We were pleasantly surprised by some of the 10 most requested recipes of 2017 according to Google, because there’s a resurgence of interest in some of the classic homemade recipes. We are delighted to see some long time classics appearing on the list, including the most sought after recipe, Beef Stroganoff! Read all about the top ten at our new address: https://vaughnkitchens.com/

Bon appetit!

It has been twelve years since Lea was so desperately ill in Hartford Hospital, and the generosity of my friends and family during that time (and after) makes my heart swell with pride and gratitude. Thank you!

You may recall that in 2008, Lea and I started putting our personal home recipes in what we dubbed an online cookbook posted at this address. The project was intended as a rehabilitative process for her, and I think, worked well, as we later went on to cook for large dinners (50-100 diners) at our church for several years.

Our cookbook has grown to hundreds of main-dish items, and dozens upon dozens of other recipes from soups to salads, and include additional contributions from family members, and dozens of recipes we have acquired from friends and neighbors we used over the past 4-5 decades. Since 2008 we have cooked those recipes again in order to photograph the results to communicate the appeal of each dish.

Thank you for your interest in our cookbook! Please visit us at the new, resigned recipe site, at https://VaughnKitchens.com which will permanently replace morecooking.net when that address expires in the coming year. Don’t forget to “follow” the new recipe site to continue receiving our updates, and we hope you’ll enjoy the more expansive “search” function located at the bottom left of the page.

Thanks again,
Lea and Larry Vaughn

This is the season I recall fond memories of being in his huge garden with my great-grandfather harvesting the vegetables that needed to be picked before the first hard frost, and my great-grandmother canning (preserving) them in that big, scary, pressure cooker. Some of the even better memories are the dishes she would cook for us, celebrating the bounty of a well tended herb and vegetable garden with all its variety.

Among our favorites was the wonderful potato; Russets for baking, frying and roasting (not suitable for soups); all purpose white potatoes (creamy when baked yet hold their texture when boiled); and waxy varieties like Yukon Gold and red potatoes that are ideal for potato salad, soups and stews, but can also be roasted and baked. Here are a few time-tested side dishes that celebrate the potato.

Roast Parmesan Baby PotatoesThis is an easy, but elegant, side dish that really pleases the eye and the taste buds. The boiling cooks them through, while the roasting gives them a crunchy skin. The parmesan cheese and mustard are a natural favor combo, and these potatoes are an excellent side to serve with any entree that would be complemented by a hint of mustard. Here’s the recipe.

Twice Baked PotatoThe versatile potato can be cut into slices as you see here, or just cut the skin off the top, scoop out the interior, fluff it up, and put it back in! This technique with russet potatoes creates a skin that will hold up to this kind of handling without falling apart. Use the same technique to create some delicious potato skins to serve as appetizers, or serve three or four as a side dish. The recipe is located here. Here is also a version for Twice Baked Potato Skins

Purple Fingerling PotatoesEye catching purple colored fingerling potatoes add a striking contrast to brighten up any lunch or dinner plate. Sprinkle with grated cheese, dress with a light vinaigrette, or add Italian flavoring to compliment your entree. Serve these as a delightful side dish, or stick a round toothpick in them lengthwise to turn them into baked Hasselback appetizers! Here’s the recipe, which includes the Hasselback appetizer.

Make Ahead Mashed PotatoesThis recipe uses the restaurant process for preparing light, fluffy, and flavorful mashed potatoes that deliver on that silky texture that we love on our plates. Whether topping with gravy, a sauce, or an entree meat, no one will know that these were made ahead of time. It’s a great time saver when you’re trying to get multiple dishes ready for that special occasion meal. You can find the recipe here.

Orange and Gold Potato CasseroleHere is an eye catching casserole that combines bright orange sweet potatoes with with gold potatoes, ricotta or cottage cheese, and your choice of Romano cheese (creamy), asiago cheese (saltier), or parmesean cheese (salty and nutty). You can layer with same color slices to achieve rows of color, or alternate as we have done here, to create a colorful basketweave pattern in your servings. Here’s the recipe.

Fried Potatoes
This is a hearty side dish that can be adapted many ways including being a wonderful campfire dish for campouts. It uses the classic mirepoix base of onions+carrots+celery, so it has all the flavors that blend so well to elevate your dish into yummy goodness. Fry an egg or two to put on top, perhaps even drizzle on some gravy, and now you have an entree! Here’s the recipe.

What are your favorite memories or traditions? What dishes make regular appearances at your family’s gatherings?
Potluck Supper
We’d be happy to try out your recipe, and share it with our followers. Just leave us a recipe or other info in the comment section below.

Who are the Roulades, you ask? It isn’t a who . . . it’s a what! A dish cooked or served in the form of a roll, typically made from a flat piece of meat, fish, or sponge cake, spread with a soft filling and rolled up into a spiral. And, it comes packed with the flavors you love, because you combine your favorites to create your own “special dish.”

