I admit, I was caught off guard yesterday by the strong reaction to my query for steak-cooking advice from my friends. I thought only bacon and kittens could elicit such a response, but I got a lot of good feedback. There was however one point of contention, and my friend Steve was quite vehement about it: marinated steak was superior to the more “traditional” pan-seared steak that Alton Brown has an excellent recipe for. With some free time on my hands, I decided that the only way I could settle this issue would be to make both styles of steak.
The recipe Steve referred me to was fairly straightforward, although I had to make a quick trip to Krogers after my last class for a few ingredients. I scaled the recipe for half a steak (to fit both my skillet and my impromptu plans), and played some Battlefield while the steak marinated. FYI, I started with a New York Strip Steak from Trader Joe’s.
The pan-seared steak went first. I cooked each side for 90 seconds, before tossing it onto a pan in a 450 degree oven (I didn’t trust it to reach 500). While the steak finished in the oven, I started the marinated steak in the recently vacated skillet.
This is where I noticed the first quality of the marinated steak: it smells REALLY GOOD. The crushed garlic, herbs, and olive oil in the marinade become quite aromatic during cooking at such high heat.
Before I continue my pseudo-review, I would like to admit that neither of these steaks was optimal. Electric stoves are pathetic when it comes to heat management, and as such I wasn’t able to get the best crust possible on the steaks. I didn’t get that nice ring of done-ness around a medium core in the meat. But I still managed to finish everything without going into that unnecessary “well-done” zone.
I let my steaks rest for a few minutes, and then sliced them a quarter inch thick. Paired with some steamed broccoli and baked potato with herb-butter, my dinner was ready for judgment.
I started with the marinated steak, since that was the newer flavor, and I was pretty much blown away. The ingredients in the marinade each play an important part. The Worcestershire and vinegar added just a little bit of bite that you would expect from steak sauce. The herbs and garlic still came through loud and clear. The NY Strip was pretty much the perfect texture (good call, mom). I would have been happy with this if it’d been served to me in a restaurant.
Then I went to the ‘plain’ steak. The first bite didn’t wow me like the marinated steak, but there were some wonderful and primal hints of seared meatiness that the marinated steak had masked. This steak is the original for a reason. It is an excellent foundation for whatever flavors you want to add: ground pepper, steak sauce… cheese to make a sandwich.
Each of the steaks has their own character, and I wouldn’t pick one over the other. But I’m definitely glad I tried the marinated steak, it was a pleasant surprise and I’ll be sure to keep it in my culinary arsenal. It is absolutely not a waste of prime beef, it’s just a different flavor instead of straight up manly meat. If you haven’t tried it yet, I highly recommend it. Open your mind, loosen your belts. Life is good.