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Steaks and smoke in a NYC apartment


wannabechef
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Like many, there's nothing i love more than a thick, crusty steak with a nice pink medium-rare interior. After reading so many threads here about different searing techniques with a cast iron skillet, I decided to pick one up (yes, following the EG link :biggrin: )

I live in a typical NYC apartment. My first time trying out my new skillet turned out to be a disaster. The thing caused so much smoke that it not only set off my smoke detector, but my neighbors as well! Needless to say, she wasn't thrilled. I ended up having to finish the steak off in a lower heat oven and it came out meh.

Second time I was more prepared. Opened ALL windows (this is in winter time), turned on fan, disconnected my smoke detector. Same thing again! It STILL set off my neighbor's smoke detector.

So, short of asking her to disable her smoke alarm, is this a hopeless situation? Is it inevitable that the meat will smoke like crazy all the time or are there any techniques to reducing it? Besides grilling, are there any other lower smoke techniques that could be used to cook a high quality steak?

Thanks!

~WBC

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Thank you Mulcahy! Seems like there's already a thread for everything round here. I may try FG's butter method from that thread tonight. Only thing I'm concerned about is that while in the process of browning the outside, the inside will cook too much and become dried out. Guess I'll just have to try it!

~WBC

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Only thing I'm concerned about is that while in the process of browning the outside, the inside will cook too much and become dried out. Guess I'll just have to try it!

not a chance in hell. if your steak is at least 1.5 inches, which it should be, :wink: , it will be *perfect*, with no smoke at all. it's my new favorite thing.

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Thanks Tommy. So I tried it out tonight. I wanted to try first on a supermarket steak as an experiment. I'm too nervous to try new techniques on high quality beef, but maybe thats related to the problem of why my steaks haven't come out so great.

This was a standard supermarket shell steak - probaly only .75" thick. I made a little mixture of kosher salt, pepper, one crushed garlic glove, and a tiny bit of EVOO. I rubbed that mixture all over the (room temp) meat. I used the OO just to help the seasoning stay on. Meanwhile, I heated the cast iron for about 15 minutes on medium-low. I put some butter on the pan and cooked about 1-2 min per side.

The result was that the middle was about how I like it - maybe slightly too done. But I just couldn't get the nice crust. It browned, but it wasn't charred at all. Is that too much to expect with this method? I just feel like with a slower cooking, its going to cook through too much and become tough.

Also, I wonder if the quality and thickness of the meat I'm using is an important factor here? Can you recomend a good cut to start out with for this method? What is a good thickness to start out with? I saw in the supermarket that had rib chops, which were small, but about 1.5" thick or more. Maybe I can experiment with those. Is there ANY good steak to be found in my local supermarket???

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Dont be afraid to ask the butcher to cut some thick steaks for you. Even a national grocery store chain is willing to do this just try to go early in the morning when they are doing the cutting are ask for some for the next day.Thicker the better to me. Filets, ribeye or strip are best because thy have the best fat marbling with the least amount of the tough sinews and cartilage.

Are you basting the steak with the pan fats while it cooks?

It really speeds up the crust part reducing the chance of overcooking because it is gettting wet heat from both the top and bottom at the same time.

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I have a similar problem, I have a bigger kitchen but also housemates whose whole aim in cooking seems to be to cause as little 'mess' and use as little effort as possible.

Hence they don't understand that if I'm cooking steak it will get a little smoky, if I am stir frying it will get quite smoky, and if I am making scorched chilli flavour dishes, well, better get the gas mask out!

I love animals.

They are delicious.

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This was a standard supermarket shell steak - probaly only .75" thick. I made a little mixture of kosher salt, pepper, one crushed garlic glove, and a tiny bit of EVOO. I rubbed that mixture all over the (room temp) meat. I used the OO just to help the seasoning stay on. Meanwhile, I heated the cast iron for about 15 minutes on medium-low. I put some butter on the pan and cooked about 1-2 min per side.

i'm cooking a 1.5 inch thick steak for at least 10 minutes for m/r. i don't think 1-2 minutes on medium low heat would be enough to brown even your finger. thicker steak, more time. give it a shot. :smile:

Edited by tommy (log)
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Do you have one of those big box fans?...Put it in the window facing out and put it on high. That sucker should help get the smoke out a little better.

