The Presalt

Steak and potatos

Salt your steaks at least 1 hour or more, before cooking. I have had great results salting the day before.

You’ve probably heard or read that you shouldn’t salt your steak (or any other meat) until right before cooking, or even after cooking. This advice is based on the idea that you will dry out the meat.

If you watch your steak, the salt will draw moisture out, your steak will get wet, then … magically … the meat draws the moisture back in. But this time, the moisture is full of salt.

If I was a food scientist, this is where I start telling you how the above process is accomplished via reverse-osmosis, and you change the physical nature of the meat fibers, allowing it to retain moisture better by opening up the fibers. And you introduce a little salt to the inside. But I’m not a food scientist so I don’t know if any of that is true.

What I do know, however, is thick bland steaks are all of a sudden seasoned to the middle.  If you cook thick steaks and don’t pre-salt you will either have under seasoned and bland steaks, or over-salted steaks on the surface with a bland interior.

Lose-Lose. So pre-salt the steak.

Only use salt at this stage, however. If you use an all purpose rub this won’t work because the other seasoning and spices will soak up that moisture before it has a chance to be reabsorbed.  But if that’s all you have, like Montreal Steak Seasoning, then put the rub on and then put on a flat plate and press saran wrap onto the steak.

In my opinion, don’t bother with the Montreal seasoning. Just use salt for now. We will add other seasonings later.

HOW MUCH SALT SHOULD YOU USE?

salted steak
This is how much salt I use … salt to your tastes

That depends on you. You need to experiment here, as I don’t know how salty you like your steak.

I know, I know. This report is titled, The Perfect Steak Recipe. So how can it be a recipe if I don’t tell you how much salt to use?

Well, my copout is to remind you of many other recipes that tell you to use salt and pepper “to taste.” But in all seriousness, salt really is a personal matter. Things that affect the amount of salt you use include the thickness of the steak, the size of the steak as a whole, and of course your preference. So now you see why it’s impossible for me predict how much salt you need to use.

I use Kosher salt, and on an average sized steak it’s about a teaspoon. Adjust for thickness and size. An under-seasoned steak is terrible, but you can put a band-aid on this dilemma with some finishing salt at the table. An over-seasoned steak tastes like you are drowning in the ocean and there is no remedy for it.

So err on the side of caution when salting the steak until you’re more experienced and comfortable. If it comes out under-seasoned, go ahead and sprinkle some fleur de sel at the table (or sel de gris). It adds a nice crunchy texture to the steak so that’s actually a plus.

Now, wait at least an hour. If you’re not going to cook it for several hours or the next day, place the steaks on a plate and cover tightly with saran wrap, making sure the saran wrap touches the meat completely on top. We want whatever juice that is drawn out by the salt to be reabsorbed, so the saran wrap keeps it from evaporating in the fridge.

presalted ribeye steak
How it looks after an hour or so

Next: The Recipe!