Spinach and Sausage Pork Loin RouladeSpinach and Sausage Pork Roulade
This eye pleaser delivers on flavor, with chopped spinach and slivered almonds combined with Italian sausage and a variety of herbs and spices all rolled up into a roll-cut or butterflied boneless pork loin roast. Lea usually serves this with Fennel-Potato Au Gratin. We also have a version with holiday-time seasoning. You can find the recipe here.

Cranberry-Lemon Pork Loin RouladeCranberry-Lemon Pork Loin Roulade
Here is a delicious pork dish that is elevated to formal dinner status and delivers the flavor that its presentation promises. This tasty treat combines the flavors of cranberries, lemon, mustard, and brown sugar to titillate the tastebuds and please the pallet. Finish your servings with a tablespoon of pan-drippings sauce or pork gravy, and garnish with fresh chopped parsley or micro greens. An excellent side dish for this roulade is the Roasted Parmesan Baby Potatoes.

Parmesan Stuffed Chicken RouladeParmesan and Gloucester Chicken Roulade
Based on our delicious Parmesan Stuffed Chicken Breast Another pallet pleaser is this cheesy roulade which goes together quickly and delivers superb, rich, flavor while keeping sumptuous chicken breast the star of the show. Parmesan and gloucester cheeses are combined for this roulade, but, of course, any cheeses you prefer can be mixed and matched to take the flavor in the desired direction. An excellent side to accompany this dish is our savory New Potatoes and Mushrooms in Brown Gravy

Flank Steak Bacon and Spinach RouladeFlank Steak Bacon Spinach Roulade Medallions
Chopped spinach, crispy bacon and earthy mushrooms combine with your favorite steak seasoning to create a colorful and delightful roulade that dresses up the dinner plate and takes the meal to a new level of appeal. This is a dependable entree that pleases every time. An excellent side with this roulade is our Twice Baked Potatoes.

Parmesan Beef Braciole Beef Parmesan Braciole
The traditional braciole (the word is commonly pronounced /bra’zhul/) is the name given to a roulade (typically pork, chicken, beef, or fish) that are filled and rolled, browned and then braised in a sauce. This is an Italian flavored roulade with thyme, oregano, parsley, rosemary, basil and black pepper, baked in a tomato sauce and served on a parmesan crisp.

Larry ties pork roulade with cook's twineRoulades are fun, very flexible, and can add an element of class to everyday meals. The fillings are the fun part, allowing you to be as creative as you like, taking the flavors in your favorite directions. Meat roulades give you all the flexibility you need to wow the family and your guests with striking presentations without may limitations. One rule of thumb, however: always roll the meat with the grain running end to end so when you slice it later, across the grain, the beef will be more tender. For those who are intimidated by the thought of creating a roulade, visit our How To Truss A Roulade page. Enjoy!

5X5 Super Deluxe PizzaSometimes an extravagant, once-in-a-while, homemade, super deluxe thin crust pizza is the only thing that will fill the bill, and it isn’t something you can order from the local pizza shop. This one is special. It is substantial. It is a party of flavors that burst to life in your mouth. And, it is super easy to put together. Five meat flavors, and five types of cheese with a homemade pizza sauce that delivers intense tomato flavor to a ready-to-top pizza crust.

The Sauce
Homemade Pizza SauceThe recipe for this sauce is located here. You can, of course, use any pizza sauce you prefer. Ours has a deep, complex, tomato flavor derived from a base of dense tomato paste, onion, garlic, Italian seasoning, and smokey Paprika, finished with Parmesan cheese. The beauty of pizza is that you can choose whether to use store bought, or put some love into making your own. For this pie we started with a Ultra Thin, Ready to Top, pizza crust from the store, and heated it for about 15 minutes at 425 degrees (F) to melt the toppings together.

The Meats
Bacon, Ground Beef and Ground SausageMeat selection for the pizza is, of course, a matter of taste. For ours, we cooked bacon to the crispy stage, so we could later crumble it. We also cooked a half pound of ground beef seasoned with salt and pepper, and a half pound of ground pork, seasoned with a level teaspoon each of Italian Seasoning, onion and garlic powders, and worcestershire sauce. We also stewed, then drained, a handful of mushrooms in beef stock to intensify the beef flavor in the pie.

The Meat Layer
Thin crust pizza with meatsThe meat layer is a thing of beauty for meat lovers. It starts off with a layer of pepperoni, topped with seasoned ground beef, Italian flavored ground pork, crispy bacon crumbles, and finished with the mushrooms stewed in beef stock. We then topped this layer with sliced black olives and thin sliced green bell pepper. Any veggies you like could finish this layer with just the flavors you prefer.

The Cheese
Assembled 5X5 Meat and Cheese lover's pizzaWe always order extra cheese when we buy a pizza, so it only makes sense that we would use multiple cheeses on our own pie. We used a packaged Mexican blend of Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Asadero, and Queso Quesadilla, from the diary section of the grocery store, and crowned that with a big handful of shredded whole milk Mozzarella.

