I love a charred steak. The problem is that I have an electric stove and an outdoor gas grill neither of which will give you that tasty charred crust. The saying is true– necessity is the mother of invention. That persistent “need” to have a charred steak got me thinking… why not bring the flames into the kitchen with a portable welding torch? Unconventional, sure, but fire is fire, right? Why would the outcome be any different whether the flame came from a charcoal grill or a hand-held torch? And as we know, searing meat keeps all the juices inside, so in theory, it should work great, right? I asked my husband (who is always supportive of my “unconventional” ideas) to buy your standard torch with the screw-on propane tank from Home Depot. I figured this would be a more serious task than creating a delicate crust on creme brulee. Charring steaks would require absolute brute fire-power.
Here’s how it went… I took my marinaded steaks (recipe adapted from foodandwine.com, found below) and placed them on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Then, using my tongs, I fired each piece of meat turning all sides toward the flame until I was satisfied with the charred results. It took a few minutes to get each piece good and charred. Next, I tested for doneness by pressing my tongs against the meat. My steak-loving ex-boyfriend taught me the “eyeball doneness technique” — that is, when the meat feels like it would feel if you were pressing on your eyeball, your steak is done to a medium temperature. (If you want medium-rare, cook it slightly softer than “eyeball texture”.) Since these steaks were a little too soft after the charring, I popped them into the oven until they passed the eyeball test. I drizzled herb butter over the steaks and served them with creamy mashed potatoes, sauteed greens and extra herb butter on the side.
The results were fantastic! The meat had that tasty charred crust that you get from fine dining restaurants like Arnie Morton’s or Ruth’s Chris while the insides were perfectly moist and juicy. I would have seared all of the steaks to a total wrap-around hard char, but my husband had fun playing with the torch before I got to it, so we used up all the propane before I could get them all crusted over. I think if it were a full tank, I could have seared all five steaks completely. The bottom line for me is that I can now fulfill that craving for a charred steak without having to buy a charcoal grill or a gas oven. Pretty sensible, huh?
Your Sensible Girlfriend
Below is FoodandWine.com’s recipe (I didn’t have time to do the roasted garlic and of course, I used a welding torch instead of using the grilling instructions:
- 2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 tenderloin steaks, about 1 1/2 inches thick
- 4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh rosemary
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh oregano
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- Preheat the oven to 275°. In a bowl, mix the pepper, salt, brown sugar, soy sauce, vinegar and 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Rub 2 teaspoons of the paste all over each steak. Wrap the steaks individually in plastic and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, on a double-layer square of aluminum foil, toss the garlic with the herbs; drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil on top. Fold the foil to enclose the garlic and transfer to a baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes, until the garlic is very soft.
- When the garlic is cool, squeeze the cloves from their skins into a bowl; add the herbs. Using a fork, mash the garlic with the herbs and butter. Spoon the garlic butter onto a sheet of plastic wrap, roll into a log and refrigerate until firm, 30 minutes.
- Build a very hot fire on one side of a charcoal grill or light a gas grill. Unwrap each steak and grill over high heat for about 7 minutes, turning once, for rare meat. For medium-rare, transfer the steaks to the cool side of the grill, close the lid and cook for 4 minutes longer, turning them once halfway through. Top the steaks with the garlic-herb butter and let stand for 5 minutes, then serve.