|For instance, "natural". What does it mean? It means the beef has been minimally processed and contains no additives, such as artificial flavors, colors, and/or preservatives. Now if the meat is not "natural", there'll have to be an ingredient list attached. In other words, when it comes to steak, natural, well, it doesn't really mean diddly.||
|Now you may see a brand attached to the beef. And I don't mean a hot, cowboy type of brand, but rather, a brand, like "certified longhorn" beef. Now branded beef is not necessarily better, but it does have to measure up to whatever specifications have been defined by that certification process. May be better, maybe not.||
|Speaking of certification, there is, of course, "certified organic" beef. These cows must consume organic feed, they cannot be treated with antibiotics, and they must be certified as organic by the government. This means you're going to pay more for this beef. Will it be better? Not necessarily.||
|Oh, here's another one that's cropping up just recently, grass-finished. This doesn't really mean anything to the government or anyone else.||
|The "grass" word that does, however, is this one, and I really do think that this makes a big difference to the taste and flavor of the finished product, is "grass-fed." Okay. That means that once the animal is weaned off of mother's milk, it only eats forage, grass, the way that a cow is supposed to. Now most of the beef cattle raised in the U.S. start on grass, but they're then finished in feed lots, where they spend their last weeks, or months even, being fattened up on corn, which also standardizes the flavor. I call this the blandification of beef, which, it turns out, most of us have been trained to like.||
|All right, I'm just double-checking the green weight, which is one pound, eight ounces, so 24 ounces. If we spun this up in a high-speed laboratory blender ...||
1¼ Inch Thick Porterhouse
THING: [takes stake off camera and does what AB is talking about]
... and then squeezed it in a hydraulic laboratory press, and then removed the various suspended solids via flocculation and centrifuge ...
THING: [returns to hand AB a test tube containing the result]
AB: Thank you, Thing.
... we would come up with, well, dry meat powder and water. In fact,
18 ounces of water, which makes up a majority of the steak's green weight. Now
it would be logical to hypothesize that were we to reduce the amount of water in
the steak, we could, in fact, intensify its flavor, right?
Now top-drawer steakhouses have special climate-controlled rooms dedicated to aging primals and sub-primals that are then cut into steaks as needed. I don't really have a special room, but I do have some very nice recyclable pie tins, some very nice wooden skewers, and a very scary ice pick. The cork is for protection, of course.
Now just punch five holes in one side of the tin and repeat on the other side. Then just run the skewers through. Be careful of splinters. There. Now put down one paper towel, wrap one porterhouse steak, flip over like that, and you've got your aging rig.
[at the refrigerator] Okay, stash this in the coldest part of your refrigerator, which most likely will be down in the bottom, which is good because that'll also keep it isolated from other foods. Cross-contamination, always a concern. Leave in place for 24 hours, and then change out the paper towel. And it'll be kind of wet and gooey. Then store for another three days.
Now at this very moment, other forces have come into play deep inside the meat: enzymes.
[AB is in a Charlie Chaplin-esque movie reminiscent of "Modern Times"]
Let's consider the inner workings of living muscle. It's complex machinery,
which, upon expiration of the animal, grinds to a half. Oh well, that's the
circle of life.
Now for a short while immediately following the demise, the meat remains nice
and loose, tender. But then rigor mortis sets in, and things can get very, very
tough. However, over time, natural chemical catalysts called enzymes go to work.
Like this wrench, enzymes have specific shapes, which bond only with specific
molecules. Once in place, the enzyme can either unite unrelated molecules or
dismantle certain structures, such as the ones that toughen meat.
Now the more time you give the enzymes to work, the more tender the meat gets, when, of course, the proper temperature and moisture level is maintained.
GUEST: Bacterium, as a sock puppet
Hooray, it's steak day! Now let's check and see just how much weight we have
lost during the dry-age process.
So we are down to 21.75 ounces from the original 24.15, for a net loss of, wow, 2.4 ounces averaging .6 ounces per day. And that is a total percentage loss of 9.94 percent. Wow, that's almost 10 percent of the weight of the steak has just evaporated. That will certainly intensify the flavor. Enzymatic action has taken place. I've got a darkening, which certainly makes sense. So we will ditch the paper towel, yuck, and allow this to sit at room temperature for one hour. Yeah, I know it's raw meat, but the shorter the thermal trip it takes, the faster it will cook and the less moisture will be lost. And don't worry, bacteria not going to have time to do anything drastic here. Besides, we're going to cook it.
|When you are half an hour out from the actual cooking, sprinkle the steak on both sides with kosher salt. It'll take about three-quarters of a teaspoon, total. Now the salt is going to pull moisture out of the meat, no question, but it's not just moisture. It's protein-laden moisture that, once brought to the surface, will help to enhance the searing process. Now it's high time that we consider our thermal options.||¾ tsp. Kosher Salt|
When meat is vacuum-sealed in its own juices and refrigerated,
it is called "wet aging".
Here in America, the word "steak" is strongly associated with the word "grill." But truth is, the specimens produced in high-end steakhouses like Maison du Fluffy Stuff rarely see a grill. They are instead cooked under powerful broilers like this. Come here.
|A simple device, really. Gas flames super-heat ceramic elements, capable of generating radiant energy in the 2500 degree range, Fahrenheit, of course. The drawer comes out, steak goes on the drawer, steak goes under the broiler, and in no time at all, you have yourself a beautifully, ouch, seared piece of meat. No muss and not a lot of fuss. So if you've got one of these babies, you're good to go. [spots the price tag] Yeah, me either. Luckily, we can fake it.||
Here's what you need:
1 Pound Natural Chunk
Yes, I actually weighed the charcoal. And what better
method to quantify the amount of a bunch of jagged chunks like that, hmm?