This is not just an apartment thing...I only do steaks on the grill because the same thing happens in my house, which is not a good thing when it's zero degress outside and you have to open all the doors.

As for supermarket steaks...around here, the chain supermarkets sell "select" beef--blech. Shoe leather in, shoe leather out. We're lucky to have a small, neighborhood supermarket that sells prime meat for the same price as choice...even at their own market! I'll take a 2" thick porterhouse, pleeze....

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Dont be afraid to ask the butcher to cut some thick steaks for you. Even a national grocery store chain is willing to do this just try to go early in the morning when they are doing the cutting are ask for some for the next day.Thicker the better to me. Filets, ribeye or strip are best because thy have the best fat marbling with the least amount of the tough sinews and cartilage.

Are you basting the steak with the pan fats while it cooks?

It really speeds up the crust part reducing the chance of overcooking because it is gettting wet heat from both the top and bottom at the same time.

Does anyone have any idea why supermarkets insist on cutting steaks and chops about half an inch thick? Is it because thin cuts look like a lot more meat in a flat package, or is this what most people prefer?

It's always seemed crazy, if not criminal, to me.

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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Does anyone have any idea why supermarkets insist on cutting steaks and chops about half an inch thick? Is it because thin cuts look like a lot more meat in a flat package, or is this what most people prefer?

It's always seemed crazy, if not criminal, to me.

i can't help but ask myself this every time i look at a supermarket's meat section.

i suppose it's what most people prefer. people generally don't spend a lot of money on food, and don't put much thought into it. compared to us at least. if you gave the average person a 1.5-1.75 inch 22 oz steak they'd think you were freakin crazy or that you were going to feed them for a week. poor souls.

Edited by tommy (log)
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I wonder if it's a cost-cutting tactic on the store's part?

Why sell one 1-inch thick steak when I can sell two 1/2-inch steaks?

 

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I wonder if it's a cost-cutting tactic on the store's part?

Why sell one 1-inch thick steak when I can sell two 1/2-inch steaks?

Steak is sold by the pound, though. Usually.

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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I wonder if it's a cost-cutting tactic on the store's part?

Why sell one 1-inch thick steak when I can sell two 1/2-inch steaks?

Steak is sold by the pound, though. Usually.

Right, but I suppose the psychological dimension makes it easier to sell two thinner half pound steaks for 9 bucks apiece than one thicker one pound steak for 15 bucks.

--

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primerib.jpg

I use the same pan-searing technique whether I'm making a very thick rib steak, or a rib-roast, and sometimes there's not really a difference - this photo of a rib roast is sort of my idea of a thick steak anyway, more or less. But I treat them the same, and there is a LOT of smoke involved. I don't use cast iron because I have an electric stove, so I use the heavy bottom Cuisinarts pans. I have the butcher give me some extra white fat (or I trim it off the steaks) and reneder it in the very hot pan until it's sizzling. Then I lay the steak (or roast) in it sizzling furiously until it crisps, and do the other side. (I have befriended a chef in France who makes a similar steak, and he uses clarified butter, and that works just as well. It may even be slightly less smoky.) For the larger cut (the roast), I'll then put it into a very hot convection oven to finish cooking - I use a temperature probe set for 120 and have it shut off at that temperatrue. During the rest it comes up to beautifully rare. With a steak of let's say an inch or an inch and a half, what I do is take a small cake cooling rack and heat it up in the oven while the steak is sizzling. When both sides of the steak are well crisped, I lift the steak up, put the rack in the pan, and set the steak down on the rack. It's hotter than a resting area would be, and the residual heat of the pan finihses cooking the steak as it (in effect) rests as well.

