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Hi, I'm Jaden, a professional recipe developer, food columnist and food photographer specializing in fast, fresh and easy recipes for the home cook. Most of my recipes are modern Asian! About meFast, fresh & easy recipes for the home cook.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Steak Recipe: Turning Cheap “Choice” Steak into Gucci “Prime” Steak

Turn Cheap Steak into Prime Steak Recipe

How to Make the Most Tender, Flavorful Steak Recipe

If you are a steak-lover, I hope that the title of this post + luscious photo is enticing enough for you to read though the entire article. Because I promise you that it’s worth it. Even if you don’t eat steak, this is a must-read…as you can impress the hell outta your carnivorean friends (and sometimes, when you’re a vegetarian in a herd of carnivores…it would just be nice to have that extra, “dude….you didn’t know that about steak???!” in your pocket.)

My entire family (including the 2 yr old kid) just adores any type of steak recipe…you could probably classify us as professional steak-eaters. In fact, it is my husband’s life-long quest to hone his grilling technique so that our steaks at home turn out charred crusty on the outside and perfectly medium-rare on the inside. With grill marks for show, of course. Seriously, we are too cheap to eat out and would rather cook a nice steak recipe at home. For the past 4 months, we have been experimenting with how to get full, juicy, beefy flavor of a ribeye with butter-knife tenderness of a filet mignon without feel like getting ripped off buying Prime cuts. And after 4 months of eating steak 2x a week, I think we’ve figured it out. So, my friends, I am offering you a very juicy secret, one that will turn an ordinary “Choice” cut of steak into a gucci “Prime” cut (And yes, I know what “Choice” and “Prime” means – it’s the marbling. The salting doesn’t affect fat content – I’m using those terms as a figure of speech and something people can relate to)

Do you know the joy of buying Choice and eating Prime? It’s like buying a Hyundai and getting a free mail-in rebate for a BMW upgrade!!!

The Steak Secret: salt your steaks 1 hour before cooking for every inch of thickness.

Here’s two nice pieces of regular ‘ol supermarket steak. They’re about 1.25 inches thick, so I’ll let them salt for about 1.25 hours.

Season liberally with kosher salt on both sides with kosher or sea salt. If you are used to using regular table salt, this may look like a ton of salt, but just remember that kosher and sea salt flakes are 2-3x the size of table salt.

And then just let it sit on your counter.

After 15 minutes, it will look like this — you can see how the meat’s water is starting to come up to the surface — and that some of the salt is still on the surface of the steak.

After 30 minutes, you’ll see more water:

After almost an hour:

And now 1.25 hours – see all that water?  You can also see that there’s still salt on the surface of the steak.

The next step is to discard the water, rinse the steak really well to rid of all the salt. Pat very dry. Very very dry with clean paper towels so that absolutely no moisture is left on the steak.

Then it’s time to cook.

Before y’all throw a hissy fit, just hear me out. I first learned of this technique from Judy Rodgers’ The Zuni Cafe Cookbook: A Compendium of Recipes and Cooking Lessons from San Francisco’s Beloved Restaurant. Judy massively salts her chicken before roasting, and I’ve adapted the practice to steaks. Thanks to a couple of other books (McGee’s On Food and Cooking and Alton Brown’s I’m Just Here For the Food), and a few fellow bloggers, I have an explanation of how it works.

Oh, and if the drawings look like a 3rd grader did it, too bad….YOU try drawing with a laptop touch-pad and a glass of bourbon on the rocks.

How Salting Works

How Salting Steaks Work

All of you who season JUST before grilling – this is what you are really doing to the meat. Did you know that? All the water comes to the surface and if you don’t pat super-dry, you’re basically STEAMING the meat. Plus, your salt just sits on the surface of the steak, leaving the interior tasteless.

How Salting Steaks Work

Now – note that only a little of the salt gets to go back into the meat. Don’t worry – you aren’t going to be eating all that salt!

How Salting Steaks Work

Bourbon does that to me too.

How Salting Steaks Work

I can hear it now..BUT!!! What of all the water that stayed on the surface of the meat? Aren’t you drawing all the moisture out of the meat? Will it taste like a salt lick? (*%!*%!@#!#!!! I DON’T UNDERSTAND THIS STEAK RECIPE!!!

