Grilled Ribeye Steaks with Mediterranean Herb Butter

I used to be a purist. I believed that there was One True Way to cooking a steak. All I wanted was a good cut of beef, some salt and pepper, and a hot grill. Done. Anything more gets between you and the taste of the beef.

I have expanded my horizons.* I still love a simple, salt and pepper steak, but I've come to appreciate the extra depth of flavor that a herb butter provides.
*Some would say that I have strayed from the one true path. They haven't tasted this steak.

West Point Market, one of my local gourmet grocery stores, is hosting a steak cook off as part of the Taste of Akron event. This is what I submitted as my entry.
*We'll see if they like it enough to put me in the cook off.
**Actually, it's close to the recipe I submitted - I used T-Bones in that version, and wrote up the recipe you see below. But... I forgot to take pictures for the blog. The pictures are from my second attempt, and the thick-cut ribeyes at the store looked too good to pass up.


I used every trick I know to get layers of flavor into a steak. You salt early, rub it with garlic, cook it over a real charcoal fire, baste it with herb butter while it's cooking, give it a final brush with the herb butter once it's resting, and sprinkle it with some flaky sea salt at the last minute. The result is decadent, rich, luxurious...I'm running out of adjectives.
*Would I eat this every week? Of course not. My arteries are hardening just thinking about it. But it is great when you want to pull out all the stops for a celebration. Or a cooking contest.

[Update: 7/2/2009] They selected my recipe as one of the finalists! I get to cook in the competition on July 23rd. Wish me luck. I'm going to need it.


[Update: 7/23/2009] I won!  I can't believe it.

Recipe: Grilled Ribeye Steaks with Mediterranean Herb Butter

Cook time: 8 minutes

Equipment:
  • Charcoal Grill (I used a Weber kettle, like this one.)
  • One bunch thyme and a couple of sprigs of rosemary, tied at the stems to use as a basting brush (or, you can just a regular basting brush. I like the Oxo Silicone Basting Brush.)

Ingredients:
  • 2 Ribeye steaks, 1.25 to 1.5" thick, bone-in (should be roughly 1.25 to 1.5 pounds each, but go for thickness over weight)
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced in half
  • 3 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp fresh, coarsely ground black pepper
Mediterranean Herb Butter
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, minced
  • pinch kosher salt
  • pinch fresh ground black pepper
Salt for serving
  • Fleur De Sel de Camargue (or Maldon, or other large, flaky salt)

Directions:
1. Pre-salt the steak: One hour before cooking, season the steaks. Rub the sliced garlic clove over the bone on the ribeye to rough it up, then rub it over the meat. Sprinkle the salt evenly onto the steaks; roughly 3/4 tsp of kosher salt per side, 1.5 tsp total per steak. Pat the salt into the steak, then let them rest at room temperature until ready to cook.
*If you can't salt the steaks *at least* a half an hour ahead of time, then wait on the salt until just before you put them on the grill, in the "cook the steaks" step below.

2. Prepare the grill: Prepare your grill for cooking with indirect, medium-high heat, then clean with your grill brush. For my Weber kettle, I light a chimney starter* 3/4 full of charcoal, wait for it to be covered with ash, then pour it evenly over one side of the grill grate. This gives me half the grill on the heat, and half off the heat.
*I highly recommend the Weber Chimney Starter, because it is larger than most chimney starters. It holds 5 quarts of charcoal, which is exactly the right size for cooking this recipe.

3. Prepare the Mediterranean Herb Butter Baste, and herb brush: Meanwhile, put the Mediterranean herb butter baste ingredients in a small bowl or ramekin. Microwave on high until the butter has just melted, and the garlic is starting to sizzle, then stir to combine. (From now on, we'll just call this the "herb butter"). Make a herb brush using the bunch of thyme and rosemary sprigs - tie them together at the base of the stem, making a brush you'll use to apply the herb butter.


4. Sear the steaks: Pat the steaks dry with paper towels, so they will sear well, then sprinkle with the black pepper. Put the steaks on the grill, over the coals, and cook, uncovered, for 2-3 minutes. You're looking for the steak to be just starting to brown. Rotate the steak 90 degrees (don't flip yet), and cook another 2-3 minutes, until well browned (see picture below). Flip the steak, and cook another 2-3 minutes, rotate 90 degrees, then cook a final 2-3 minutes until this side is well browned.
*Here's the summary of the searing pattern: 3 min, rotate, 3 min, Flip, 3 min, rotate, 3 min


After the flip. That's what you're looking for: golden brown and delicious.

5. Indirect cook the steaks until done: Move the steaks to the side of the grate that is not over the coals. Brush both sides of the steak with the herb butter, using the herb brush. Check the internal temperature in the thickest part of the steak, away from the bone. You are aiming for 120*F to 125*F for medium rare. Cover the grill and cook for 2 minutes, then check the temperature; if they're still not done, baste with the herb butter again, and flip the steaks. Re-cover the grill, and continue to cook, checking the temperature, basting with the herb butter, and flipping the steaks every couple of minutes. Depending on the heat of your grill, you should be done in another 2-6 minutes; My steaks are usually done after the searing, or the first 2 minutes of indirect cooking.
*If you want your steaks rare, you want an internal temperature of 115*F to 120*F. You should only need 2 minutes of covered, indirect cooking
*If you want your steaks medium, you want an internal temperature of 125*F to 130*F. You will probably need 5-10 minutes of covered, indirect cooking.
*If you want your steaks ruined well done, just keep going. 150*F or higher will be what you want. Just don't tell me about it afterwards.



