Ah, steak. It’s a time-honored American tradition. And it’s versatile. Some people eat it thinly sliced on top of a salad for lunch. Others cut it up into cubes and make steak skewers for the family barbecue. And some order the finest, and most expensive cut of steak they can find to celebrate a special occasion. No matter how you prefer to eat steak, one thing is for sure, it’s a big crowd-pleaser.
Because steak is such a big hit, Blue Rhino is proud to partner with the Steak Cookoff Association (SCA) this year. It’s the largest steak cookoff competition in the world and also the number one competition for backyard chefs! We’re sponsoring SCA events and awarding cash bounties to grillers who win the competitions using a grill powered by Blue Rhino propane. We can’t wait to see what this year’s competition brings!
Why Do We Grill Steak?
So, why do we grill steak? In short, because it works. According to Smithsonian Magazine, there’s actual science behind it. Experts say the biggest influence on steak’s flavor is how you cook it. When you grill steak, the flame’s high heat breaks down the fatty acids in the meat into smaller molecules. Because they’re smaller, those molecules are more likely to rise into the air, giving off that signature steak aroma. That aroma is responsible for most of the steak’s flavor.
Chefs also impart flavor into steak by browning or searing it. Cooking steak at high temperatures, like on the grill, results in several chemical changes in the meat which produce roasted, savory, and even nutty flavors – and that signature searing or grill marks on the outside. As long as the steak doesn’t get burnt, those little brown patches can add a new depth of flavor to your meal.
Choosing the Right Steak
Steak is steak, right? Not exactly. There are several different cuts of steak, and each one has its own unique qualities. Take, for example, the Ribeye. It’s taken from the rib section of beef cattle and is usually very flavorful and tender. Ribeyes have a decent amount of marbling, or fat, swirled within the meat, making it a good candidate for hot, fast cooking. You may have also seen “bone in Ribeye” on the menu at a steakhouse before. It’s the same cut of meat, just with the bone attached.
Then there’s the New York Strip. This cut of meat comes from the short loin of beef cattle. It’s a very tender cut of meat that is usually boneless. Its texture is firm, but it packs a lot of flavors. You may have also seen this listed on a steakhouse menu as a Kansas City Steak or Top Loin.
There’s also a cut of steak called a Porterhouse. This bone-in cut of meat also comes from beef cattle short loin, but it’s kind of the best of both worlds. One side of the bone is a Filet, and the other side is a New York Strip. It’s a nice juxtaposition of textures and flavors. Make no mistake about it, though, this is a big steak! Some steakhouses advertise 40-ounce versions that are meant to be split between two people. These steaks are also pretty thick. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Porterhouse steaks have to be at least 1.25 inches thick to qualify. T-bone steaks are similar to a Porterhouse, but usually include a much smaller cut of the filet portion of the steak.
Then of course, there is the Sirloin. This cut of beef comes from the same general section of the cattle, where the T-bone, Porterhouse, and New York Strip all meet. It’s a tender, yet lean cut of beef that is great for roasting or grilling. It’s a flavorful steak that works well for kabobs.
Flank steaks are also great for grilling. It is taken from the abdominal muscles of beef cattle and usually has a lot of grain or texture to it. It’s a very lean cut of beef and is low in fat, making it much more affordable than some other cuts of steak. The downside is that, because there isn’t much fat, flank steak may become chewy if it is cooked too long. However, it’s great for marinades and it cooks quickly on the grill. It also works nicely when it is sliced. In fact, you may have seen flank steak featured on the menu on top of a salad or in a sandwich.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the different cuts of steak out there, but they are some of the most popular options. No matter which cut you choose, steaks are a great way to ramp up your barbecue menu and impress your guests!
The Grading System
For beef producers, grading is voluntary and subjective based on different systems in place. However, the United States Department of Agriculture has an established system to grade beef based on a variety of factors like marbling and overall quality:
- Prime Grade: The highest quality available with exceptional marbling, tenderness, and flavor. Often served at high-end restaurants.
- Choice Grade: Choice grade ranks slightly lower on quality and characteristics than prime grade. It is still excellent and can be found at many restaurants and grocery stores.
- Select Grade: This grade is leaner than prime and choice grades and has less marbling. It is still satisfactory but may exhibit less juiciness and flavor. It is great as a more affordable option.
- Standard and Commercial Grades: These grades are not normally sold as they are. Instead, they are commonly used in different beef products, like ground beef.
Grain-Fed or Grass-Fed?
Both grain-fed and grass-fed steak have unique qualities and flavor profiles, so it ultimately comes down to personal preference. Grain-fed steak often has more marbling which can contribute to a richer flavor. It comes from cattle living on a farm that are primarily fed corn and soybeans for their diet. Grass-fed steak comes from cattle that eat mainly grass on a pasture. It is leaner than grain-fed and may taste slightly more earthy.