Pull your pants back on and keep reading…

How Salting Steaks Work

Verification on Technique

How Salting Steaks Work

Cook’s Illustrated January 08 issue (and you can also find it on their paid portion of their website. Just search for “Improving Cheap Roast Beef”) They salt a 4lb roast beef (big, fat, thick meat) and they are using 4 tsp kosher salt – therefore their steak recipe recommends salting for 18-24 hrs. It’s all related: thickness of meat : amount of salt : time.

Salting Steak Recipe Key Points

  • Use kosher or sea salt, not table salt <– that is important. It will not work well with tiny tiny grains of table salt. Plus, table salt tastes like shit.
  • Use steaks 1″ or thicker.
  • Follow my timetable (below)
  • If you are Harold McGee, a member of Alton Brown’s research team or Mr. Burke my high school chem teacher…..and think I’m full of B.S…. please let me know. But guys, none of this was in your books. I had to formulate, extrapolate, hypotholate and guesstulate based on your stuff. Highly mental activity.
  • I know this sounds awfully like salt-curing, which dries out meat (like beef jerky). But with salt curing, you use A LOT more salt and leave it salting for A LOOOOOONG time. We’re talking about a little tiny nap here – not weeks – just enough to break down the proteins and flavor the steak throughout.
  • Again, don’t worry about all that salt. Just enough of it gets absorbed into the meat. Most of it gets washed down the drain when you rinse off. Really.
  • I know you’re going to ask…so I’ll answer it for you. Why not brine? You could if you really want water-logged diluted-tasting crappy steak.

I understand that this method will cause chaos, confusion and controversy in your household. But I encourage you to experiment: try adding spices, crushed garlic and rosemary sprigs to the salt, which will then act like Christina Aguilera dragging its entourage of flavors with it into the meat. If confusion in the household becomes unbearable, just whack’em with the hunk of salted steak..

Grilled Steak Recipe with Garlic-Herb Butter


Grilled Steak Recipe with Garlic-Herb Butter

Servings: Prep Time: Cook Time:
Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 3.02.35 PM

Revised 9/13/10 to make salt ratio and timing easier to remember.



1. Buy a good sized Choice steak. I like mine 1.25 to 1.5 inches thick. Any cut of steak: Filet, Sirloin, Rib Eye, Porterhouse, T-Bone and NY Strip - they all work. Though, please remember to get steak that you'd normally buy to grill. Don't go buying some weird cut like the cow armpit and expect it to taste just like a NY Strip. You can do this with steaks less than 1", just really watch your timing. If your steak is already superbly marbled - cut back on your timing and your salt! The fattier (more marbled) the meat is, the faster the salt works its way through the meat.

2. Sprinkle 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of kosher/sea salt PER SIDE. Use the photos at beginning of the post as guide on how much salt. For every inch thickness of steak, let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.

  • Less than 1-inch steak: 30-45 minutes
  • 1 inch thick steak: 1 hour
  • 1.25 inch steak: 1 hour and 15 minutes

If you don't have that much time -- well then, add more salt, cut back the time it sits. It's all related:

Thickness of meat : Amount of Salt : Time

And vice-versa, if you need to stretch your time, use less salt. Example: the above steaks that are 1.25" thick - I should salt for 1 hour 15 minutes. But if my timing works out that I'm not grilling for 2 hours - then I'll cut back on the salt and let it sit for 2 hours.

If you want to salt for more than 2 hours or overnight - sprinkle the steak with 1/2 the amount of salt that I've instructed (look at photos for reference), cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

3. Rinse all salt off on both sides, pat very dry with paper towels on both sides <- that part is important. Season with fresh ground pepper (no more salt is needed). Grill to your liking. Top with Garlic-Herb Butter immediately to let it oooooze and aaaahhze all over the steak.

Garlic-Herb Butter Recipe

Garlic Herb Butter

1 stick of unsalted butter, softened (not melted, just softened)
handful of fresh herbs (any combination is fine. My fav is basil and parsley)
1-3 cloves of garlic, smushed in garlic press

To make the Garlic-Herb Butter, combine all ingredients. Lay out a sheet of plastic wrap. Spoon butter mixture on wrap. Roll and shape butter into a log. Refrigerate to firm up for 30 minutes. Slice into 1/4” disks to top the grilled steaks. You can make butter up to 3 days in advance. Make sure you use unsalted butter - the steak is seasoned perfectly already.

