THE FIRST TIME I splurged on a locally grazed, 100 percent grass-fed sirloin steak, well … quite honestly, I blew it.
I carefully prepared all the fixings for my favorite summer dinner: roasted potatoes and corn on the cob, garden fresh salad and raspberry cobbler.
With the picnic table set, I fired up the grill and cooked the steak just like it was the marbled, grain-fed product I had cooked in the past.
But instead of the juicy tender steak I anticipated, my special treat was dry and disappointing.
There is no doubt that grass-fed beef is nutritionally superior to its grain-fattened competitor (less of the bad fats and more of the good ones, not to mention a slew of vitamins and minerals), but the absence of that marbled fat means that it is easy to toughen the meat during the cooking process.
It took me a year before I was ready to try again.
This time I did my homework and learned the simple steps to success: low and slow.
Compared to cooking a grain-fed steak — lower the temperature and extend the cooking time.
And never ever poke holes or slice into the meat until you are ready to serve.
It’s not difficult, but it is essential.
And what about affordability?
All grass cattle ranching is usually small scale, labor intensive and more humane and all of that adds to the price.
You can save significantly by buying on consignment; that is, by purchasing a whole or partial animal directly from the ranch or farm.
Very few families can use a whole cow, but cost-conscious customers form “cow pools” by sharing an animal to split between a group of friends.
Cow-pooling brings the price down so that grass-fed meats can be comparable to the grocery store.
Now when I take a steak out of the freezer, I follow these low and slow tips and my favorite summer grill lives up to all my expectations: tender and delicious.
Instructions for juicy and tender grass fed steaks every time
Remove steaks from refrigerator, pat dry and coat with a thin layer of olive oil or butter (see note).
Season with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.
Trim off the fat.
Let your seasoned steaks sit out until they are room temperature for about an hour.
If using the stovetop, sear the fat trimmings in a heated cast iron skillet until the grease coats the bottom of the skillet.
Once the trimmings are rendered take them out.
For grilling, spray heated grill with vegetable oil before cooking.
Using medium heat, place the seasoned steak on the heated cooking surface and grill on one side for the recommended time.
Turn the steak over using tongs or a spatula, but never a fork, and cook on the other side for the recommended time.
Take the steak out and place on a plate, cover with foil and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Note: There is a lot of confusing health information about cooking with oils out there. The olive oil and butter recommended in this recipe are healthful foods, but they both have a low smoke point and are not usually recommended for high heat grilling. This recipe relies on a lower heat so that these ingredients can be used without concern for the negative health effects of eating oils that have been heated past their smoke point.
Recommended cooking times for medium rare steaks
Bone in, 1-inch cuts such as T-bones and porterhouse: 4 minutes on first side, 3 minutes on the second side.
Boneless, 1½-inch cuts such as New Yorks and rib eyes: 4 minutes on first side, 3 minutes on the second side.
Filet mignons (tenderloins) 1½-inch cut: 3 minutes on the first side, 3 minutes on the second side.
Sirloins and eye of rounds 1-inch cut: 3 minutes on the first side, 2 to 3 minutes on the second side.
Betsy Wharton is the proprietor of the Clallam Canning Co., a local purveyor of artisan pickles and other farm to jar goods. You can find her and her products at the Sprouting Hope Greenhouse at 826 E. First St. in Port Angeles. Or contact her at betsy@clallam canningcompany.com.