f. One of these days I should use the thermal imaging device we have at work...it will also give you a reading of the temperature in a given area (you know...I'll give it a whirl with the gas grill tomorrow. (See what the air temp and the surface area of the grates)

I still think a good quality steak is MUCH easier to cook than a grocery store bought piece of meat. With the prime...you should end up decent...but I'd also make sure it's at least an 1 1/4" thickness or better for good results.

One of my favorite places to buy meats gets unbranded "roll-off" meat. It's always for a good price...always very decent quality...but sometimes they get meat that should be branded prime. That being said...no matter where I shop for meat or what the branding is...if it doesn't look as good as I'd like. I pass and drive somewhere else. This doesn't matter if I'm shopping at my favorite unbranded shop that carries some of the best meat I've ever seen...or the butcher in town that carries prime at all times...and will order the (American) Kobe for you. I'll also never select a certain cut of meat when there is another cut that looks better.

Anymore...I look forward to tasting a nice steak that I cooked at home over eating out at Ruth Crists or Joe's Seafood and Prime SteakHouse.


But hey...that's just my opinion ;)

Happy cooking!

dan
post #12 of 17
My cousin has had a natural gas line hooked up to his outdoor grill. So, it is possible to duplicate the heat used in commercial grills.
My life, my choice.....
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My life, my choice.....
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post #13 of 17
I recently wrote a 2 part article for Chef Talk, called "Grilling the Perfect Steak". It's a step by step article for people at home who want to achieve results similar to restaurants. You won't be able to achieve exactly what restaurants do unless you invest in a grill or broiler that pumps out the BTU's of professional equipment, and those are expensive, but you can come close. Check out the main site for the articles..
post #14 of 17
Thread Starter 

A steak question for you restaurant folks

Thanks to all who have replied. There have been some really good responses. Some I agree with - others I will take with a grain of salt.

Some conclusions I have made based on your responses and hours of reading:

I will keep my charcoal grill and continue to use lump charcoal - not briquettes. A gas grill would be much easier but it's just a hobby (searching for perfection) and I should be willing to put the extra effort into it.

People rant and rave about my steaks so I should be satisfied with that.

I will continue to use prime meat when available and use the basic meat preparation - olive oil, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. For now I don't want to get caught up in rubs or marinades.

Location of meat on the grill is important. Know the hot spots and not so hot spots.

Flip the meat as little as possible. Contrary to some posts, all the reading I have done indicates searing the meat is important to seal in the juices.
After searing, placement on hot and cool spots is a technique I still need to learn.

Thanks again to everyone. I love this website. You have all been so helpful.

Rick
post #15 of 17
Good man. :)
post #16 of 17
This is probably one of the most widespread cooking myths out there. Searing meats does not lock in the juices. There have been many discussions on this exact topic here numerous times. I also believe that Harold McGee touches on this subject on his book "On Food and Cooking" as does Alton Brown, in the episode "Mythsmashers" on "Good Eats". While searing may not "seal in the juices", it is still very important. That searing produces a caramelized, flavorful crust on the outside of the meat. This provides a wonderful complexity of flavors that help enhance the steak's taste and texture.
post #17 of 17
Well Pete, I had no idea about that, thank you. I wonder what else we hang onto as 'law' that has no basis in fact? I do know when I coat slightly smacked thick filet in fresh herbed breadcrumbs, they leak a little onto the paper as I place them on their upright sides. Ready for serving. I thought it was because the steak was not seared, just the crumb mid browned and yummy. The steak in its little coat is spoon tender and mostly pink. I keep them separate and crispy with sprigs of curly parsley. And served on parsley so no red can be seen, it just leaks thru. to the paper and is contained. But that is only if we have a table dish, with many other things. I like having a table dish, everyone taking as they want from one big platter in the middle of the table. And condiments on an easily moved trolley for those sitting, to share.
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