By Nancy Dell'Aria
What would summer be without family and friends gathered around the grill watching
a steak sizzle?
That's right, a steak, and on a budget to boot. How?
I called Susan Parenti, assistant director of test kitchens and editorial services at the
National Live Stock and Meat Board and an avid barbecuer. She gave me some terrific
tips for handling some of the more economical steaks with tender(izing) loving care.
In the Market
Look for top blade, chuck eye, chuck shoulder, top round and eye round steaks. These
cheaper cuts come from the shoulder (chuck) or the hind quarters (round), contain the
same valuable nutrients as pricey filet mignon, and tend to have fuller, richer flavor.
Choose steaks 3/4- to 1-inch thick. Thinner ones cook too fast and toughen. Buy
boneless cuts. They yield more meat servings per pound (about 3 to 4) than bone-in.
Trim excess fat from any steak destined for the grill to reduce flare-ups. Use a marinade
that includes an acid ingredient such as vinegar, lemon or lime juice, wine, salsa, yogurt
or buttermilk. It helps tenderize meat.
Marinate in the refrigerator in a closed, heavy-duty plastic food bag or shallow glass
dish, turning meat occasionally so that all sides of the steak benefit. Timing can vary
from 30 minutes up to 6 hours for thinner, smaller steaks, and 6 hours up to 24
hours--but no more--for larger ones.
On the Grill
Grilling directly over medium heat is best for any steak. On the other hand, excessive
heat will only incinerate the outside of the steak and leave the inside raw. When coals
are ash covered, check the cooking temperature by carefully holding your hand 4 to 5
inches above the coals until you are forced by the heat to pull it away (about 4 seconds
for medium coals). For gas grills, follow manufacturer's directions.
Place steak on the grill 4 to 5 inches from heat source.
Grill 7 to 11 minutes per side for medium-rare to medium, turning once using tongs.
Cooking past medi-um will only dry and tough-en the steak, especially if you're using
one of the more economical cuts.
Check for a nice rosy interior toward the end of grilling time by making a small slit near
the center of the steak with a sharp knife.
Remove meat from grill to clean carving board and let it stand for 5 to 10 minutes.
Carve thin slices, against the grain, holding the knife blade at an angle. Slicing this way
will break the long stringy fibers into short, easy-to-eat pieces.
RED-WINE VINEGAR MARINADE
Discard any marinade that has been in contact with raw meat. If you want to baste the
meat with marinade, set some aside before adding the meat.
Prep: 5 min Total Cost: 44 cents (compare that to some of the marinades you see with
fancy names and packaging)
1/3 cup red-wine vinegar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
Whisk all ingredients until well blended. Makes 1/2 cup, enough to marinate 1 to 1 1/4
pounds of steak. You can make this up in quantity and store about 1 month in the
refrigerator. Just shake again before using.