Before cooking a steak, you're supposed to let it sit out at room temperature. You're also supposed to salt it. What is the proper timing for these steps? How long do you let the steak come up to temperature, and how long before you cook it do you salt it?
In this thread, Lorenzo notes that steaks may end up raw in the center if you only leave 'em out for 10-15 minutes to come up to temperature. I recommend 30 mins, but it will probably vary on what room temperature actually is for you.
From Weber's Way To Grill, which recommends salting right when you take them out of the fridge, here's Mr. Purviance's take on why you should consider salting early:
It's true that salt draws moisture toward itself, but over the course of 20 to 30 minutes that's a good thing, because the salt begins to dissolve into that little bit of moisture. When the steak hits the hot grate... [you] create a delicious crust. Any moisture you might lose is well worth the flavor of that crust.
Kenji Alt has done experiments in the The Food Lab: 7 Old Wives' Tales About Cooking Steak That Need To Go Away, and determined that bringing the steak to room temperature prior to cooking does not actually have any real effect.
It turns out that even an hour or two on the counter makes little difference to the temperature in the center of the steak.
The limiting factor for browning is the evaporating all of the surface water so that the temperature can rise above 212 F / 100 C. Due to the significant energy required for evaporation, the energy required to warm the steak from refrigerator temperature becomes insignificant.
On the other hand, when and how you salt does make a difference in the quality. The best options are to salt at least 40 minutes before cooking, or right at the time of cooking.
The reason is that if you salt 40 minutes ahead, the salt dissolves, and then the juices are reabsorbed. With less time, there is not time for reabsorption, so you would be better off waiting until the time of the cooking.
Kenji's conclusion is:
Don't bother letting your steaks rest at room temperature. Rather, dry them very thoroughly on paper towels before searing. Or better yet, salt them and let them rest uncovered on a rack in the fridge for a night or two, so that their surface moisture can evaporate. You'll get much more efficient browning that way.
I usually marinate my steaks, so take 'em out about 2 hrs before and toss them in a zip-top bag coat 'em with a fair bit of worsteshire, then add in some soy sauce, seal, massage it, and leave it on the counter.
Needless to say, I don't add any extra salt, but I do pat 'em dry before cooking.
Also, I'd think that what temperature you keep your home at might be a factor (which tends to be a cultural thing) My kitchen might be anywhere from 65F to 90F depending on the time of year.
I have taken several steaks basically straight from the fridge and started to cook them. My observations:
- No noticeable difference from when I let them rest.
- Most commonly people refer to the "blood" in steak. There is no blood, it is a type of protein that is mostly water-based, called myoglobin.
- Depending on the quality, cut, and the flavor you are going for. I would use at most a little S & P (Salt and Pepper), on both sides.
- Crucial mistake people make. DO NOT FLIP MORE THAN A COUPLE TIMES. Constant turning is not the way to go.
Hope this helps!
Cheers, Pete The Cook