I’m going to assume that you’ve picked yourself out a melt-in-your-mouth 1.5-2″ thick ribeye and that you’ve got the right equipment.
A Cowboy thaws his steaks in the refrigerator between 34° and 40°F, not at room temperature. The primary reason for this is safety. Defrosted whole meat cuts are safely useable for 3-5 days in the refrigerator before cooking.
Cowboys don’t put cold steaks on the grill. Although we defrost in the refrigerator, a cowboy doesn’t take his steak straight from the fridge to the skillet. A cold steak takes longer to heat up and thus will dry out more. Additionally, a cold steak will contract as it makes contact with the hot skillet, making it tougher.
Cowboy solution: Take your steak out of the refrigerator 30 minutes to an hour before its time to start cooking. A Cowboy wants his beef to be at room temperature by the time he is ready to throw it in the skillet.
Practice Makes Perfect
Let’s be honest. While it is possible to screw up a steak, most of the time its going to come out fine.
But we’re not looking for a “fine” steak. We want a great steak. An out of this world delicious steak. The kind the cowboys used to make.
Cowboy Solution: Its going to take a few practice grills using these tips before you get it just right. A cowboy doesn’t worry about it.
You’re not going to ruin a piece of meat. Some, you’ll cook too rare. Some, you’ll get too well done. Eventually however, you’re going to get it right and you’ll end up with a real Cowboy steak.
Our cowboy cooking technique involves quickly searing the outside of the beef, while leaving the inside warm. Searing is a two-part process.
Searing meat caramelizes the sugars and browns the proteins present on the surface of the meat, which results in more flavor and a nice surface crust.
As a home cook, you may have trouble getting your skillet/grill up to the high levels of heat that are needed to properly sear the meat. Your average home oven simple doesn’t generate the type of heat that the big commercial models can.
Cowboy Solution A Cowpoke’s best friend, besides his horse, is the Cast Iron Skillet
The beauty of a cast iron skillet is that it retains heat very well. Therefore, it will not lose heat easily when you move it from the oven to the stove top or grill or when you put the meat in it.
Indoors or Out
No matter how hot a cowboy likes it, a cowboy doesn’t get smoked out of his own kitchen.
Using a skillet can present a couple of problems when we use it to cook a steak. First, we don’t want the steak to stick to the skillet. We prevent this by making sure that we use enough heat. A properly preheated skillet will cause the meat to sear so quickly that it will be unable to stick to the skillet.
That much heat may cause problems however if we’re using oil to cook indoors at temperatures that are above the oils smoke point. The smoke point of an oil or fat is the temperature at which it gives off smoke. Here is a chart of cooking oil smoke points.
Cowboy Solution: If you’re kitchen has very, very good ventilation, then you probably don’t need to worry, otherwise, in order to avoid creating a smoky, smelly kitchen, try one or more of the following:
First, if your steaks are fatty enough, you can get by without any oil at all. Simply make sure the skillet is hot enough and add the meat to the pan with the fattiest side down.
If you must use oil, then rub the steaks with peanut oil, lard, bacon fat, clarified butter (clarified butter burns at a much higher temperature than butter) or some other type of high-temperature grease. Do not use olive oil or other vegetable oils on the list above which have low smoke points.
A Cowboy will use his skillet outside, on the grill.
Preheat a cast iron skillet in the oven at 550 degrees. Start the oven with the pan in it, and leave it in there for 15 minutes after the preheat is over.
The rule of thumb is that the pan is ready when you can’t hold your hand about an inch over it for 5 seconds.
Yes, coals are better than a gas grill if you’ve got it. With our cooking methods however, the steaks really aren’t going to be directly over the fire for very long or at all before they’ve been seared. A cowboy can live with a gas grill.
You need to figure out how much heat your grill puts out and the best ways to utilize it. Practice makes perfect.
If your grill has three burners, turn the middle burner to low or off, leaving the 2 outer burners on high. If you have two burners, one should to be set to high and the remaining burner should be set to low. Your goal is to get the grill to 350 degrees, while leaving one area of the grill as a place to put a steak over low direct heat.
Once the oven is done preheating, start your grill. For the next fifteen minutes, the skillet and the grill will be getting hot, hot, hot.
When both skillet and grill are done with their preheat, using very, very good oven mitts, take the skillet out of the oven and put it on the grill, over one the burners that is on high heat.
A good ribeye is flavorful enough, so we want to do as little as possible to mask its natural goodness. Therefore, when it comes to seasoning a ribeye, a real Cowboy uses only Kosher or real sea salt and fresh black pepper.
A Cowboy adds pepper before the meat goes on the fire.
We don’t want to let salted beef sit however. When you salt beef, the salt will draw moisture out of the beef, resulting in a drier steak. Cowboys don’t like dry steaks.
Cowboy Solution: To get a properly seasoned steak without drying it out, a Cowboy salts the pan, not the meat.
Before you place the ribeye in a hot skillet, add salt to the skillet. The hot pan will immediately begin to sear the meat and to form a crust which prevents the salt from drawing the moisture out of the steak.
Ideally right now, you should have a cast iron skillet that is heated to 550 degrees sitting on an outdoor grill heated to 350 degrees. The skillet should be placed over one of the one or two burners that are pumping out high heat. The other burner is on low.
Because of the varying BTU’s your grill and oven may put out, the varying thickness of the steak that you choose and because people like their steaks cooked differently, here’s where you’re going to need to get to know your equipment. You’re going to need to practice. You’re going to need to cook lots and lots of steak!
When you place the steak in the skillet, press it gently just to make sure that full contact is made between ribeye and skillet.
In all of this, once a steak hits the heat it is tongs only.
Cowboy Solution: How long you cook it is personal, but for a two-inch thick ribeye follows these general guidelines:
Cowboy One: Place the ribeye in the skillet for 30 seconds on each side to sear. Take it out of the skillet and place the ribeye over the area of the grill with the least direct heat. With the lid closed, cook for 5 minutes on each side.
Cowboy Two: Place the ribeye in the skillet for 2-3 minutes on each side to sear. Take it out of the skillet and place the ribeye over the area of the grill with the least direct heat. With the lid closed, cook for 3 minutes on each side.
If you like your steak cooked medium rare or medium you would leave it in a bit longer. The more “crust” you like the longer the ratio of skillet to grill.
A cowboy might get shot for failing to comply with this step!
After the steak has come off the grill, it is important that you let it “rest” for 10-15 minutes before putting it on the table.
At least 10-15 minutes.
It’ll be worth the wait.
If you cut a steak fresh off the grill, its juices flow out. Resting the steak will allow the juices to distribute evenly inside. Tenting the steak in foil at this stage comes down to personal preference. Covering the steak will cause it to continue slowly cooking.
Red Meat and Your Health
If you’ve feel like you’ve been hearing a lot about the dangers of eating too much red meat in the media lately, well, you probably have. As usual with the media however, these fears are overblown. Here is a less sensationalistic take on the health issues examined by the recent Study on Red Meat Health Risks. It’ll make you feel a lot better about having a nice big juicy ribeye for dinner.