Recipe Review

I Tried the “Secret” to Perfect Steak — And Discovered a Major Problem

published Jun 13, 2019
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

At first glance, this porterhouse steak recipe from celebrity chef brothers Bryan and Michael Voltaggio looks pretty standard: You sear it, you roast it, you let it rest. But there’s one major step that distinguishes it from a classic stovetop-to-oven steak: You salt the meat 12 hours in advance. This extra step is often touted as the key to better steak — but is it worth the extra time? I was determined to find out.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

How to Make Salted-for-12-Hours Porterhouse Steak

You’ll start by seasoning the steak with 1 tablespoon kosher salt, which sounds like a lot but works out to 1 teaspoon salt per pound of steak, which is the general rule. (Tuck that away for other steak recipes that don’t give suggestions on how much salt to use.) You’ll then place the steak on a rack set inside a baking sheet and refrigerate it, uncovered, overnight, which lets air circulate around the meat as it dries and gives the salt time to penetrate and season the inside, instead of just sitting on the surface.

You’re then instructed to “let the steak come to room temperature 30 minutes before cooking,” which is just silly. There’s no way a three-pound steak can come to room temperature in a half-hour. I think it’s meant to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, which is what I did. Just before the steak goes into the pan, you’re reminded to pat the meat dry with paper towels. Smart move — meat sears best when it’s dry.

The brothers instruct you to use a cast iron skillet for searing, which is great advice — cast iron is an ideal vessel for searing a steak. After the first side is seared, you’ll add a big pat of butter to the pan, which adds flavor and helps sear the second side of the steak, which finishes in the oven as soon as its flipped. (Flipped is my word, not theirs. I actually wish they had used the word flipped instead of turned, which can be misconstrued as rotating the steak in the pan instead of flipping it over to cook the second side.)

Kudos to the Voltaggios for providing a target temperature and roasting time, but they only provide instructions for medium-rare: “an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 120°F, 12 to 15 minutes.” That timing was accurate. At 13 minutes, my steak was 121°F, which rose to 129°F after the prescribed 10-minute rest. But that’s a rare steak, not medium-rare. The meat closest to the huge T-shaped porterhouse bone was almost raw.

My Honest Review of the Salted-for-12-Hours Steak

This is not an attractive steak. The recipe suggests three minutes for the stovetop sear, which is accurate for most steaks, but instead of a dark, even sear, mine was mottled and patchy — almost gray, with only a smattering of deep brown. If I’m going to shell out the big bucks for a huge porterhouse, I want it to wow me with dinner party-worthy good looks. (And when I say huge, I mean huge. You’ll need a whopper of a porterhouse for this recipe — which, in addition to being pricey, might be difficult to find.)

The steak was well-cooked if you want a rare steak. It was also too salty. Unfortunately, the recipe instructs you to salt the steak a second time right before it goes into the pan, but gives no suggestion on how much to use. I applied a big pinch and it proved to be too much — a major flaw of this technique. However, the first salting and overnight rest ensured it was well-seasoned inside. The black pepper was nice, and the steak juices were delicious.

Credit: Sheri Castle
Salted for 12 Hours Steak

If You Make the Salted-for 12-Hours Steak, a Few Tips

1. Skip the second salting: Generously salt the steak and let it air dry in the fridge overnight, as described, but skip the second salting.

2. Turn on the vent: You’re reminded to heat the empty pan until it is “very hot, about 5 minutes.” This will result in a screaming-hot pan, so turn on the vent and be sure your pan can take that kind of heat if it’s not cast iron.

3. Rely on an instant-read thermometer: Like many steak recipes, this one tells us to insert the probe into the “thickest part,” which is vague when assessing a steak of uniform thickness. I inserted the probe into the side of the steak, not the top, and stopped when the probe was in the center of the larger side of the steak, making sure the tip of the probe wasn’t touching bone.

4. Know your preferred temperature: If you prefer steak cooked beyond rare, do your homework and know the target internal temperature for your preferred doneness.

5. Use sturdy tongs: Be sure your tongs can safely grasp and maneuver a thick steak.

6. Make a sauce, if you like: Take a look at the suggested sauces if you’re feeling fancy and want to tackle them. A great steak doesn’t need to hide behind an accompaniment, but that doesn’t mean the sauces aren’t appealing.

Overall Rating: 5/10

This is a standard sear-and-roast steak with the added step of salting and drying overnight. It’s not a bad recipe, but it doesn’t answer enough questions or provide enough information to guide you to a perfect premium porterhouse that isn’t rare.

Have you ever made the Voltaggios’ Salted-for-12-Hours Porterhouse Steak? Tell us what you thought!

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

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