Cook a Steak at Home Like a Pro
How Tony Tammero, corporate executive chef at The Palm, makes the perfect New York Strip in the comfort of his own kitchen.
In 1926, two Italian immigrants applied for a business license for a restaurant named after their hometown, Parma. The New York City official misunderstood their heavily accented English ("Palma, Palma"), and the Palm was born.
Originally an Italian restaurant, the Palm evolved into a steak house when cartoonists from the nearby King Features news syndicate started asking for steaks. (When they couldn't pay their tabs, the artists gave birth to another Palm tradition—doodling caricatures of regulars on the walls as well as contributing their own work, like Popeye and Beetle Bailey.)
Here, the Palm's corporate executive chef, Tony Tammero, who started at the Second Avenue restaurant in 1963, shares the secret of how he cooks steak at home with minimal smoke and maximum flavor. Hint: "The home broiler is definitely not a choice. It just poaches the steak and takes the blood right out of it, and you end up with gray meat," says Tammero. If you're too busy to fire up your own stove, you can always hit up the 50 Best Steakhouses in America.
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What you need:
—2 matching aluminum skillets with stainless-steel interiors and metal handles. Tammero likes a basic Wearever skillet—not Teflon and not cast iron, as they "smoke too much."
—2 16-ounce USDA Prime New York strip steaks, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches thick and aged 28 days. ("Tell the butcher you want 'em 'clean to the silver', meaning with a little fat on the edge. Then trim the excess fat," says Tammero.)
—1 tablespoon olive oil
—Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
What to do:
Brush the steaks with olive oil and let stand at room temperature, uncovered, for 1 hour.
Place one of the skillets over high heat. Sprinkle one side of each steak with a little salt and pepper. Do not season the meat beforehand. ("Salt bleeds the meat," Tammero says.)
When the skillet gets hot (after about 3 minutes), place the steaks in it, seasoned side down. And here's the trick "that will save your marriage," Tammero says: Use the second skillet as a cover by turning it upside down and placing it atop the steak. This captures the smoke, keeping your house from smelling beefy for days.
After 3 minutes, carry the skillets to the window or back door, remove the top skillet, and let the smoke out. Season the top side of each steak. Then, with a pair of tongs, turn the steaks over, cover, and return to the stove for 3 more minutes.
Transfer the steaks to a rack set over a plate and let stand for at least 30 minutes. Thirty minutes before you plan to finish the steaks, preheat the oven to 425¯F.
Return the steaks to the skillet in which they were seared and finish cooking in the oven for 8 minutes for a warm red center (medium rare) or 12 minutes for a pink center (medium). Let rest for 8 minutes.
Finally, the touch test:
Tammero warns against cutting into the meat to see if it's done. He prefers the touch test that he learned from the Palm's original chef: Let your left hand hang loose. With the index finger of your right hand, press down firmly on the area between your left thumb and forefinger to gauge the softness; that is how a blood-rare steak feels if you press it just as hard. Now make a loose fist with your left hand, and press the same area again. That's how a medium-rare steak feels to the touch. Make a tight fist, press again, and you will feel the spring-back of a well-done steak. Once you've mastered the steak, be sure to learn these 5 Easy Kitchen Moves Every Guy Needs to Know.