Friday, September 09, 2016

Grilling a Steak - An Article for the Buffet Grill Chefs

This is an article that will be appreciated by our buffet goer readers and is written for the information of all those buffet cooks that are cooking/grilling steak.  I like steak. I wish that I could afford to go to a great steak house and pay what they want for a "great" steak but somehow I know that it will not be cooked much better than the steaks that I get at buffets for a small fraction of the price. When a buffet has steak on the grill I will try it. More often than not I am disappointed and my disappointment lies in how it was cooked even when it is cooked to order. I suppose that those of you who like their steaks well done are never disappointed. I like my steak rare. I don't mind a steak medium rare. The problem is a steak at many of the buffets will go from raw straight to well done.

Now, the grill chef will often cut the steak when you order it a certain way and look at it and then decide for himself or even show it to you - from a distance so that you cannot really see what he/she is showing you and then plump it down upon your plate. Back at your table you look down at what is going to be a great steak and cut into it and if you ordered that steak rare, you will find totally raw meat inside or a well done steak. A problem contributing to this is that most steaks cooked in buffets are a thickness of 1/4" or less. The one buffet where the steak is a thick steak (which also can contribute to its doneness) is Golden Corral.

Here is what I have experienced lately - in some buffets that are excellent in other ways. I ask for a steak (where you can ask) "rare" and the steak goes down on the grill - whether a flat iron grill or a flame grill -  and sits for half a minute on each side - no iron plate on top - and what you have is a grey outside and totally raw meat inside.  That is how you get it. So the next time you ask for a steak "rare but not raw", and the steak goes down on the grill and after a minute or less, an iron weight goes down on the steak. With a quarter inch thick steak that iron weight is going to multiply the heat going into that steak and turn it to medium well within two minutes - and they leave it there cooking. That steak will be well done by the time it goes onto your plate (or by the time that you get your plate to the table as the heat in the meat keeps cooking it). Where I consistently get steaks with actually raw meat inside, I will try asking for "medium rare" with hopes that raw then goes to actual rare - but no, medium rare translates to medium or well done - the rare part not heard of ignored.

At Golden Corral they also have this problem - even though the steak is an inch thick or more. Rare means raw or rare means grey on the inside. On a few occasions, I actually got a properly cooked rare steak at a Golden Corral. I should add that I pretty consistently got a properly cooked rare steak at one particular Ryan's in Fredericksburg, Virginia (Now Closed) where the grill chefs knew exactly hot to cook a rare steak and got it perfect almost every time. That Ryan's - even though about 500 miles away is very much missed! 

I like my steak crispy - even flame burnt (on a flame grill) - on the outside and red in the center. That is what a rare steak is supposed to be.

Let's look at what the designations are supposed to be - and I actually saw these on a menu once (not at a buffet but also not at a steak house) on how to order your steak.

RARE - cool, red and soft on the inside, crisped on the outside. NOT RAW!

MEDIUM RARE - warm, red, and a little firmer on the inside, crisped on the outside.

MEDIUM - pink on the inside with firm meat and crisped on the outside.

MEDIUM WELL - hot and slightly pink in the very center and crispy on the outside.

WELL - grey/brown completely on the inside and very firm meat with a very crispy outside.

INCINERATED - not a professional term and good steak restaurants will refuse to serve steak this way but it is burnt throughout with a charcoal exterior. (If you are in a charcoal crunchy mood and the steak has a decent amount of fat on it, this is not bad. As I found out when given one like this when it was supposed to be "medium rare" - rather crunchy - but not something you want to eat much of.)

Chefs - if you are working in the position of grill chef, if you are not cooking steaks like these when someone asks for one of these designations, you should not be in that job. Either you don't care or you don't know what you are doing. Unfortunately, sometimes I am sure it is because you just don't care. I know that you want to throw steaks on the grill, cook them through, and stake them up on the side of the grill where they may or may not stay hot and just serve them off from there. At grills where you are to be cooking to order - as some of these buffets state to their customers - then you need to be able to put a steak on when asked for and cook it to properly rare, medium rare or medium. Beyond that is where your pile of steaks fall. I and others are willing to wait. I will stand on the side and not rush you. I just don't want you to forget that my steak is being cooked and requires some of your attention until it is ready to put on my plate. I don't want to be made to feel that my order is not as important as anyone's. I paid the same price coming in.

Now the cuts of meat that are being used is another story all together and even in some of my favorite buffets that serve steak, I have had too many steaks that one cannot chew. I am also certain that you are slicing beef that should be a roast and cooking it as steak - which it is not.  I assume that is a question of economics - and you are not getting even decent cuts of meat. But we will leave that for mention about those buffets in their own articles.

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