The Proper Way to Season a Steak
“Steak without salt is sacrilege,” says Aaron Franklin, owner of Austin’s ever-popular restaurant Franklin Barbecue. Franklin is a bonafide expert on meat and has a slew of awards and fans all over the world to prove it. In his latest cookbook, Franklin Steak: Dry-Aged. Live-Fired. Pure Beef, he goes deep on every aspect of preparing a great steak, including seasoning, one of the most important parts of the cooking process. He writes: “When applied in the proper amount, salt should never cause you to say, “Oh, this tastes salty.” Instead, you’ll say, ‘Wow, this steak tastes damn good!’”
So when should you season a steak, and how much salt should you use? Most people sprinkle on the salt just before the meat hits the pan (or grill) and then again, just before it is sliced and served. According to Franklin, this isn’t the way to do it. He says, “It’s good to salt meat in advance of cooking it, just not immediately before you heat it.”
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Salt draws the moisture out of steak, which may sound like a bad thing, but it’s not if you get the timing right. The extracted water dissolves the salt, creating what Franklin calls a “mini brine.” That salty liquid starts to get reabsorbed back into the meat after about 15 to 20 minutes. The longer the meat sits (in the refrigerator), the more well-seasoned and juicy it will be.
Letting the meat rest after it has been salted is key. If you rush this process, the water will sit on the surface of the steak and you won’t get a nice brown crust when you cook it. After extensive testing, Franklin found that the meat got even better when it was left to sit anywhere from 4 to 48 hours. This requires some advance planning, but little effort. If you can’t do this step in advance, let the salted meat rest for about 30 minutes before cooking it.
When the meat is cooked to your preferred doneness and sliced (on a diagonal, please!), add an extra sprinkle of flaky salt on top for an additional layer of seasoning and crunch.