Sans Meal Plan: Steak Night

Given the amount of Scrubs I watched back in high school, I almost never think about it. For all the inside jokes and times I pissed myself laughing, Scrubs is sits deep in the recesses of my pop culture knowledge —back next to Salute Your Shorts, The Jersey or Don’t Look Under the Bed. In fact, I think about hating Zach Braff more than I think about Scrubs itself. Or I think about John C. McGinley in the abstract (because that’s where he looks best). There is one occasion on which I think about Scrubs immediately and without fail. That occasion is Steak Night.

As JD and Turk attest, steak is, in fact, the world’s best meat. Raw chicken is rather disgusting. Rabbits are too much effort. And pigs are filthy animals. So I’ll repeat: it is the world’s best meat. With that truth out of the way, I can assert some more in an enumerated list:

1. Steak Night should be stress free.

2. Steak Night will not be smell free.

3. Steak Night is only Steak Night if it is special and not nightly.

4. Steak Night is best enjoyed with a pal.

And Steak Night can be yours without a recipe. And treat yourself to Steak Night because, excluding vegetarians or vegans, Steak Night keeps us sane. Just when ramen and cooking without a recipe have lost their glimmer, whip out Steak Night. It requires little more than 10 bucks for some cheap, flavorful steak and 10 minutes to heat the cast iron.*

*We will cross this bridge later. Also, you’ll see many references to the steak writing of James Kenji Lopez-Alt—a pal and Serious Eats’ resident genius. If you are a steak obsessive, just skip right to the good stuff.

Cheap flavorful steak for 10 dollars? Yes. Go to East Side Marketplace and the sirloin tips are usually 10 bones a pound (that serves two starving athletes, three hungry coeds, and four reasonable eaters). While not a knockout porterhouse for two, the sirloin tips deliver the meatiness expected from a Steak Night entree while remaining versatile (depending on your taste these can work well in fajitas, sandwiches, kebabs and, of course, as plain steaks). Anyway, tips are cheap and taste good and are therefore a no-brainer for Steak Nights far and wide.

Seasoning can go one of two ways: wet or dry. Typically, I go for a simple spritz of salt and pepper right before cooking (or an hour before), but the tips take marinades well. Also, if you’re doing Steak Night correctly it should be planned far in advance with more than enough time for a marinade. My go-to is a not-so-exact mix of worcestershire, cider vinegar, olive oil, ground black pepper and red pepper flake (maybe a little bit of ketchup if I want to go sweet). Keep the ratios sensible—don’t go all oil or you’ll just have a bunch of congealed fat in your marinade bag—but even a bath of oil and worcestershire will make your steak taste good. I let it sit for around 8 hours (overnight works, too) until Steak Night begins. At this point, the cast iron comes out.

Yes. You’ll need cast iron for the best steak night. Steel skillets can definitely get the job done, but nothing retains heat like cast iron. Cast iron, because it is cast iron, does most of the work for you in the searing process as long as you have kept it oily between uses—and demonstrate the utmost patience while heating. And if you have a grill and prefer grilled steaks, go right ahead and grill but remember that not all of us are so lucky. Regardless, wipe your steaks off after the marinade so there isn’t much excess liquid burning or causing splashes.

Once the cast iron and oil are screaming hot, lay down the steaks and watch the cooking vessel not decrease (much) in temperature. Browning will start quickly. Using tongs, flip the steaks over once one side has had a chance to develop some crust. There will be splashes and the house will smell like steak—this comes with the Steak Night territory. Finally, the only real way to know if your steak is done is with a thermometer. Personally, I prefer a rare steak so I don’t bother. The great thing about tips in a skillet is that overcooking is very clear, as the outside will start to turn black and overly dry before the inside goes too far. In effect, it’s tough to cook your steak past a slightly well medium without noticing it’s getting too cooked.

Finally, I don’t bother with starches on my steak night. Instead, I’ll sauté some asparagus with garlic and onions and finish them off under the broiler. Green veg + Rare Steak = Great Job.

My most recent Steak Night. Sirloin instead of Sirloin Tip. Same Idea.

My most recent Steak Night. Sirloin instead of Sirloin Tip. Same Idea.

And before you eat, you’ll probably want to sing the song. See, Scrubs was good for something.

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