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Seven Simple Steps to Better Grilling

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Nothing is more satisfying to a carnivore than a tender, juicy, perfectly cooked prime cut of beef. But, for those of us who are not professional chefs, how can we guarantee such a succulent steak at home? Well, New Orleans Living posed that very question to steak expert executive chef Jack Martinez, of Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse, and he promises that if you follow his seven simple steps, you too can create your own steak masterpiece!

First off, Martinez recommends using different cooking techniques to achieve the perfect steak, depending upon the cut of meat. Why? Because certain cuts taste better cooked a certain way. At the restaurant he prefers to sear strips in cast-iron skillets, slowly oven-roast prime rib and broil filets. But at home, his favorite way to cook just about everything, especially during the summer, is on the grill. Once you’ve got the basics down, it’s easy.

1. Start with good-quality meat. “Prime” beef, which is expensive and can be hard to find, is the best, but “choice” is a great alternative for home grilling. Look for steaks with a good amount of marbling. If you need help, ask your butcher. He or she will know the good stuff.

2. Temper your meat. Let it come to room temperature before grilling. This simple step will shorten your cooking time and help ensure a more evenly cooked, juicy piece of meat.

3. Season the meat on all sides. This means the top, the bottom, the sides … all of it! I use our house Creole seasoning blend (recipe below) on everything. (A note on marinades: Resist the temptation to marinate for too long. Too much marinating can adversely affect the flavor of your meat, and actually start to cook it. Prime beef is tender and flavorful—it doesn’t need marinating. Lesser grades often benefit from a short soak. An hour in good Italian dressing does wonders for a porterhouse. Or try a blend of soy sauce, fresh garlic and crushed red pepper.)

4. Ready, set, grill. We recommend grilling steaks medium-rare to medium, but this is a matter of taste. Experienced grillers can tell temperatures by the touch. A medium steak should bounce back when you touch it. Less-experienced cooks may prefer to use a digital thermometer.

5. Let the meat rest. Ten minutes between the grill and the table will help seal in the juices. Avoid piercing the meat to check for doneness, as too much flavor is lost this way.

6. The sides. There’s no need to pull out pots and pans. Throw all of it on the grill! Toss mushrooms, thick-sliced Vidalia onion, spears of summer squash, pepper rings and quartered potatoes (just parboil them first) with olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh herbs. Use a grill basket if you have one. If not, a foil pouch will do. Dessert can also be done on the grill. Grilled Ruston peaches over vanilla ice cream are a quick, delicious crowd-pleaser.

7. The sauce. For home grillers, steak sauce made from scratch may seem like quite an ambitious undertaking, but it’s actually incredibly easy (see the recipe).

Creole Seasoning Blend

Recipes courtesy of chef Jack Martinez, Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse
Yields about 1 cup

1/2 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup granulated garlic
1/4 cup granulated onion
2 tbsp. paprika
4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper
Blend together all ingredients. Use as a rub on virtually everything, from chicken to vegetables. Store in an airtight container.

Classic Steak Sauce
Yields 2 quarts

2 onions, coarsely chopped, smoked
1 jalapeño, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup garlic, finely chopped
1 cup red wine
2 cup orange juice
7 oz. raisins
1/4 lb. brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
4 oz. cane vinegar
2 cups diced tomatoes
1/2 red pepper, roasted
Salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a large saucepot and reduce by one third. Puree the mixture, then strain. Season with salt and pepper to taste.