Because of burning at these temperatures, I don't put any seasonings on the meat before I cook it. But some butter and truffle oil afterwards are sublime on a charred steak (so is just butter and salt, and sometimes so is olive oil and lemon with salt). But there is a LOT of smoke, and I've had the fire department at my door; in fact, one time they wouldn't leave until they saw the smouldering steaks and were convinced nothing else was on fire. So I try for a good draft - I open windows at both ends of the apartment, and that usually does the trick, at least enough to keep the smoke out of the hallway and the neighboring apartments. Sometimes not, though. But I vote for the highest heat you can sear at, and the best attempt you can make at ventilation.

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Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

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You go down that road far enough and everything comes up scallopini.

I bet their profit margins on scallopini are awesome. Have you ever noticed how much more supermarkets charge for pre-sliced boneless/skinless chicken breast compared to the non-sliced kind? Just because it's sliced? It's insane, but it works.

--

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My kitchen has a vent shaft (there's one in the bathroom as well) that leads up to the roof. It's got a little fan at the roof that generates a subtle updraft. When I open my living room window, the updraft increases and it does a pretty good job of getting the smoke out. I sear steaks, chops and chicken on my cast-iron skillet all the time.

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WBC,

I had this exact problem, and then i read the following technique in "How To Cook Everything" by Bittman.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees or so.

Heat up the castiron pan to smoking hot on the stove like you normally would.

Put the steak in the pan and immediately put the pan in the oven.

Reach in with a pair of tongs and flip the steak at the same intervals you'd use if you were cooking it on the stove.

The combination of the heavy pan and the oven heat will keep the pan sizzling hot long enough for you to cook the steak. Doing it in the oven will keep you from smoking up the whole apartment.

Try it, it works great! Just be careful not to burn your hand off on the pan handle.

paul

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I too live in a NYC apartment with an old range without a vent hood. I used a ridged, cast iron pan coated with matte enamel. Mine is by Staub. This BTW is much easier to clean than the Le Creuset one. I make steaks all the time on it, and don't notice too much smoke with it. I get a nice crust on the steaks too, and I lower the heat and finish cooking them on the range until the middle is done. I don't use very thick steaks either. Maybe the ridges help as there is less meat to smoke in contact with the pan. The enameled surface might also help, as there isn't as much seasoning to burn off.

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Does anyone have any idea why supermarkets insist on cutting steaks and chops about half an inch thick? Is it because thin cuts look like a lot more meat in a flat package, or is this what most people prefer?

It's always seemed crazy, if not criminal, to me.

i can't help but ask myself this every time i look at a supermarket's meat section.

i suppose it's what most people prefer. people generally don't spend a lot of money on food, and don't put much thought into it. compared to us at least. if you gave the average person a 1.5-1.75 inch 22 oz steak they'd think you were freakin crazy or that you were going to feed them for a week. poor souls.

Same in the UK, even in the supermarkets 'Finest' and 'traditional' ranges the steaks are always cut very thin.

The thing is I think a lot of people actually prefer them that way (Or at least think they do). There is the percieved better value, and the fact that it cooks more quickly (So it takes less time for them to cook it until it is tough, dry and tasteless).

Also as such steaks are usually fairly poor quality and have rarely been hung for more than a couple of days a thick steak is probably going to be unchewably tough.

I love animals.

They are delicious.

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...

Does anyone have any idea why supermarkets insist on cutting steaks and chops about half an inch thick? Is it because thin cuts look like a lot more meat in a flat package, or is this what most people prefer?

It's always seemed crazy, if not criminal, to me.

I had the audacity to ask this very question and was told "nobody buys them".

I think it's a thing with lots of people that each diner must have a steak - not part of a steak but a whole steak and therefore they buy 6 skinny steaks instead of a nice thick one.

I don't think ANYONE can do justice to a steak less than 1 1/2" thick.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

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