Another use for herb butter? Grilled Corn with Lime Cilantro Wasabi Butter

Notice the consistency in ingredients (first photo and the one below): perfect steak always go so well with homemade shoestring fries or homemade potato chips. The green stuff is just to give color to the plate. Unless it has garlic-herb butter slathered all over it too.

Grilled Steak Recipe with Garlic-Herb Butter

Other steak recipes you might enjoy:

dry-bag-aged-steak-40 How to dry age steaks at home with Drybag method

Grilling Kobe Burgers and Sliders Watch me talk about Kobe Beef Burgers on CBS

Artisan Steak Tasting – taste test of 6 steaks from small artisan ranchers

Chipotle Skirt Steak Tacos Skirt Steak Tacos Recipe & Parking Adventures of La Tacqueria

No Knead Bread – so easy a caveman 4-yr old can do it

Negative Calorie Chocolate Cake

Garlic Truffle Shoestring Fries

Tropical Island Salmon: cooking fish low ‘n slow creates the most dreamy, silky fish


*NOTE – I’ve been getting a lot of spam lately, just on this post, so I’ve closed off comments. Thank you! 

1,310 Responses to “Steak Recipe: Turning Cheap “Choice” Steak into Gucci “Prime” Steak”

  1. mari — 1/26/12 @ 3:58 am

    hi just to clarify.. when salting with herbs, spices etc. wouldnt rinsing the salt off after 1hour+ wash away that? or i didnt understand correctly? i was going to try thing out but kinda got confused? wanted to ask before doing it. i hope you can help clarify. thanks :)

  2. Lost Appetite — 1/26/12 @ 4:47 pm

    This was a great article right up until you mentioned table salt “tastes like shit”. For future reference, people don’t like the word shit mentioned with food. All the appetizing pics ar now null and void. It’s a shame you have such a limited vocabulary that you ruined what could have been an A+ article that went viral on Twitter. I won’t be passing this one on to my 3023 Facebook friends or my 11,989 Twitter followers.

    Yes I am a critic, author and blogger

  3. joe — 1/26/12 @ 5:56 pm

    And a dork

  4. Marianne — 1/27/12 @ 12:13 am

    I was definitely a little scared doing this, but this resulted in the best steak I have ever made at home. Thank you!

  5. Michael M — 1/27/12 @ 3:55 pm

    It is baffling to see such a wonderful and informative article ridiculed for including the word “shit.” What sort of sensitive and infantile individual do you find yourself in order to become so offended by such a trifle of an utterance? This, my kind sir, is the year 2012. We, as adults, use different words to express ourselves, sometimes even vulgar ones. Oh, and everybody poops.

  6. Michael M — 1/27/12 @ 3:56 pm

    It is baffling to see such a wonderful and informative article ridiculed for including the word “shit.” What sort of sensitive and infantile individual do you find yourself in order to become so offended by such a trifle of an utterance? This, my kind sir, is the year 2012. We, as adults, use different words to express ourselves, sometimes even vulgar ones. Oh, and everybody poops.

  7. matt25 — 1/28/12 @ 12:24 pm

    The only thing that turned me off was your nose in the air snobbery. I’m glad that he/she told it like it is. Table salt does taste like shit. Why church it up?

  8. Derp — 1/28/12 @ 3:12 pm

    And a twit.

  9. Herp — 1/29/12 @ 3:10 am

    This was a great article until you mentioned Christina Aguilera. For future reference, people don’t like the words Christina Aguilera mentioned with food.

  10. jackson — 1/29/12 @ 7:11 pm

    The recipe didn’t work for me…I think the steak was too thin (3/4 inch), and the length of time salted was too long (1hr 20 minutes)…they were inedible they were so salty. I am going to give it a try one more time…this time with a one inch steak for EXACTLY one hour.

  11. JRae — 1/31/12 @ 12:55 pm

    You, sir, need to work on your comprehensive reading, as it’s clear you didn’t read the article, or at least, didn’t retain anything that you read.

    Quote from article:

    “So, my friends, I am offering you a very juicy secret, one that will turn an ordinary “Choice” cut of steak into a gucci “Prime” cut (And yes, I know what “Choice” and “Prime” means – it’s the marbling. The salting doesn’t affect fat content – I’m using those terms as a figure of speech and something people can relate to).”

  12. JRae — 1/31/12 @ 1:02 pm

    Gahh can’t delete- that was meant for a comment from last August, and other people already addressed them. Whoops. Ah well. Love the post, going to try it tonight!