Time to Prepare
It’s time to get ready for your party! You’ve got the steaks, but don’t forget the Blue Rhino! You don’t want to risk running out of propane on the day of the event. Take steps ahead of time to ensure you don’t run out. You can exchange your current tank for a fresh one or add a spare to your arsenal just in case one tank gets low. To find a Blue Rhino retailer near you, click here or text the word FIND to 75653.*
And, to maximize flavor, don’t forget to season your grill! It’ll help your grill last longer and make your food taste better. Take a look at the video below for some helpful tips!
Have you given any thought to what you’re going to make with all that steak you bought? You could just fire up the grill, season your steak, cook it to perfection, and serve it. It’s certainly a delicious option! But there are so many ways you can customize your steaks, from rubs to toppings.
||Balsamic vinegar, red onions, and fresh oregano and thyme give this skewer recipe a punch of flavor. Grilled yellow squash and zucchini round out the flavors and squeeze in some fresh summer vegetables into your meal, too.
||Want your meal to taste like you’re on vacation? Cilantro, cumin, red bell pepper, and pineapple give these steaks a fresh, island flare. Lime juice rounds out the flavors and really makes these steaks shine.
||If you want to feel like you’re eating at an expensive steakhouse, consider trying this recipe. This recipe is short on ingredients but big on flavor. Fresh parsley, thyme, and garlic mingle with coarsely ground mixed peppercorns for a zesty punch of flavor. Is your mouth watering yet?
||This steak recipe relies on a sweet and smoky marinade made of brown sugar, chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, and garlic to give it flavor. Fresh lime juice and cilantro round out this southwest inspired dish.
Tips for Grilling and Serving
When it comes to cooking steak, there are a lot of factors at play – everything from the cut of meat to the desired doneness. Usually, thicker, bone-in cuts require more cooking time than a thinner cut.
The best way to check if your steak is grilled to perfection is to use a meat thermometer. You can also try a method that relies on your very own hands. Essentially, by positioning your fingers in different ways and feeling the firmness of your palm, you’ll be able to determine if a steak is cooked to well, medium, or rare, as well as varying degrees of doneness in between. The advantage to using this method is that you won’t have to poke a hole in your steak to determine whether it’s done or not.
Why is that important? Because steak needs to rest before you cut it. Once you remove your steak from the grill, you need to let it sit for at least 5-10 minutes so the juices can be reabsorbed by the meat. If you cut into it too soon, all those juices will run out, which can dry out your steak.
There are some pro tips you should know before serving steaks to your guests at your next barbecue. Try using wood chips to give a boost of flavor. Soak the wood chips in water and then wrap them in a tin foil pouch or use a wood chip smoker box. While you’re grilling, place the pouch directly on the grill grates. The wood chips will produce smoke, which will impart extra flavor to your steak.
You can also try the reverse sear method. You’ll need to cook the steak over indirect heat, then finish it off with a quick sear over high heat. This will develop a crust on the outside, which helps seal in and enhance flavor. Many chefs find that cooking steak in a cast-iron pan is a great way to maximize that steakhouse flavor.
You may also want to make a butter baste. You’ve probably seen chefs on cooking shows using this method. Add garlic and herbs to fresh melted butter. As you’re grilling the steak, brush the butter mixture over the steak to add another layer of flavor.
The Steaks are High
Before you throw your steaks on the grill, ask your guests how they prefer their steaks to be cooked. Many people prefer medium or medium-rare, but others don’t like any pink in their meat so they prefer it to be well done. Still others like their steak to “bleed,” requesting it so rare that it is barely seared on the outside. There is no right or wrong doneness when it comes to steak, it’s simply a matter of preference. By asking your guests how they prefer their steak, you invite them into the process and elevate your barbecue.
If you know someone who loves to grill, consider telling them about the Steak Cookoff Association! They may want to enter a competition near them. You can find a list of this year’s competitions here. And don’t forget about that Blue Rhino bounty at some competitions!
Wondering who’s already won a SCA competitions? Dylan B. from Southaven, Mississippi, won first place at a Steak Cookoff! With the power of Blue Rhino propane, he earned a score of 254.1 out of 254.5 – just 0.4 points shy of a perfect score! And Milt C. won first and fourth place grilling with Blue Rhino at two steak cookoffs in Oneonta, Alabama.
They’re just some of the winners who created some flavorful and fun recipes, then grilled them to perfection using Blue Rhino propane. We can’t wait to see what else this year’s competitions bring!
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