When chef-owner Victor Arguinzoniz at Asador Etxebarri in the Basque region of Spain cooks steak, he uses only dry-aged, very dark meat from 10-year-old milk cows that, upon retirement from the dairy business, are fattened for a few months before slaughter. The result is a deep flavor that is hard to match. For best results here, use the most well-matured grass-fed beef you can find, and a charcoal grill.
The method employed by Arguinzoniz is to cook the meat for a relatively long time over a thin layer of coals, with some distance between the meat and the fire. That will create a nice crust, but only after several minutes. It’s important to let the meat cook undisturbed. If you do not have an adjustable griddle, as Arguinzoniz does, you can regulate the heat by lifting up the grill grate (with the meat on it), then raking in or removing coals from underneath.
Servings: 2 - 4
- One 2 1/2-inch-thick (about 2 1/4 pounds) bone-in rib-eye steak (sometimes called a Texas steak), preferably grass-fed (see headnote)
- Coarse or kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Extra-virgin olive oil or salted butter, at room temperature, for serving (optional)
- Lemon wedges, for serving (optional)
Let the meat stand at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours before cooking, covered with a clean kitchen towel.
Prepare the grill for direct heat: Light the wood briquettes; when they are ready, distribute them evenly under the cooking area. For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for about 4 or 5 seconds. When ready to grill, clean the grate well with a wire brush. Use an old dish towel to lightly oil the grate. When all of the coals are covered with a thin white layer of ash, you can start grilling. First, remove the ash by blowing gently on the coals. Rake a thin layer of coals onto the middle of the grill; the coals should cover an area slightly larger than the steak.
Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper on one side and place this side down over the coals. Cook uncovered for 12 to 14 minutes without touching or moving the meat, if possible. If you are uncertain about the browning, remove the grill grate and inspect the meat from below, if possible.
Meanwhile, start more wood briquettes in a chimney starter; you will need this to finish cooking the steak’s second side.
After 3 minutes, the steak should start browning; after 6 minutes, it should be nicely browned but not burnt. After 12 minutes, the steak should have a thick, attractive crust, but it should still not be burnt. Adjust the heat either by placing the grill grate higher or lower, or by raking in and/or raking out coals.
Use tongs to turn the meat over. Add fresh hot coals at this point, distributing them directly and evenly under the steak. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes on the second side, until browned, but significantly less so than on the first side.
Transfer the steak to a cutting board; let it rest for at least 5 minutes before carving. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper before cutting into thick slices.
If desired, serve with a little oil or butter and lemon wedges.
Adapted by Gastronomer Andreas Viestad.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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