by Sheela Prakash, Epicurious
My tiny New York City apartment doesn't have any outdoor space, so when I recently spent some time in a rental house in Florida, I cooked on the grill.
Like, for every meal.
One night, when I was grilling steak, I ran into the kitchen to grab an instant-read digital thermometer. But the rental house kitchen snubbed me--there was no thermometer to be found. Without it, I was stumped. How was I going to determine when my steaks were ready to come off the grill?
The Internet is full of tricks for figuring out when a steak is done. The most common one is the "hand test," which alleges that various parts of your hand feel the way a steak does when it's rare, medium-rare, and so forth. But to be honest, that just never works for me.
James Beard Award-winning chef and grilling expert Chris Schlesinger believes that the hand test is "really meant for restaurant chefs, since they're cooking one steak after another and have a better sense of what the meat should feel like at a certain doneness. For the home cook, it's really not practical."
What does he suggest? To cut into the meat.
Yes, you read that right.
"Just nick the meat in a spot that's not too noticeable and peak inside. It's the way I check steak when I grill at home," says Schlesinger.
Cutting into a steak has long been considered a big no-no because of the risk of losing the steak's precious juice. But Schlesinger firmly believes that the loss is negligible. Sure, you might lose a bit of juice from the cells you cut into. But that will in no way ruin your steak.
What will ruin your steak is if you keep it on the grill until it's exactly where you want it. You need to remove the meat from the grill one stage before your preferred doneness. "Steaks will always continue to cook as they rest, and the internal temps will raise another 5 to 10 degrees depending on thickness," says Rhoda Boone, Epi's Food Editor. So if you like your steak cooked to medium, take it off the grill when it looks medium rare inside. Which you'll know, of course--because you've cut into the steak to find out.
Get the recipe for the Salt-and-Pepper Steak pictured above.
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