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We all know what we want in a perfect grilled steak—savory char on the outside, spot-on internal temperature, whether that's rare, medium-rare, or whatever—but perfection, as anyone who grills can attest, can be hard to achieve. With that in mind, we sat down with chef Charlie Palmer to score a few tips.
Palmer is one of the most acclaimed chefs in the U.S. He scored attention early, back in the late 1980s, when he originally opened his acclaimed restaurant Aureole in a townhouse off NYC’s Madison Avenue; since then he’s gone on to win innumerable awards, publish a substantial stack of cookbooks, appear on TV more times than anyone could count, and, of course, open 14 restaurants around the U.S. (not to mention a few hotels, too).
Among those are four Charlie Palmer Steak restaurants, and if you ask me, a chef who owns four steakhouses is by definition a chef who knows steak. So here are chef Palmer's tips for three things to avoid if you want a great steak off your grill.
1. Don’t salt your steaks until right before you put them on the grill.
“Otherwise,” Palmer says, “the meat will start to weep [moisture will appear on the surface], and you’ll never get a good, solid sear.”
2. Don’t allow the meat to rise to room temperature before putting it on the grill.
“If you want your steak to grill to a perfect medium rare or even rare, you’ll want to put them on the grill cold from the fridge. What you want is a great caramelization on the outside of the steak while you keep the temperature at rare on the inside, and you can’t do that if the meat is at room temp. Plus, you need a cut that’s at least 1 ¼ inches thick, ideally.”
3. Don’t cheap out on your steaks.
“A lot of people think they can just buy any old steak from the grocery store, but the quality of the steak really matters—so spend the money. It’ll make a difference. I recommend buying steaks from a reputable butcher shop rather than pulling pre-portioned meat from the grocery store. Talk to your butcher and choose steaks that are at least USDA Choice-graded meat. And if you can source dry-aged meat, it’s worth the effort.”
And one thing you absolutely should do when grilling a steak? Drink some great red wine. “I like Châteauneuf-du-Pape,” Palmer says. “My favorite is Château Beaucastel—the complexity of that wine is a perfect accompaniment to a nicely charred steak.”