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  14. LO — 2/1/12 @ 10:30 am

    I haven’t tried this recipe yet, but I really enjoyed reading it. It is entertaining and very easy to understand!. “Churching it up ” is a recipe for dull and boring.

    Lost Appetite…try for just one day to stop being a “tight-assed and a stuck-up prick”.

  15. Pingback: Day 032-2 (T, 120201) — Artisan Steak Tasting; Food Diary, Day 3 | New John for a New Year

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  17. brian — 2/4/12 @ 12:37 am

    I have tried this 4-5 times. Every time, the texture and tenderness is great but its just too salty to be enjoyable. I noticed a few others have had this problem. It seems like too much salt “osmosises” its way into the meat and doesn’t rinse off. I’ve used different salts, but its always the same. Am I using too much salt? Too much time?

  18. Diane — 2/8/12 @ 12:32 pm

    Sounds like an excellent process. Have to give it a try! By the way ~ great cooking requires a vast vocabulary of vulgar words. My Mother swore by it :)

  19. Liz — 2/13/12 @ 11:01 am

    Made this at home last night with some pretty inexpensive NY strip from the ghetto Von’s in Echo park. It. Was. Delicious.

  20. Charlie H. — 2/14/12 @ 4:16 pm

    Yeah well after reading your response to this wonderful article, I now am going to send it to my 5000 friends just to spite the fact that you are a conservative jack off.

  21. Javytracker — 2/14/12 @ 5:25 pm

    I thought the above article is very informative and will try soon. I was going to do this today but my wife beat me to it and put the regular spices on the steaks before I could come down and do them this way.

    Will send an email when I get to do it.

  22. Michelle — 2/15/12 @ 10:41 am

    Jaden, THANK YOU SO MUCH for publishing this salting technique. I am not a very experienced cook, but I was able to make the most delicious steak for my fiance last night. It tasted like something from a very expensive restaurant! So tender and delicious.

  23. dories trippier — 2/18/12 @ 3:51 pm

    Don’t know why you would be offended by the word “shit”. It’s just a word. I am a 65 year old woman and he made me laugh. Maybe you need time to develop a sense of humor!

  24. dories trippier — 2/18/12 @ 3:54 pm


  25. Jen — 2/18/12 @ 4:01 pm

    Oh phooey – I like the realness of the commentary! Keep it up, it’s a fun read!

  26. dories — 2/18/12 @ 7:22 pm

    I just tenderized and barbequed a nicely marbled blade. It was so flavorful and very tender and juicy. Thanks for the great recipe!!

  27. Bruce B. — 2/19/12 @ 8:25 pm

    Just tried this with a piece that was cut from our Christmas rib roast that was tough. It was delicious and tender, one of the best steaks that we’ve had (we also used the herb butter.) I don’t use much salt, so I was a little apprehensive, but there was no saltiness.

  28. Jules — 2/22/12 @ 10:38 am

    I tried it with New York Strip cut. It was great sale – 4pack but meat had little marbling, thus I thought this recipe would work- inky it didn’t. I think the reason was, thickness was 1/2-3/4″ and needed min 1″. I left kosher salt on 45min. I rinsed extra well, and patted extra dry, yet meat still was very tough to chew and extra salty(none added after drying and grilling). So I guess have to use only 1″ or thicker and retry time stated.
    Wish there was a way to tenderize thinner cuts without all the salt.

  29. Jamie — 2/25/12 @ 6:34 pm

    Sounds like a great recipe to try out. Loved the article and it was funny. Has anyone tried the rock salt

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  31. Jenn — 2/28/12 @ 5:23 pm

    That was gross!yeah the steak was tender I’ll give ya that but it tasted like I was eating salt! My family was so disappointed! I will NEVER do that again! U didn’t say how long to rinse for, I salted it like a salt lick that was the main mistake u want to lightly salt it!

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  34. William Hook — 2/29/12 @ 11:29 am

    If any of you are having trouble with this recipe. Try this; marinate your steak the day before or at least a few hours before cooking. Don’t bother buying the expensive marinades. Make your own. And this works on thin or thick cut steaks.

    Start with the base. Use 1 cup oil(evoo) and 1/3 cup vinegar and 1/3 cup water. Continue with this ratio if more is needed. Add a pinch or two of salt per steak…Table salt or kosher, what ever you prefer. Pour over steaks and let the vinegar and salt acids break down the fibers in the meat in the fridge. Don’t forget black pepper before you cook it.

