If you’ve perused the beef counter lately, you’ve likely seen the usual suspects – rump steak, T-bone steak, and fillet steak prominently on display. But tucked away in the corner, you may have spotted a lesser-known cut dubbed “charcoal steak.” Despite its obscurity, this underrated steak deserves more recognition for its melt-in-your-mouth tenderness and robust flavor.
So what exactly is charcoal steak? In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about this superb yet overlooked cut of beef.
Origin of the Charcoal Steak Cut
Charcoal steak comes from the shoulder or chuck area of the cow, just above the ribs. It’s actually the second most tender muscle on the animal after the tenderloin, making it comparable in tenderness to fillet and ribeye steak.
However, there is a limited quantity of charcoal steak available on each cow – only 8 to 10 cuts per animal. This scarcity contributes to its lack of popularity. Still, what it lacks in abundance, it makes up for in sheer eating enjoyment.
You may also see this cut referred to as top blade steak or flat iron steak. These names refer to the same piece of meat, just butterflied or cut differently.
Appearance and Taste of Charcoal Steak
Visually, charcoal steak has a signature appearance. The cut is divided into two halves by a thin piece of gristle running the length of the meat. This inedible connective tissue needs to be trimmed off before cooking.
Despite this seam of gristle, charcoal steak is prized for its ample marbling – the fine streaks of fat interspersed in the meat. This marbling makes the steak exceptionally flavorful, juicy, and tender. Unlike leaner cuts like sirloin, charcoal steak doesn’t require a lot of marination or seasoning to make it palatable. The abundant marbling provides plenty of rich, beefy flavor.
Best Cooking Methods for Charcoal Steaks
To showcase its natural tenderness and flavor, charcoal steak is best cooked over high, dry heat. This allows the outside to develop a flavorful sear while keeping the inside a perfect rosy pink. Here are two of the best cooking methods for charcoal steaks:
- Grilling or barbecuing – The hot, fast cooking over an open grill or barbecue is ideal for this cut. The high heat sears the outside while leaving the inside moist and tender. Just take care not to overcook.
- Pan-frying – For an indoor option, pan-fry charcoal steaks in a heavy cast-iron skillet. Make sure to get the skillet piping hot before adding oil and the steaks. This will create a nice crust.
Step-by-Step Cooking Instructions
Follow these simple steps for perfectly cooked charcoal steaks:
- Trim any visible gristle or excess fat from the steaks. This will prevent burning.
- Pat dry the steaks with paper towels right before cooking. Dry surfaces will sear better.
- Season with salt and pepper or any other spices as desired. Go light, since charcoal steak is already flavorful.
- Sear the steaks over high heat for 1-2 minutes per side. Aim for a golden-brown crust.
- Cook for the following times based on desired doneness:
- Medium rare – 2-4 minutes per side
- Medium – 5-6 minutes per side
- Medium well – 6-8 minutes per side
- Check for your preferred internal temperature with a meat thermometer:
- Medium rare – 130-135°F
- Medium – 140-145°F
- Medium well – 150-155°F
- Rest the steaks for 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving. This allows the juices to redistribute.
The rich flavor of charcoal steak pairs well with a few simple additions:
- Herb or garlic butter – A pat of flavored butter melting over the hot steak enhances its beefiness.
- Baked potatoes – Russets or sweet potatoes make the perfect hearty side. Load them up with your favorite toppings.
- Tossed salad or coleslaw – Fresh, crisp greens balance out the heartiness of the steak.
Sink Your Teeth Into Tender, Buttery Charcoal Steak
With its incredible tenderness rivaling premium cuts and its full-bodied flavor, charcoal steak delivers an indulgent steakhouse experience. The abundant marbling provides a buttery texture that melts on your tongue. Simple grilling or pan-searing concentrates the flavor while leaving the inside irresistibly juicy.
Next time you’re hankering for a satisfying steak dinner, don’t overlook the charcoal steak hiding humbly in the corner. Treat yourself to this underrated cut and experience its melt-in-your-mouth excellence. Once you sink your teeth into its tender succulence infused with beefy richness, you’ll wonder why charcoal steak isn’t better known.
So embrace your inner steak connoisseur, impress your family or dinner guests with your discovery, and enjoy this superb steak that cooks up even better than it sounds. Charcoal steak – now you know it and you’ll crave it!