Seasoning a steak or a chicken breast for dinner has always felt like a strangely cumbersome process to me. There's rubbing the meat with oil, but then using a clean hand to sprinkle salt. But then you need two clean hands to work the pepper grinder and open the spices (because who remembers to prep those beforehand?), and then when I'm repeating the whole process for the second side, it seems like half the seasonings fall off anyway.
Maybe I'm weird. Maybe I'm not. But if my tale of seasoning woe has struck a chord, then this tip might just change the way you cook.
This little snippet of culinary wisdom comes from our writer Nealey, who is a culinary instructor in addition to being a recipe writer. In her adaptation of Marion Cunningham's Theater Steaks, which she shared with us last week, she says:
Pat the filets very dry and season the side facing up generously with salt and pepper. When the oil is shimmering, place the filets, seasoned side down, in the skillet. Season the top with additional salt and pepper.
It's so simple — season one side of the meat, place it in the skillet seasoned-side down, and then season the other side — but this streamlines the process just a smidge. And if you're busy and want dinner on the table, sometimes a smidge makes all the difference.
Nealey herself says that this is what she teaches her culinary students in her basic cooking class "so you don't lose any seasoning to the plate by trying to season both sides out of the pan." If any spices fall off, they fall right into the skillet where they get trapped between the hot pan and the cooking meat — right where they should be! It also removes at least one or two trips to the sink to wash our hands between steps.
To me, this way of seasoning meat just feels so practical. I tried it for myself over the weekend and honestly felt like my movements around the stove and handling the meat were much more efficient and relaxed.
Again, maybe I'm weird! Maybe I'm making a big deal out of what is an inherently simple step! But to me, this little change of routine makes me feel one step more comfortable and confident with my cooking.