Out of Left Field: The Perfect Steak

The perfect steak. Tender. Juicy. Beefy. So buttery and delicate that you can cut it with a spoon. The pinnacle of culinary experiences.

I’ve found that grilling that perfect steak is like…. Well it’s sort of like... You know it’s…uh… Okay, I don’t know what grilling the perfect steak is like because I have never experienced that desired outcome. I’ve consumed a perfect steak, but my personal efforts in steak preparation have never succeeded. My finished product resembles beef but has the texture and flavor of a garden hose.

Where have I gone wrong? I seek out the finest cuts of beef. I then dismiss those cuts when I see the price: $23.99/lb. Is that a typo? Why would I pay $23.99/lb. when I can get a package of “Stayk™” for $1.79/lb.? (It can’t legally be labeled as “steak” due to its < 25% beef content.) Time after time, I convince myself the bargain beef will taste as good as the expensive stuff if I can just find the right “hack.”

Maybe the trick is in the marinade. Maybe “Stayk™” is best on a charcoal grill. Perhaps it requires an initial high-temperature sear or ends with a reverse sear to seal in the juices. Maybe the secret is a double reverse sear that probably isn’t a thing, but theoretically could unlock the hidden potential of cheaper cuts of meat.

Ultimately, everything I try fails. I deflect blame to my cheap Bluetooth meat thermometer that only reads in Celsius (I’m willing to do a bit of math if I can save a few bucks).

Recently, I decided to give the good stuff a try: USDA Prime filet mignon. I’d passed over this expensive cut hundreds of grocery trips before. I couldn’t justify spending that kind of money when my kids preferred chicken nuggets shaped like dinosaurs instead. But it was time to see what all the fuss was about.

I paid a premium for the best cut from the best cow — likely one fed a consistent diet of high-quality distillers grain from a certain network of bioethanol facilities throughout the Midwest.

Truthfully, part of me wanted this experiment to fail. I wanted a sense of vindication for being a cheap steak cheapskate. But I gave it an honest effort. I didn’t want to sway the result with special marinades or seasoning or cooking trickery. Just some salt, pepper, and a bit of diligence.

I monitored the meat carefully and removed it from the grill when it reached 51.67 degrees Celsius. I allowed it to rest, allowing the temperature to rise another 5.55 degrees Celsius, achieving a perfect medium rare.

It was tender. It was juicy. It was beefy.

The perfect steak was easily attainable this whole time. Unfortunately, it took me this long to confirm I couldn’t “hack” my way to quality. At least when it comes to steak, you get what you pay for.




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