Take the 2-minute tour ×
Seasoned Advice is a question and answer site for professional and amateur chefs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I've been trying to perfect my technique for cooking a steak indoors.

It was recommended to salt the steak about 30 minutes before cooking. I used kosher salt, and cooked the steak on cast iron. Everything came out spectacularly, in fact it was the best steak I've ever made myself. However, the outer layer of the steak was significantly saltier than I think is normal. It didn't ruin the steak, but it was more than I would have liked. I would simply assume that I over-salted, but given the language people use when they recommend the technique, and the amount I actually applied, I am unsure. I fear that if I use less salt next time I will lose the perfect sear/crust and the incredible flavor of the interior meat that I achieved.

So, given the similarity to brining poultry (in which case the meat is rinsed before cooking), I wonder if the salt should be rinsed off before cooking? I didn't get this impression from any of the recommendations, but now I am not so sure.

share|improve this question
    
So whats wrong with the steak without the salt? –  TFD Feb 3 '11 at 3:13
4  
Nothing was wrong per se, but I'm not aiming for "nothing wrong" I'm aiming for perfect. –  Colin K Feb 3 '11 at 3:30
4  
+1 … I made the same discovery yesterday, after having read (on this site?) that you cannot over-salt your steaks since the excess salt will stick to the pan, not the meat. Wrong, as it turned out. –  Konrad Rudolph Feb 3 '11 at 10:50
    
The ideal amount of salt is going to be determined by the volume of the salt; if you see mention of an amount of salt 'per side' of the meat without taking into consideraton the area of each side, or the thickness of the steak, it's not a very consistent measurement. –  Joe Feb 3 '11 at 14:08
add comment

7 Answers

up vote 20 down vote accepted

Definitely don't rinse the salt off. One of the nice things the salt does is pull juices to the surface of the meat--not enough to dry things out, but enough so that when the steak hits the hot pan you have a nice protein-laden coating (it's called a pellicle when talking about smoked fish--not sure about steaks) on the outside to caramelize. If you rinse it, you're rinsing that right off.

If your steak was too salty, then just salt more lightly. You don't need a ton, as what you get on there will melt some and mix with the juices and spread out. I think I probably use 1/4 tsp or less per side, and some of that bounces off/misses. And you won't lose the crust with less salt--you won't even lose it with NO salt. It's just easier to get if you use the salt to pull some juices to the surface.

If you have trouble getting good salt distribution, use your fingers and sprinkle it from a little farther up--like 8 inches from the steak. That'll make it easier to get an even sprinkle without dousing it.

share|improve this answer
1  
1/4 tsp? It turns out I was over-salting it indeed. Thanks for the good answer :) –  Colin K Feb 3 '11 at 3:29
    
It's worth noting that I'm also working with steaks that are bordering on 2 inches thick--so it's really not a huge amount of salt compared to the amount of meat. And if your steaks are more than an inch thick, try sear roasting: finecooking.com/articles/how-to/sear-roasting.aspx –  bikeboy389 Feb 3 '11 at 3:37
    
Obviously, there are many opinions on how to cook a steak, but the method Colin is using requires a ton of salt. Some people even submerge the steak in a salt bath. This gives a different result than just lightly salting the steak. When you do this, yes, wash the salt off, and then thoroughly dry the steak before cooking it. –  michael Feb 3 '11 at 4:16
1  
Try this: instead of salt, get a good beef stock cube, one of the paste ones, not powder. Mix half the cube with a little oil to form a brushable paste. Brush this onto the steak instead of salt. It gives a fantastic crust with a really beefy kick. –  ElendilTheTall Feb 3 '11 at 9:29
    
If your steaks are 2 inches thick, 30 minutes will not be enough for the salt to penetrate the meat. I would try giving it a couple of hours or even more. Thomas Keller, in the French Laundry Cookbook, recommends salting steak the day before cooking them. –  Henrik Söderlund Feb 3 '11 at 10:30
show 5 more comments

I'm going to present a slightly opposing viewpoint. My guess is that you (or some other people reading this) might be following or at least somewhat influenced by an article that was fairly popular in some circles a while back - How to turn cheap choice steaks in to Gucci prime steaks.

In this particular method you drastically over salt the steak, practically coating the thing in salt an hour or more before cooking. The salt starts to dissolve and through osmosis starts to get pulled in to the steak while less salty water gets pulled to the surface. The incoming salt helps relax the protein in the meat leading down the line to a more tender steak. You have to rinse all this salt and excess water off. One it's way too much salt, and two all that water will serve to steam the meat. It's not pulling juices out - it's pulling water out. This also helps give the steak a slightly "beefier" taste - similar to dry aging but not quite as pronounced because the ratio of water to beef is now lower. I'm not aware of the salt actually pulling protein out of the steak in the water. It's my understanding that it's mostly just water, so rinsing it off should be no big deal.

