Americans consume about 57 pounds of beef and veal per person a year. How much of the beef was in the form of steak is hard to calculate, but judging from the proliferation of steakhouses around the country and the variety of steaks sold in supermarkets and butcher shops nationwide, it must be quite a bit.
Tastes in steak vary, of course — people like different cuts of meat, different degrees of doneness, different seasoning. Some steak-lovers go for pricey filet mignon or tenderloin, meat that’s always tender but sometimes not as flavorful as other cuts. Others swear by strip steaks or ribeyes, T-bones or porterhouses.
A trendy restaurant steak these days is the tomahawk, a thick cut of ribeye with a long exposed portion of bone attached, measuring 6 to 8 inches or more, which makes the whole thing look a little like a hatchet. If you want to try it, you may want to know about the most expensive steakhouses in every state.
To what doneness should a steak be cooked? That, too, is a matter of taste. Some people don’t want to see a hint of pink in their meat, even though well-done steaks tend to be dry and lacking in flavor. Others like their steak virtually raw inside — “I want to hear it moo,” goes an old joke — enclosed by just a thin seared exterior.
Many connoisseurs of steak consider the ideal to be one that’s more or less uniformly rare or nearly rare inside and nicely charred outside, with the flavorful brown crust that results from the process called the Maillard reaction, the same effect that gives bread its own brown crust and turns milk and sugar into caramel.
Cooking steak at home ought to be a straightforward process. A nice piece of meat, a hot pan or grill, some cooking fat or oil, some seasoning. What could be so hard about that? Yet home-cooked steaks rarely offer the juiciness and intensity of flavor that restaurant steaks do.
There are several reasons for this, not least that restaurants are usually able to source meat of higher quality than the average consumer can buy. But home-cooked steaks often fall short for other, smaller reasons that are easy to correct. 24/7 Tempo has assembled a list of 10 steak mistakes, together with advice on how to avoid them.