A steak dinner is a classic meal, whether made for one, two or 20. But even this simple dish can be hard to conquer, as some cuts aren’t always ideal for your cooking style. Additionally, a basic steak dinner can be elevated with sauces, spices and sides — if done the right way. With Valentine’s Day approaching, now is the best time to brush up on your steak-making skills.
We spoke to Tom Perini of Texas-based Perini Ranch Steakhouse, about what cuts of steak are the best, what to look for when browsing the meat selection in the supermarket and the best time to add sauces and rubs for optimal flavor.
The Gourmet Insider: What types of cuts do you recommend when trying to cook a meal and impress your date?
Tom Perini: Selecting the right cut is very important — some are great for grilling, some are great for roasting. For a date, either a ribeye, strip, or filet.
The ribeye has the most marbling and flavor — it’s typically about 16 ounces and it could be fun to share with your Valentine. The strip is leaner, but still flavorful, and has a little more ‘bite.’ (We love it peppered!) And, the filet is of course very lean and very tender.
In selecting a steak, we would look for marbling because we love the internal fat, which results in a super juicy and flavorful steak.
TGI: Anything about the steak grades we should know?
TP: All the steaks mentioned are great for grilling. The chuck, the brisket, the round steak are for roasting and aren’t recommended for the grill. If you’re going to a butcher, ask to make sure the thickness of the steak is at least 1 ¼ inches and that the beef has been aged.
TGI: If you’re looking to spice it up, when is the right time to add infused oil, salts or rubs to the steak?
TP: We believe in dry rub, and it should be rubbed on the steak just prior to grilling. We have a signature blend of spices that we use in the steakhouse and it’s just enough seasoning to accent the great taste of the beef. The seasoning should not overpower the flavor of the beef.
TGI: If you’re going to grill, what’s the best process?
TP: We cook all steaks over live mesquite fire, so of course, we love that flavor, but if you don’t have access to mesquite wood, you can use charcoal briquettes and still get a great flavor. The char on the outside of the steak is important to us.
TGI: How do you know the steak is finished?
TP: Everyone likes their steaks cooked differently, but we are medium-rare eaters. For a 12- to 16-ounce steak with typical thickness, about 4 minutes per side is the rule of thumb, but it depends on how hot your fire is. If you’re in doubt, your best bet is to cut into the steak and take a peek.
TGI: If you’re really trying to take it up a notch, what type of steak sauce would you suggest for an elegant finish?
TP: The best time to use a rich sauce is on a lean steak like a filet. Because there isn’t a lot of internal fat on a filet, a creamy rich sauce is a great pairing. We use Certified Angus Beef in the Steakhouse, and we don’t like to mask the flavor of the great beef with sauces or extra seasoning. Quality beef is the key to a great grilling experience — the cut, the aging, all come together for a great experience.