I've used this technique before to great results although I didn't do an experiment with it (ie, no control to see what it would have tasted like without the technique).

This is a very different technique than simply salting and throwing on the grill. In that case salt will not penetrate the meat but simply cover the surface and you obviously don't want to rinse it off as then you may as well not have salted it at all.

share|improve this answer
5  
This is intriguing enough that I might give it a shot. I dispute the article's implicit claim that all that's wrong with lower grade beef is that it's not salty or dry enough, however. Often lower grade beef suffers from lack of fat marbling, which no amount of drying or saltiness will overcome, in my book. –  bikeboy389 Feb 3 '11 at 15:50
    
Interesting idea. The process you describe and its supposed benefits reminds me of brining. –  Erik P. Feb 3 '11 at 16:17
add comment

If you do salt your steak the way you're trying to do then, yes, rinse the salt and water that is pulled from the steak; completely dry the steak, pepper and grill!

I noticed that most responding people do not fully understand what you're trying to accomplish. You're not just seasoning the steak with this method; you're pulling out the water and the salt (including any seasonings you add) that is absorbed back into the steak. The salt breaks down the fat and protein, giving you a tender flavorful steak. If you're starting with a perfectly marbled expensive steak, you don't have to salt as long, but typically salt for 1 hour per inch of steak thickness.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Do not "rinse" the salt off! If you want to brush excess salt off, that's fine, but by rinsing off using water (which is what I think you are talking about), you will essentially end up steaming your steak, which is disgusting.

Even if you pat dry with a paper towel, the surface will still be damp after rinsing. This will prevent the Maillard reaction from taking place, which is what produces the delicious steak flavor on the surface. (I'm not going to get into the chemistry, but the short version is that the temperature difference on the surface to the interior causes the proteins to combine with the sugars producing that delicious brown coloring).

Other tips:

  1. You safely can dry-age beef at home!

  2. Take steaks out of the fridge 30-60 minutes (depending on thickness) before cooking in order to allow them come to room temperature.

  3. Always use at least a little bit of Kosher salt or sea salt.

  4. Never add pepper before cooking (it burns too easily).

  5. Make sure your broiler or grill is very well preheated. Professional kitchens cook their steaks under broilers that reach well over 1000 degrees. You can't really do this at home other than on a charcoal grill.

  6. There's no such thing as "sealing in the juices" by searing first. Searing can help as far as browning, but you're not holding onto any "juice".

  7. With larger steaks, allow them to rest 3-5 minutes loosely covered in tin foil before serving or cutting. (Be aware if you do this you may need to take them out of the oven sooner since they will continue to cook.)

  8. I will freely admit this last one is a matter of taste: Learn to eat your steaks medium rare or even (gasp!) rare. If you're cooking them right, you'll get an excellent flavor on the inside and out; and I'm not talking about 'black and blue', which I dislike. I think you get a much better flavor out of the steak when enjoyed rare!

share|improve this answer
add comment

Salt needs management. Please do not rinse or brush it. Use less salt next time. We are breeders of Blonde d' Aquitaine, a French beef that produces less fatty and "fine-fibred" beef. When we grill our meat, we only use salt as spice. And it is amazing!

share|improve this answer
add comment

Sounds gross to me.

Here's the best way to cook a steak that I've found:

Heat your oven as high as it will go. Stick your cast iron skillet in there for a good half hour under that heat. Turn your burner on high and pull out the cast iron. Toss on your steak and sear it on each side for 1 minute. Salt, pepper, garlic...that's all a steak needs. Put it on an this time. When your second minute is up put the whole thing back into the oven and cook at that hotternhell setting for 4-9 minutes depending on thickness and desired doneness level.

I was skeptical about it first I heard, but by Zeus it's the best way to do it. Make sure you have a plate with some good, high edges because it's damn juicy. I put oil on the outside of my steak first just to keep it from sticking to the pan but it's not strictly necessary of course.

Of course, you want to start with a nice, choice piece of meat like prime rib or something. You'll also want to open all the doors and windows because it's damn smokey.

As a second benefit, it does wonders for your pan's seasoning.

share|improve this answer
2  
If juice is running everywhere that is due to you not letting the steak rest before cutting in to it - see cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/623/… –  Ryan Elkins Feb 4 '11 at 22:59
    
@Ryan Elkins: Back when I ate steak, I always liked the juice to go everywhere. –  Orbling Feb 5 '11 at 1:40
1  
No Ryan, it isn't. –  Crazy Eddie Feb 5 '11 at 5:11
add comment

I only salt my steaks if they are typically less tender cuts.

When salting, either do so for at least 40 minutes or directly prior to cooking.

I have always washed the salt off, then dried the steaks out with a paper towel.

While cooking I use a little bit of olive oil instead of butter to raise the burn temp so I can get a better crust.

Once cooking, I then flip my steaks every 3 minutes. This produces a very consistently cooked cut as well as a very good maillard reaction crust.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.