    Add a pinch or two of each for some fun;

    Italian- garlic, basil and rosemary.
    Mexican- garlic, oregano and salsa as a garnish.
    Asian- Garlic and ginger.

  35. This is the most bad-ass advice on gucci’ing steak ever. I’ve used this method for 4 years now, and nary a complaint from my bad ass family. Thanks!!!!!!!

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  37. Kris — 3/5/12 @ 3:23 pm

    Kosher salt is the salt to use here, kosher salt is big yet flat so that it will stick to the meat better. What you’re doing to the meat is NOT breaking down proteins. Salting is actually pulling out moisture from the meat. This method can be reproduced with your fridge and dry aging but it takes longer.


    Also, fuck, shit, bitch, asshole, cunt, dick and fuckwad. Say whatever you want. Readers will come if you give out sound advice

  38. Danielle — 3/8/12 @ 9:20 am

    I made this last night with so-so results. I used fairly cheap steak that was 1″ thick. I salted each side with about 2/3 tsp salt and left it for 45 min. I also rubbed crushed garlic and chopped rosemary on. I rinsed it very well and patted dry very well, seasoned with fresh ground pepper, then grilled. They were pretty tender, though definitely not “gucci”, and I think it’s possible they were tender to begin with. They also tasted SUPER salty. Not to the point where it tasted bad, but way more than my liking. Maybe I should cut it back to 1/4 teaspoon? The garlic herb butter was great though! I used that on my baked potatoes as well.

  39. dories — 3/8/12 @ 6:44 pm

    Less salt sounds good. I have never measured the amount of salt that I use, I just use the salt shaker and “eye-ball” it. I use enough salt to see it (more than I would use if I was just to season it – probably twice as much)

  40. joey — 3/9/12 @ 2:12 pm

    I regularly look on sites like this for ideas for when im cooking meals, and when i find a good recipe like this I save it to a folder in my favourites, yeah you guessed what i named the folder “cookin shit”……..
    p.s I will try this on tomorrow nights steak night.

  41. dories — 3/9/12 @ 2:29 pm

    That’s cute!

  42. kirk — 3/11/12 @ 10:50 am

    i just tried this and was very disapointed with the results, it was way to salty, i tried the recipe again but with alot less salt and the results were stunning, so i came to the conclusion that different cuts of steak will require more/less salting we shall have to experiment.

  43. Liver — 3/12/12 @ 9:49 pm

    ha, pooop.

  44. Khoa — 3/13/12 @ 11:54 pm

    I tried this out tonight but with less than half of the time of exposure to salt, and it came out not bad at all. Next time, however, I will increase the time of salt exposure closer to the recommendation. I’ve even posted not only a photo of the steak being cooked but have recommended this website as well on my facebook food page: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=334521533265826&set=a.228574883860492.73654.228447563873224&type=1&theater

  45. Happy — 3/14/12 @ 1:12 pm

    Thanks!! The whole article was awesome!! I loved our steaks last night too!!! Thank you 1000 times!

  46. Gerfinch — 3/18/12 @ 3:30 pm

    Sodium Chloride is sodium chloride! whether its kosher or rock salt or table salt or any other kind of NaCl ! Know what salt tastes like ? Salt! All salt is the same, paying twice the odds for larger crystals is a joke.

  47. Matthew — 3/20/12 @ 2:35 pm

    Actually, table salt in many countries is iodized, which is what changes the flavour. It’s much harsher. Kosher salt will not have any iodine added and its coarse textures lends itself well to this type of work.

  48. dories — 3/20/12 @ 2:40 pm

    Thank you Matthew, that makes a lot of sense

  49. roo hunter — 3/24/12 @ 7:07 am

    Used this technique on 3/4″ thick kangaroo meat. Too bad i didn’t follow the salting time (more than 1 hour), and my kangaroo steaks turned out to be too salty.

    I guess next time i should either cut the salting time back to 45 minutes or just dilute the salt with a whole lot of spices.

    Anyway, great article! I’m a first time steak cooker, and all of this is gonna help build up my skills!

  50. Erik — 3/24/12 @ 6:18 pm

    Hah!, that’s my grocery store too. Works with cheap pork from The “A” Grocery in Echo Park too.