Suzi's Blog

Grilling a Steak and Maximizing Meat Flavor

While nothing beats a great steak, we often struggle to attain that greatness. How often have you, or someone at your table, reached for salt, and salt, and salt, to get the flavor boost you are convinced that steak needs.

Of course, there are the endless lines of bottled steak sauces all there for you to try, too, all designed again to somehow “add flavor.” And when we try a sauce, nobody does it a teaspoon at a time. That steak, fresh off the grill, may often find itself drowning in sauce.

So much sauce that you can end up eating sauce with steak on the side. The meat flavor is lost in what came out of that bottle: tomatoes, vinegar, onion, salt, herbs, more salt, …

Yes, I’m on a salt kick but only because my doctor told me so. Here’s a path to a perfectly satisfying  steak that works and that is easy.

First, turn the grill on and get it hot. Grilling the steak is, for many of us, the only way to prepare our meat.

Second, a half hour before you grill, take the steak out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Don’t cook cold. The temperature shock when cold meat is plopped on a hot grill can result in tissue breakdown that destroys the texture of the meat.

Third, during that half hour, coat the steak in a little olive oil and then liberally salt and pepper each side of the steak. By “liberal” I’m talking about a teaspoon a side at most. This is the last time your steak will see salt, by the way.

Fourth, grill away to reach you doneness standard. There’s a “four minutes a side” rule which of course ignores steak thickness and therefore is really not a universal rule. It’s a few minutes a side, though, not several. You do want some redness inside and you do not want to create shoe leather.

Fifth, pull the steak off the grill and do NOTHING. Give it a five minute rest. Now is the time to finally open that bottle of wine, or pour yourself another glass.

Last, plate the steak and serve. Take  2-3 teaspoons of cold butter and drop them on the top of the steak. As the butter melts, squeeze half a lime over the flowing butter. Just half. Pick up your knife and fork and consume away.

Steak sauces generally tend to have a “sour” flavor to them. That “sharpness” is supposed to complement the meat. Well, with this butter-lime technique you cut to the quick. The butter adds richness, just as it would if the steak were pan cooked and then the juice converted into a sauce using, of course, butter. The lime juice gives you that seemingly hidden “brightness” you want  – it really does amplify the flavor — but without all the complex baggage of the “other” flavors that come in those bottle sauces. You’ll taste meat now, not the complex array of tones coming from the bottle.

Miss your sauce? Want to used it anyway? Put in on your baked potato. There, the best of both worlds.


Grilled Flank Steak with Spicy Pepper and Watermelon Salad

I cling to summer. It seems the shortest of seasons. Winter must be six months longer. And while I do love my snowshoeing, I can wait. I treasure the idea of enjoying grand summer meals for just another month or two.

I can’t win this war of the seasons. But we can all still win a weekend battle or two. You can still get watermelon, the peppers are perfection, and your butcher just may have a grand cut stashed away.

This is a hot meal, with chili flavor adorning both the steak and salad. You are in control, though, because the suggested amounts of chile, ginger, peppers and honey can all be adjusted by you. The flavors added to the steak — hot and sour — combine with the caramelization of the grill to give you satisfaction. The salad, with the heat of peppers and coolness of the watermelon, is self-contrasting and serves to balance the heat of that steak.

This is a great Saturday night recipe. Easy to prepare, yet satisfying complex in flavor.

If you are grilling this weekend, and you notice leaves falling around you, just ignore them. They are all going away.

Grilled Flank Steak with Spicy Pepper and Watermelon Salad

Yield: 4 servings:


For the Flank Steak:

  • 1½ tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoons olive or grape seed oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon hot chili paste (such as sambal oelek)
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon rich mushroom soy sauce
  • 1½  pounds flank steak

For the Pepper and Watermelon Salad:

  • ¼ cup chili sauce (such as sriracha)
  • ¼ cup olive oil or grape seed oil
  • 3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1¼ teaspoons honey
  • 2 large bell peppers, preferably assorted colors, diced
  • 2 tablespoons minced red chili peppers
  • 2 cups seedless watermelon, diced
  • Fresh mint, chopped


For the Steak:

Whisk all ingredients except flank steak in a baking dish or bowl large enough to accommodate the steak. Add steak; turn to coat. Cover and let marinate at room temperature up to 2 hours; turning occasionally.

For Pepper and Watermelon Salad:

Whisk hot chili sauce, oil, vinegar, and honey in small bowl; season dressing with salt and pepper. Place peppers and chiles in large bowl. Toss with 6 tablespoons dressing. Set aside.

Preparation and Assembly:

Prepare barbecue or stove-top grill pan over high heat. Grill steak with some marinade still clinging until cooked to desired doneness, about 4 minutes per side for rare. Transfer to work surface; let rest 10 minutes. Thinly slice steak against grain; transfer to platter. Drizzle with some of remaining dressing from salad.

Toss watermelon into pepper salad. Serve flank steak and salad with remaining dressing alongside.

Source: Dorie Greenspan in Bon Appetite