Well, all right, ignition will require fuel, and that will come in the form of just a little bit of yesterday's paper. We're also going to use some accelerant, vegetable oil. Nice shot, nice shot, or canola oil will do. Just wad that up and place below the charcoal. Light with your trusty fire stick or long matches. Now the oil will burn very slowly, keeping the fire active long enough to thoroughly set the charcoal ablaze. And that'll reach optimal thermal range in about 15 minutes. In the meantime, let's contemplate the rest of our grilling hardware.
You do have your very own comfy custom kettle grill chair, don't you? No? Well, you should get your prop people on that right away.
Now what else do we need? Long spring-loaded tongs, a fire extinguisher, and, of course, insulated gloves. Now as you can see, the coals have burned down a good amount. There are ashes all around. I can see all the way through the grate to the bottom of the chimney. This is a perfect fire. So take the chimney off, knock off as many ashes as you can, remove ashes from the grate itself... remember, hot. Place the seasoned steak dead center, and replace the chimney right on top. Now set your timer for 90 seconds, okay. Now I have never seen a porterhouse that wouldn't fit under the chimney, but you should always check ahead just to make sure you've got a good fit. So what we have here, of course, our very own high-powered broiler. Ha, take that, Casa de Maison du Boeuf, or whatever you're called.
[90 seconds later] Time's up, and we flip. See that crusty exterior? That's what happens when high heat tangles with water-soluble proteins like the ones pulled out by the salt. Re-cover and time another minute and a half. Not a second more or less, please.
[after 90 more seconds] Time's up. Okay, we're three minutes into the cooking, and our steak has had all of the close-up searing heat it can take. Any more, and the mahogany brown crust will turn to black. By the same token, the inner meat, not yet at the sweet spot, say between 120 and 125, medium rare. So lift the chimney, remove the grate, and place on top of the chimney. Then cover with your bowl. This creates kind of a mini oven, which, despite convective heat, will not create nearly the BTUs that the steak faced below. Set your clock for one minute.
[one minute later] Bowl comes off, meat is turned, bowl goes back on, and we cook for one more minute. That's going to be a total of only five minutes of heat.
[after one more minute] Time to evacuate. Now as is typical of large pieces of red meat, the temperature can actually continue to go up for a short period of time after removal from the heat. And we have topped out at 123 degrees, which is fine. It'll coast up to medium rare. Now we've got to give this steak at least a five-minute rest, and I like to do it right here on the rack so that it doesn't sit in its own juices. That could dissolve the outer char, which I don't want. Now this will give the heat inside, and, of course, the associated pressure, time to subside. Now if you skip this step and just cut into the steak, you're going to see all the beautiful juices just run all over the tray. You don't want that, do you? I thought not. Patience.
One of Mark Twain's favorite meals was pan-fried porterhouse steak with mushrooms and peas.
GUESTS: Steakhouse Patrons
Ah, while the pedigrees of most classic dishes are foggy at best, we may
actually be able to pinpoint when and where the porterhouse steak was born. But,
well, first let's set the stage.
In the 18th century, a peculiarly dark and particularly strong beer became so
popular with street and river porters in London that it eventually took their
name, Porter. Now a 16-ounce glass of this stuff was, at the time, the safest,
fastest, most nutritious drink you could down. In fact, porter was really kind
of the energy drink of its age.
Now the establishments that catered to porters were called Porter Houses. And the porter houses that sprang up along the waterways of London, and eventually New York, were equally popular with sailors, river pilots, who often dropped by after docking for a pint and a roasted hunk of critter.
Now according to the respected New York author, historian, and prince of butchers, Colonel Thomas F. DeVoe, once upon a time, in 1814, a crusty old river pilot entered a porter house owned by one Martin Morrison on Pearl Street in New York City.
PATRONS: [at once] New York City?
AB: That's right, yeah.
Said Crusty called for something substantial to eat.
RIVER PILOT: Look here, bring me something substantial to eat!
Having sold out of the evening joint—that's what they used to call, you know, the big hunk of meat—Morrison, in the back, hastily cut a slab from the back of a large loin roast meant for the next day, a hunk that probably included a goodly portion of short loin, tenderloin, and whatnot. He fried it up, he served it up, and...
RP: Oh. Oh. Oh my! That is good! Yes, yes!
PATRON #1: I'll have what he's having.
PATRON #2: Yeah, me too.
PATRONS: [all moan in agreement]
From that night on, Morrison asked his butcher to cut all his roasts into steaks for the porter house. Move some words around, and you've got yourself a legend. Oh, and look, after steak and charcoal, we got a hundred bucks left over.
round for the house!
PATRONS: [all cheer]
Ha-ha, and all of a sudden, I'm popular. It's the power of good eats.
Well, I hope we've inspired you to take the porterhouse back from the steakhouses and put it on your home menu, where it belongs. I suggest buying grass-fed when you can, age it in the fridge if you've got time, salt it well ahead of cooking, and when you're ready for the heat, put the spurs to it with a handheld charcoal broiler. It's just that simple. Not that the guys at Maison du Boeuf would tell you that. See you next time on Good Eats.
AB: [to the river pilot] How is that?
Transcribed by Michael Roberts
Proofread by Michael Menninger
Last Edited on 09/27/2011