I am a big fan of Meathead (Craig Goldwyn) and his Amazing Ribs website. Meathead has done a lot to shine the light of science into the dark and smoky den of live fire cooking. One of his latest myth-busting posts concerns the need to let meat rest after cooking.
I won’t try to cover all of the excellent arguments Meathead makes against letting meat rest, but the one that struck me was his quote from Adam Perry Lang, “In the early crust stage (fresh off the grill), fat, collagen, and salt will cause a unique flood of saliva in your mouth. I refer to this type of crust stage as ‘alive and snappy’.”
When it comes to steaks, I have largely been a “cook-’em-hot-and-fast-then-let-’em-rest kind” of guy. To be honest, my reasoning has been based more on grilling folklore than on testing and experimentation. So while I’ve never had a steak that I thought had suffered in taste, texture, or juiciness from resting – I still thought it was worth giving the “hot off the grill” technique a try, particularly if it would give me that alive and snappy effect.
So, armed with little more than a pair of lovely 1 3/4-inch thick strip steaks, I set off on my experiment…
I seasoned the steaks with a heavy coating of sea salt (2 to 3 teaspoons per side) and a few grinds of a mixed pepper blend. I worked the seasoning into the meat with my hand and made sure to cover the edges too. I stashed the steaks back into the fridge while I got the Big Green Egg heated up to the just barely sub-nuclear temperature of 700°F.
I tossed the steaks on for 90 seconds of undisturbed searing. Then I rotated the steaks 90 degrees and gave them another 30 seconds on that side. I flipped the meat and repeated the process on the other side.
I was aiming for medium-rare, so after both sides had been seared I kept flipping them every minute or so while checking for doneness. After about another 2 minutes of flipping, they hit 125°F internal. I took the steaks straight off the grill and right onto our plates, so that when knife met steak the meat was still sizzling.
I have no idea how to describe the first bite – crispy, salty, hint of pepper, and this overwhelmingly good “hot” taste. Not spicy hot or burn-your-mouth hot, but tropical rainforest hot – this wave of heat and humidity that’s so thick that it carries its own cloud of flavors and aromas with it.
It’s like the difference between eating a perfectly tasty bite of meat from the center of a prime rib and eating a bite of the sizzling crust from the same roast – night and day. Both delicious, but in very different ways.
I really enjoyed the “alive and snappy” taste/feeling and it carried on through most of the meal, gradually decreasing as the steak cooled, but never really going away entirely. Yes, I did notice that the steak lost more juices to the plate than a rested steak would have, but not a lot more, and certainly not enough to make the steak noticeably less juicy. In fact, I found myself mopping up what juices there were with bites of meat, so that nothing was really lost in the end.
This is going to be my go-to technique from here on out – thanks, Meathead!