Add Some Sizzle to Your Steak

Barbeque the Perfect StateBarbecue.

It’s a noun.  (I’ve just bought a new barbecue.  I could go for some barbecue tonight.)

It’s an adjective.  (Pass me some of those barbecue beans.)

It’s a verb.  (I’m going to barbecue some burgers for dinner Saturday.)

In its simplest form, to “barbecue” simply means to cook something with fire.  It can be as primitive as roasting a hot dog on a stick over a campfire or as sophisticated as throwing Kobe beef steaks on the grill of a high-tech, state-of-the-art, freestanding Lynx grill.

In the US, “barbecue” is often considered merely a summer pastime while globally, it’s just another method of food preparation that ends in year ‘round yumminess like kalbi (Korean barbecued short ribs); South American asado (considered the national dish of Argentina); or African braai.

In other words, “barbecue” is not merely a seasonal event; it’s a state of mind.  Still there is something especially pleasurable about firing up the barbecue on a lazy, still-warm Labor Day weekend.  It’s a holiday that offers both fond memories of weekends past and eager anticipation of weekends yet to come.  And for such an occasion, you have to have … steak. Grilling the perfect steak is an art form but it’s an art form that can be mastered.

It’s about two things—the meat and the minutes.  If you want a juicy, flavorful steak to come off your grill, you have to start with a really good cut of meat.  And then you have to cook it fast.

You need the grill hot, so whether using charcoal or gas, make sure it’s reached the proper temperature before you bring out the meat.  Make sure the meat is room temperature before putting it on the grill.

If the steaks are huge, cut them into smaller hunks because smaller pieces will cook faster and you want them to cook evenly and quickly.

Take the meat off the grill when they’re a little underdone.  The meat will continue cooking for a bit after they’re removed from the fire and you don’t want your meat overdone.  (Unless you like it overdone.)  You could use a meat thermometer if you have one, but with a little practice, you should be able to judge doneness “feel.”  Steaks that are rare have a bit of “give” to them; well-done steaks are stiffer.

A grilled steak is juiciest after resting on a platter for five to ten minutes.  So while you’re waiting for the meat to soak up its juices, use the time to whip up a delicious steak sauce to serve on the side.  (Or on top—it’s all good.)  Here are a couple that are so easy to make, you’ll be tempted to serve them all.

Bleu Cheese Butter

Yes, it seems a little decadent to add this richly flavored butter to the top of a succulent steak but … do you really have a problem with that?

1 stick butter, unsalted

½ cup bleu cheese, crumbled

1 clove garlic, minced

Have the butter and cheese at room temperature.

Mash together with a fork.  Mash in the garlic.

Immediately spread the butter on top of the warm steaks.  (This amount will top four steaks generously.)

Time Saver Tip: It only takes a minute to mash up this zesty little extra but if time is of the essence, why not pick up one of those prepared herb and cheese spreads (like Alouette).  Soften with a few seconds in the microwave and then daub onto the warm steak.  The cheese will soften and run, melding with the beef juices to create something … sublime.

Red Wine Sauce

You can make this sauce with any kind of red wine you have on hand to drink with your meal.  (Never cook with wine you wouldn’t drink.)

1 cup dry red wine

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 shallot, chopped fine

Kosher salt (to taste)

Cracked pepper (to taste)

Bring the wine to a boil in a small saucepan while mincing the cloves and chopping the shallots.  Add the oil and butter to the wine.  Stir until the butter melts.  Add the shallot and the garlic.  Stir well and reduce heat.

Simmer until slightly thickened and syrupy.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Time Saver Tip: You can buy good quality minced garlic in a jar at any grocery store.  Many will also have dried shallots.  Just dump a teaspoon or two of the dehydrated vegetable into the boiling wine mixture and they’ll soften right up.

Horseradish Sauce

This is a great sauce for any kind of beef, but it’s especially good with steak.

1 large horseradish root

1 pint sour cream (can use non-fat)

1 tsp. Kosher salt

Dash Worcestershire sauce

Scrub the horseradish root (it should be about the size of a really thick carrot) and grate.

Stir the horseradish and other ingredients into the sour cream.  If you’d like something even zestier, you can stir in a teaspoon of dry mustard.

Time Saver Tip:  If you’re really pressed for time, you can stir a couple of tablespoons of prepared horseradish sauce into the sour cream.


Katherine Tomlinson is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in Seared, Gourmet Food Garden, and  She is co-author of the upcoming cookbook/memoir Tall Order with Chef Jeff Goldfarb.

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