6. Serve the steaks: Brush your serving platter with a little of the herb butter. Remove the steaks to the platter, and give them one more brush of the herb butter. Let rest ten minutes. Sprinkle lightly with the serving salt. Either serve the steaks whole on the bone, or carve the meat off the bone and cut into 1/2" thick slices.



Two steaks so big that they won't fit on the platter...
Variations:
*Other cuts: this recipe works well with any tender, thick cut, bone in steak. T-Bones and Porterhouses are good substitutions.

*Herbs: Use whatever you like, or have available, in the herb butter. Tarragon, chives, oregano and parsley could all be substituted for the herbs listed in the recipe. Just don't load up on the rosemary; it is very strong, and its piney flavor can easily overwhelm everything.

*Gas grill: Set the grill up for indirect cooking by preheating with all burners on high for 15 minutes. Then, leave one burner on high, and turning the others off. Do the Sear step over the lit burner, and the Indirect step just next to it. Cook with the cover down throughout the cooking time, and expect the searing step to take at least 3 minutes per rotation, and 6 minutes per side.

*Easy steak: Skip the herb butter and the basting, and salt just before cooking. I often do this if I have great quality steaks - they don't need anything but salt and pepper.

Notes:
*Salting the steak early: Letting the steak rest for an hour after salting results in the steak brining in its own juices. The salt starts pulling juices out of the steak immediately, but by about a half an hour of resting time both the juices and the salt are being re-absorbed into the steak, due to osmosis. This results in the salt being pulled deeper into the meat of the steak, seasoning it more thoroughly. However, if you don't wait at least a half hour, then the juices are just pulled out, leaving you with a dried out steak.

*I know that "Mediterranean" means I should be using olive oil instead of butter. It would be more authentic. But...I like butter. It just tastes right with this recipe.

*Serve with a simple green salad with a dijon vinaigrette, and a baguette, sliced 1" thick and toasted quickly on the grill. Or, go for Steak Frites - serve with thin-cut french fries.

*Oh, and of course, serve with a good bottle of wine. I'd recommend a good Cote Du Rhone, or maybe a Rose if the weather is warm enough, but let your taste be your guide.


[Updated 7/23/2009]
More notes from my testing this recipe repeatedly for the cook off:
*I think this recipe works best with a 1.25" steak instead of a 1.5" one.  You get a hit of the herb butter flavor in every bite; thicker steaks don't work as well.  They should be done after the Sear the Steaks step if they are 1.25" thick - they don't need the indirect cooking time.

*If you can get Prime meat for this, it is amazing.  I normally get choice, because of the price difference. They gave us Prime for the cook off, and it changed my mind.  I'm going to spend the extra for the Prime from now on when I really want a great steak.

*And did I mention that I won?  This is now my Award Winning steak recipe.  Whoohooo!

Questions? Comments? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

Related Posts:
Click here for my Grilled Flank Steak with Chimichurri recipe.

Click here for my When Should you Salt Meat? article.

Inspired by:
Cook's Illustrated Magazine - I learned the science behind pre-salting from them, and the basic technique of searing over direct heat, then finishing over indirect heat.
*Most of what I know about cooking science I learned from them. Or Alton Brown. I have a hard time remembering which sometimes.

"Serious Barbecue" by Adam Perry Lang - I use his idea of basting with the herb butter, using a herb brush, during the cooking to help build flavor.


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6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I live in Green and have the same grill as you. I love it and I am trying to convince everyone I know to convert to charcoal rather than propane! My question to you is this: we have the really cool propane starter in our grills, why do we need the chimney?

Mike (m_benear@hotmail.com)

MikeV said...

For me, three reasons:

1. My propane starter is broken - the knob is stuck, and I never bothered to get it fixed, because...

2. I prefer the chimney starter. it holds more coals; the baskets are good for indirect cooking, but for direct cooking I usually want more charcoal than they can hold. More important, the chimney seemed faster to me. It takes me 20-25 minutes to get my coals lit with the chimney; it seemed to be more like 30 minutes with the propane ignition.

3. I'm used to the chimney - I've been using it for years, and it works for me.

If you like the propane ignition, great! Keep using it. "What works for you" is more important than what I say to do on a blog...

Jena said...

Oh, you're from Akron! I miss Akron--it's where I went to grad school. Say, have you checked out the West Point Market cookbook the U Akron Press published? I haven't tried the recipes (I've been moving) but I hope to soon!

Good luck getting accepted to the steak cook-off! Prime rib steaks have been on sale at our favorite meat shop, so we may be trying this soon. :)

MikeV said...

@Jena
I've seen the West Point Market cookbook, but I haven't picked it up yet. Let me know if you like it.

Patrick said...

After watching the Good Eats episode "Porterhouse Rules" (S14E01) I have wanted to try his "dry-age" method.

[url]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBz14EMoVVY&feature=related[/url]

Perhaps this is a job for DCD!

MikeV @ DadCooksDinner said...

@Patrick:

I've tried dry aging beef at home before, (using both Cooks Illustrated and Alton Brown's instructions) and it didn't turn out that great.

Now, if you salt the meat and storing it in the refrigerator overnight (basically, giving it a dry brine) has worked great. That's my preferred technique nowadays.

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