I don’t always drop $40 a pound for steaks. But some things are worth it. Like birthdays. For my annual revolution around the sun, the Mrs. scored me two premium steaks: local(Texas) Wagyu Ribeyes from a couple local butcher shops. Suffice to say these are premium butcher shops and we ate well that day. Which one was actually worth the money?
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Austin is home to two boutique butcher shops that are serious about meat but are as laid back as a lazy Sunday float on a river. Yup, I can’t believe I’m talking like a guy who browses a Yeti catalog. But that’s what 5 years of living in Texas will do to you.
Dai Due(steak on the left) and Salt and Time(steak on the right) are both great butcher shops that I frequent in my hood of East Austin. Their stock changes because they source from small farms. On this day I scored a dry aged ribeye from Dai Due and a regular old Wagyu ribeye from Salt and Time. I’ll give you a moment to feel sorry for me.
I kept the seasoning simple: Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Years ago I went to a Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and was floored by their method of butter drizzled steak. I had to incorporate that indulgence onto my special steak day and still use this:
Hardwood charcoal. The best way I can put a sear on a steak without setting off every smoke detector in my house. I once came across a quote on the interwebs of the late great Anthony Bourdain saying that “if you’re setting off a smoke alarm when you’re cooking a steak, then you are doing something right“. Well, I did that once, and set off the smoke alarms in the hallway of a large, 56 unit loft building in downtown Los Angeles. Two firetrucks showed up. Luckily they didn’t know it was me and I avoided a $10,000 fine. Anyways I cook my steaks outside now.
After getting my fire going, I placed my plancha over the coals and added the olive oil and butter. The Dai Due dry aged ribeye went in first(left) and then the Salt and Time ribeye(right. Not rocket science here: get your cooking surface nice and hot and lay down some sizzle tracks. Such a glorious sound too.
Once I got both sides of the steak seared, I placed them on my grill grates hovering above the plancha and coals. From there I cooked them off at a distance. My grill, a Kudu, works like Santa Maria/Argentinian style grill where you raise and lower the cooking grates in order to adjust cooking temperatures. Old school caveman style and when cooking hunks of beef it just feels so right. Alternatively you could bank coals and sear them on a hot zone and move to a cooler side of the grill. Same with a gas grill by setting up a cool side or kill a few burners and finish with the lid down.
You’re damn right I rested these steaks, and over a wire rack no less just to maintain the sear on the resting side. But in the end, as long as you’re giving these steaks a chance to rest and let the juices redistribute through the meat, you will be rewarded well with this:
I like my steaks somewhere between medium rare and rare. Of course some cuts, like ribeye reward you with fat that make the idea of medium sound reasonable. Still, the thought of overcooking these steaks was too much to bear so I embraced the red.
The Dai Due dry aged Wagyu was an outstanding steak. The flavor of clean grass fed beef rings clear and yet still plenty of marbling.
Here is Salt and Time’s Wagyu. This steak wasn’t as thick at the one above from Dai Due but the cook came out very even. We had this steak after the Dai Due dry aged and frankly, it was the lesser. A solid steak for sure but in the end of the day . . . dry aged beef rules.
The winner by a KO: the dry aged Wagyu from Dai Due. Dry aging adds a complexity to the beef that ultimately stands out from your typical grocery store cuts. Sure, I have gotten decent, even from a wet aged Wagyu like the steak from Salt and Time. Both are fine steaks and clearly above what one would find even at a premium grocery store like Whole Foods. However, if you want that “restaurant level” quality, that taste of a $200 French red wine, something that really tastes like it’s worth $40 a pound . . . go dry aged all the way.