In a city famous for its love of beef, Andrew Keen, executive chef at Vintage Chophouse, a Calgary steak institution that grills more than 50,000 pounds of steak a year, proves his mettle every night. Keen sees hundreds of steaks go through his kitchen each evening at the old-school steak house – "it's important to buy the best steaks you can afford," he advises. We asked Keen for his five best tips on getting the most out of your last steaks of summer.
Turn up the heat
"You want your grill as hot as it will get. Screaming hot. You're probably putting at least four steaks on at once, which will drop the temperature of the grill immediately, and without that blazing heat, you won't get the nice crust you want. I like to season the grill with some canola oil, using a soaked paper towel – once the oil starts smoking, you know it's ready. If you're using the barbecue temperature gauge, 600 degrees is about right."
Don't go from fridge to grill
"One thing most people forget to do is bring their steaks to room temperature before putting them on the grill. If you put a steak straight from the fridge on the grill, the interior is too cold. By the time the inside is cooked to your liking (even for rare), the exterior is usually overcooked. For a 10-ounce New York strip, about 15 to 20 minutes on the counter before cooking will make all the difference."
Keep it simply seasoned
"Some people douse their steaks in Worcester sauce before putting them on the grill. I like to let the meat speak for itself, particularly if you're using a prime cut like rib-eye or tenderloin. Just a bit of salt and pepper. Only salt right before putting it on the grill – otherwise, the salt draws the moisture to the surface of the meat, which doesn't allow you to get the seared crust. Salt and pepper one side, then, while cooking, flip and season the other side."
Caramelize the entire crust
"The crisscross pattern you see so regularly looks pretty, but if it comes out of my kitchen, I send it back. That pattern means the steak doesn't have enough of a crust on it. You don't want to just put a steak on the grill and leave it for 15 minutes, you want to be attending to it, making sure it develops an even crust."
Don't be afraid of a thermometer
"I've got bony hands so every steak feels well done to me, according to that old advice of using your hand and fingers to tell you how a rare/well-done steak should feel. It takes practice to know how well a steak is done just by touch. It's no sin to use a meat thermometer. Just put it in when you think the steaks are ready. You don't want to keep poking holes in your meat. I go by 110 degrees for rare, 125 for medium and 145 for well done."