I see some references on this site to 'salting' a steak before frying it. What does this mean? Should I coat the steak in salt? I can imagine that would result in a very salty steak!
Yes that's exactly what it means, apply salt to the steak. You shouldn't coat it, but you should apply salt very liberally. It's actually hard to over-salt a steak; many inexperienced cooks actually underseason the steak.
I suggest about 1 tsp per side for a good ribeye. Salt it about 10-15 minutes prior.
The steak won't absorb the salt, so even if you over do it the result won't be nearly as bad as you think, you'll only have a salty residue on the exterior of the steak. Benefits of salting before you cook:
- Some of the moisture in the meat will be pulled out by the salt, and help to concentrate the flavors of the steak
- Having salt on the exterior helps the transfer of heat and creating a crust that forms on the outside of the steak.
Salting the steak isn't just about making it taste salty - although a bit of saltiness is great for the flavour. If you salt your steak in advance of cooking, the salt starts to change some of the proteins in it and this can lead to improved tenderness and juiciness.
However, this article at Serious Eats: The Food Lab: More Tips For Perfect Steaks talks about salting time, and explains how you have to either salt your meat immediately before cooking, or leave it for a significant period of time to allow the salt to have its effect. I'm not going to repeat that content here, but I've done both and there definitely is a difference if you salt your steak and leave it for 40 minutes before you cook it, noticeable all the way through the meat.
But be careful, it is possible to over-salt the meat especially if you're using table salt. I haven't figured out exactly why that's the case, but it does seem to be. The most obvious reason is that by volume, table salt weighs a lot heavier than kosher or flaked salt because it packs more densely, and most people salt by volume...
Read this, it will clear up all the mystery:
How to Make Steak Tender (http://www.ehow.com/how_4539892_make-steak-tender.html)
The first step to make steak tender is to pile on the kosher or sea salt. You want the steaks to be completely saturated in the kosher salt. Salt pulls moisture out of the meat and then dissolves some of the salt, absorbing it back into the meat. The salt relaxes the proteins in the meat, resulting in a tender, juicy steak. So don't worry about how much kosher salt you put on. You want around 1/2 teaspoon per steak, possibly more if your steaks are really thick. If your steaks are thinner, use less.