Like any decent internet user, I’ve been posting pictures of my food to Instagram for years. My favorite subject: STEAK. As such, I’ve been asked by dozens of people about my technique for perfectly cooked steaks. So I thought I’d deliberately be obtuse and teach you how to teach people how to make steak. Because this is the internet, and nothing can ever be just a straightforward tutorial. It has to be ART.
Now, normally you’d start your post on how to make steak with some stupid story about your childhood. You’d want to start super flowery, like “When I was a young boy in suburban Atlanta, my favorite time of year was the moment the leaves turned from the emerald green of the Amazonian Forest canopy to the bright yellows and reds and oranges that marked the coming of cooler temperatures and festive times…” THAT KIND OF CRAP.
So be sure to start like that when you do your post. And make sure to keep including pictures of food, throughout your nine-page diatriabe about your childhood so people know there’s a recipe somewhere in their future while you masturbate with your English Lit degree that doesn’t do you any good anywhere in your real life, except for your food blog. It’s super important.
You can also include inspirational quotes. People like those.
- Steaks (duh) — I highly recommend Ribeye or New York Strip, but anything with decent marbling will work. The more fat the better. Butcher-cut steaks are best, of course, but this will work with even your basic supermarket special. Just make sure it’s a decent thickness. Thin-cut steaks tend to burn up on the grill.
- Kosher or Sea Salt: It works with coarse or medium grain, but I don’t recommend finely ground salt, unless you just want a really salty steak. Do NOT use iodized salt. There’s lots of reasons why, like the fact that the iodization process kills the moisture-drawing property of the salt. But also, iodized salt isn’t very tasty.
- Butter: Kerrygold or another grass-fed butter is best. No margarine.
- Montreal Seasoning: if you don’t like Montreal, we can’t be friends. But there’s other options, like just salt and pepper. But no seriously, use Montreal.
- Garlic: Cause garlic.
- Beer: Because that’s what you drink when you grill. It’s just the rules, man.
Now, before we even get to prep-work (which, if you’re in a hurry, is: pat the steaks completely dry, salt the absolute shit out of both sides, and let sit for an hour per inch of thickness, then rinse, pat completely dry again, then grill), we need to get the absolute most important part out of the way:
The Lead Photo
Let’s face it, your kitchen is not cool. My kitchen is not cool. None of us out here writing this stuff can afford cool kitchens. So having some seriously bad-ass custom kitchen photos isn’t going to be an option. And no one wants to post a lead photo of their REAL kitchen, because it looks like this:
No one wants to see this. This will not do. So you need a few things before you even start cooking:
- A wooden table from a thrift shop
- an oversized measuring cup
- bamboo salt and pepper decanter (yes, that’s a thing)
- a cute mustard colored bowl
- parchment paper
- a mason jar
Once you have those things, you can take a photo like THIS:
THERE. Now that is more like it. “But where’s the mason jar?” you ask? Well it’s right here:
It’s not enough to drink a beer while grilling if you’re going to teach the internet how to grill. You have to pour that shit into a mason jar. That’s how it’s done. I’m not sure why. You’ll have to refer to the rule book. Someone at the W3C decided that, years ago, beverage photos on the internet that appear in “how to cook” posts must be in mason jars.
Now, we have our nice photo of our food before we begin cooking it. But it’s not enough just to have the nice photo. We need FILTERS!
Clarendon: A nice choice for the discerning Instagram food photographer who wants to somehow still be able to post #NOFILTER on their description and have people buy it.
X-Pro-II: When you really wanna sell that contrast, because you’re bright on the outside but SUPER DARK on the inside, and wish people could just see past your happiness act and ask you “What’s wrong?” So you can answer “Oh, nothing!”
If you really wanna get wild, you can hop into Photoshop and begin shifting and tilting channels:
It’s glitchy and artsy and so cool! It looks like you don’t know what you’re doing, which is a look only those who REALLY know what they’re doing can pull off!
And for the TRULY nutty, out-there, cool kid who wants to bring a little retro-future into their food blog, I suggest going with tilt-wire-grid-mapping turned into a looping gif:
Ok, now that you’ve got your lead photos done, it’s time to get to the prep. These photos don’t have to be nearly as cool or artsy, because they’re “Process” and everyone knows that “process” is a bit messy. Plus, they’re already so impressed by your photographic acumen with the first photo that they’re willing to forgive everything up to the actual money shot of plated food. But that doesn’t mean you can rest… When that grill fires up, you better be ready for a FLAME LICK PHOTO. But we’ll get to that.
So here we go: first, you have to DAB DRY the steaks. Not rub, not blow dry, but DAB DRY. I don’t know why that’s so important, except that dabbing is a fad that kids are doing or something. I blame Drake.
Ok, so you need to salt the absolute crap out of the steaks. I use Diamond medium ground salt, because it’s like a dollar for a massive box from Amazon, so I don’t feel wasteful when I rinse off a half pound of salt from my steaks:
Now, you just cover and wait. I recommend drinking beer while you do. And when time is up, and you uncover the steaks, you’ll notice that the salt is moist and dark:
Yep, moist and dark, just like my coffee.
Once you rinse the salt off and pat dab the steaks dry, you’ll notice they’ve turned a super dark red:
This is where some mega science comes in. The reason you salt the steaks is a) to absorb moisture, but also b) because salt emulsifies fat, and c) swells and softens protein fibers. So, you’re removing water while liquefying fat, which then soaks into the actual protein fibers of the meat. No more steamed meat, hello juicy delicious steaks!
Now, it’s time for a shot of the grill with no steak on it, so I can talk to you about preparation while also showing you all the other yummy things we intend to eat, while not actually talking about how make any of those things cause this post is about STEAK:
Please notice how close the beer is to the grill. This was placed there for the shot, because that beer is going to get warm as hell if it actually sits that close to the grill. Don’t forget to put your beer in your photo (and other accessories to your amazing lifestyle, such as the cigar picture I include further down).
Whatever else you cook, cook it first. You need all of it (except the corn, which you wanna leave on so it gets smoked with the meat smokes) off the grill before you cook the steak, cause you need the grill to be at 450 degrees:
Once you’ve cleaned off the grill and it’s up to 450 degrees, it’s time to put those steaks on:
Notice how the steaks aren’t perfectly horizontal. You want them somewhat diagonal, and then after one minute, you want to rotate them 90 degrees to the other diagonal, for perfect grid lines. I recommend using a timer, both because it’s an easy way to count minutes and also because nothing says “internet cooking guide” like a screenshot from an iPhone:
So the rotation goes:
Minute 1: rotate diagonally
Minute 2: flip and baste with butter, garlic, and Montreal mixture
Minute 3: rotate diagonally
Minute 4: Flip, baste again, Immediately flip, let the butter burn a bit, and remove
And make sure in the midst of flipping the steaks, you get a FLAME SHOT for your blog. You need one.
And here’s the cigar shot I told you about. Mandatory.
Perfectly charred and caramelized fat on the steak = good steak.
Plating and the Coup De Grace
Ok, now it’s time for the money shot:
… Well that’s not very interesting. There’s not nearly enough hipster shit going on. One minute, let me go cut the bushes in the front yard….
VOILA. But still, something’s missing… OH THE EXTREME ANGLE AND FILTERS!
THERE WE GO. Perfectly cooked internet tutorial steak.
And here’s a shot of me pretending you’re going to eat it, because it hasn’t been frustrating enough staring at 20 pictures of someone else’s food artistically positioned to make you as hungry as possible: