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How to Grill the Perfect Steak

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Telling when a steak is done is not an exact science. One technique is to cut a small slit in the steak to see the color of the meat. A professional presses the meat and compares its firmness to the softer, fleshy part at the base of his or her own thumb; if it's the same density, the meat is rare. The firmer center of the palm is like the feel of a well-done steak. (It takes practice.) An instant-read meat thermometer is most accurate of all; insert it into the center of the steak. Rare is 110 to 115 degrees; medium-rare, 120 degrees; medium, 125 to 130 degrees; medium-well, 130 to 135 degrees; and well, 140 degrees. (Err on the low side, since steaks will continue to cook when removed from the grill.) Allow the meat to rest for 3 to 4 minutes before serving, to allows the juices to emerge from the center.

Chili rub:
1 tablespoon ancho-chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and oil the steaks as in the previous recipe, coating each side with 1 teaspoon of the chili rub. Follow the instructions above for grilling steak, bearing in mind that the steaks should be placed farther from the hot center of the fire, as the ancho-chili powder has a tendency to burn. (Do not use fresh garlic or coarsely ground chilies -- they will scorch and become bitter.)

Herb rub:
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground fennel seeds
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons mustard powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoons Spanish paprika

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Oil the steaks as in the previous recipe and coat each side with 1 teaspoon of the herb rub. Grill as directed above.

From the May 24, 1999 issue of New York Magazine.


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