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I followed all of the tips. Prime sirloin, taken out an hour before cooking. Salted thoroughly 30 minutes prior. Patted dry with paper towels. Thrown on a high (650) degree grill for two minutes per side, finished on low for 3 minutes per side (internal temp was still about 400). Rested 10 minutes.

Results: Good sear, beautiful medium-rate insides. Plenty of juice. Enough salt.

Problem: the exterior was almost like bark. It wasn't scorched or burnt, but just really really dry.

What was the misstep?

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3 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

It sounds like you may be searing the steak for too long. Indeed, you want to initially be cooking the steak at a higher-than-normal temperature in order to sear it, but I'd suggest a period of more like 30 seconds each side, followed by slightly longer at a reduce temperature. At 650 degrees, the steak does not need long to sear. The same principle has worked for me when pan-frying steak, though obviously at much lower temperatures.

I'm not sure how large a role the salting is playing, but I would only salt the steak minimally before cooking. It's often just as well done towards the end of cooking, and is less likely to dry out the steak.

In addition, a common mistake is to pat down the steaks too much while (or after) cooking them. This may speed up the process slightly, but it certainly dries out the meat (the outside in particular). This is probably not the main problem, but is worth noting anyway.

Hope that helps.

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Since you note that the inside was nice and juicy, I doubt that salting 30 minutes in advance was the culprit. Either sear at a slightly lower temp or do it for less time. I just got a new grill and the "high" setting was much hotter than I expected and my first steaks seared much quicker than I expected.

A note on the salting in advance: Cook's Illustrated highly recommends the practice of liberally salting and then allowing to sit for an extended time. Provided that the meat sits long enough it actually acts like a "dry brine". The salt initially draws out moisture but due to the high concentration of salt on the exterior of the meat, the salt is drawn into the tissue through osmosis (same as brining) and the juice re-enters the tissue at which point it retains the juiciness from the moisture retention capabilities of the salt.

You might try salting the meat immediately upon removing from the refrigerator to provide additional time for the "brine" that forms to be reabsorbed by the meat.

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I would say you salted the steak too early. Salting draws out the moisture which could be a reason why the exterior was dry. I have seen two schools of thought, one is salt it just before cooking (which seems to be the French style) and the other is salting towards the end of the cooking.

I personally go for the French style and it seems to work fine for me.

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It's possible, but I doubt salting is the sole cause. –  Noldorin Aug 3 '10 at 10:52
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