Learning How to Salt a Steak the Right Way Will Make It Even Tastier
We hate to break it to you, but you may not be cooking your steak correctly. Have you ever wondered how to prepare a steak so that you maximize its natural flavor? Maybe you're that person who dumps a pile of seasonings or steak rub on the meat and calls it a day, but you may be missing one pivotal step that's so simple: salting your steak.
With the help of two acclaimed chefs, we concluded that salt is the secret ingredient that helps pulls all of a steak's distinctive flavors out so you have an irresistible dish every single time. We feel that the simple step of salting your steak the right way can make a world of difference to the final result. Once you learn how to salt a steak for maximum flavor, you'll ditch those seasoning bottles STAT.
How does salt make such a big difference in the flavor of steak?
"Salt enhances flavors in all foods," says Vincent Olivieri, director of culinary development and chef de cuisine at Fairway Market Cafe and Steakhouse.
But how, specifically, does that apply to a hunk of steak?
"Salt releases moisture in the muscle [of the meat] and releases the natural flavors of steak," says Tender Greens chef and Vice President of Stores, Pete Balistreri.
When should you salt your steak?
Balistreri says to always salt your steak right before cooking.
"Salt will begin to cook the steak's surface and release moisture from the muscle if salted too far in advance. Ideally, we want to keep the juices in the steak by salting right before we cook," Balistreri says.
"It's always good to salt a steak prior to cooking to dry the outside," says Olivieri. "A dry steak will give you a crispy sear."
Can you overdo or underdo the amount of salt you use on your steak?
"Absolutely! The thicker the cut, the more salt needed," Balistreri says. "If you are cooking a thick ribeye or New York steak, you'll need a little more salt than if you are cooking a thin skirt steak. When salting, it's important to salt well above the steak and 'make the salt rain.' This allows for even coverage and avoids concentrated spots of salt."
Olivieri says that when it comes to larger roasts, like prime rib, you should go heavy on the salt because the fat will absorb most of it and give you that crispy crust that everyone loves to eat. Who doesn't want that?
OK got it, so it depends on the thickness of the steak. What types of steak call for less salt?
"If the Kobe Beef or Wagyu is a standard grilling steak, I would recommend slightly less on the salt, as the fat will cause that beef to be very delicate," says Balistreri. "For the standard certified grass-fed steak, it's more about the thickness of the steak than the type."
And if you're using a tougher cut of meat, you might need to use a lighter touch.
"When dealing with a more tough cut, like something that requires a marinade, go lighter on the salt and heavier on an acid. Whether it be lemon juice, vinegar, or wine, leave the salt light until the end, and season to your liking," says Olivieri.
Is there a specific amount of salt you use?
"I usually give a light sprinkling, making sure to cover all the meat. I'd say the most important aspect of salt application is the quality of your salt. At the Steakhouse, we use imported flaky French sea salt, Maldon. Large crystals [of sea salt] are strictly used for finishing, adding that flavor and a crunchy texture," says Olivieri.
Wait, what is finishing salt, and why is it important?
"Just as important as seasoning the steaks right before you cook them, a great finishing sea salt larger than the kosher salt you use prior to grilling will make a world of difference to the finished experience. These finishing salts go a long way and should be used lightly. There are many types of finishing salts: smokey, spicy, sweet, and standard," says Balistreri. This is an easy way to switch up the taste of steak if you're into trying new flavors.
Recap: How to salt a steak like a chef
Both chefs provided a great deal of information, so let's take a step back and review the key points. You should salt your steak right before you throw it on the grill, as this will allow the juices to stay intact for optimal flavor. Thicker cuts of steak will typically need more salt than thinner cuts. The exception? A thicker steak that requires an already salt-filled marinade—you'll want to cut back the salt and swap in an acidic liquid such as lemon juice or wine. There you have it folks, your next steak just got that much tastier, all thanks to the humble salt. Now, let's fire up the grill!