As you can see, the ingredients stack up high into a mouth-watering blend of our favorite combinations. Flatbread embellished with toppings dates back to antiquity, when any manner of combinations were used to add flavor. This pie certainly does that well, and your own favorites can be combined to create a pizza that boldly becomes your own homemade classic.

Pouring batter into baking panCooking should be fun, and there is little more rewarding and fulfilling than sharing the kitchen with a grandchild who likes to learn. We have a young grandson who loves to be in the kitchen when we are preparing anything from soups and salads to desserts. He is one of those children who snacks continuously, and enjoys trying most new food items to which we introduce him. He uses one of those 2-step ladders to reach the counter top, and even likes to prep and sanitize the work area, under close supervision, of course. In this photo he is pouring the cake batter to make a pineapple upside down cake.

Recently, during a visit, out of the blue, he stated that we should make a pie. A few months ago he and I made a raisin pie with a lattice top, and he enjoyed learning to cut and place the lattice on top. Checking what we had on hand to make a quick pie, I found a deep-dish graham cracker crust in the freezer, and in the pantry were a can of apple pie filling and another of lemon pie filling, along with a box of Crumble Crisp Topping. A perfect project for the little guy! Here’s how we put it together.

Steps in Sour Apple and Graham Cracker CrispIngredients:
1 Deep dish Graham Pie Crust (two layer)
1 can (21 oz) apple pie filling
1 can (15.5 oz) lemon pie filling
1 box (10 oz) Crumble Crisp Topping Mix
2 Tbsp butter, melted (or amount specified by the topping mix)
1/2 tsp cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 375 F
2. Place the room temperature graham pie crust on a cookie sheet
3. Place in preheated oven for 5 minutes, then cool before filling
4. Add the apple pie filling, spreading evenly over the crust
5. Sprinkle the cinnamon over the layer
6. Add the lemon pie filling, spreading evenly over the bottom layer
7. Prepare the Topping according to instructions on the box
8. Spread the crumb topping evenly over the pie, spreading to the edge
9. Place in oven, on the cookie sheet, and bake 25 minutes.
10. Spoon into bowls while still warm, and, if desired, top with a scoop of ice cream.

This quick and easy dessert was a hit with the family! The contrasting sweetness of the apple and lemon pie fillings, combined with the Crumb Topping made for a festival of flavors going on with every bite. It was fun to make, and fun to eat! And, if you have little ones that like to help, this goes together quickly, keeping their interest, and the short cooking time gives them almost instant rewards. Enjoy!

We couldn’t help it (Grin) The title really does say it all, though. A hardy chili soup is a wonderful warmer upper for these bone-chilling cold days of winter. Beefy, and full of delicious flavors, chili soup can range from one extreme to another. In our own soup category we have chili soups mild enough for children, and those 2-alarm varieties for those who like to sweat as they enjoy the earthiness of browned beef combined with all those delicious tomatoey flavors. We have even made a pork-based chili, and, of course, a no-meat version that delivers the flavor so well you almost forget that its vegetarian!

Basic Chili Soup
Basic Chili SoupEvery chili starts with the basics and builds from there. This version is a very versatile recipe developed for our grandsons, ranging in age from 4 to 9, all with different preferences for how much spiciness and heat they like. We serve the basic chili with sides of sour cream, grated cheese, and a variety of hot sauce(s). This basic recipe can also work as your base chili soup, allowing you to add flavorings, adjusting the ingredients, to develop your own recipe. The recipe is here.

Campfire Chili (Mild)
Larry's Campfire ChiliLarry used to really enjoy cooking up a big pot of this chili soup over a campfire, starting it right after lunch and letting it cook all afternoon, blending its flavors with the smoke from the wood fire. The aromas were tantalizing, and by dinner time everyone was anxious to dive in. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese on top, or take it in what ever direction you like by selecting some of your favorite sides. Here’s the recipe.

Larry’s Chipotle Chili Soup (Medium Heat)
Chili with Mild HeatFor those who like a little bit of heat in their chili, here’s a recipe that uses delicious chipotle chilies in adobo sauce that delivers just enough heat to sit on the back of the tongue without overpowering the pallet. We also use lean ground beef and fire roasted tomatoes for that great outdoor flavor that’s almost too big to fit in a bowl. The recipe is located here.

Gene Vaughn’s 2-Alarm Chili (Hot)
Gene Vaughn's Chili in Black PotThis recipe was one of Larry’s dad’s favorites. Gene enjoyed cooking for “all the guys” on National Guard drill weekends. His recipe has adapted and embellished from the Army’s 1944 Cook’s Manual, Recipe #321 (Chili Con Carne). Adjust the seasoning if you don’t want it hot as it does carry a lot of spicy flavors, mellowed by the chocolate flavor. Find this hot-as-you-like-it recipe here.

White Bean and Pork Chili (Mild)
White Bean and Pork ChiliA delightful change from most chili soups, the mild Poblano and green chilies add the chili flavor you might think you’d miss without chili powder, but the flavor is there, and the chilies are quite mild. This flavor goes very well with corn chips, and can be elevated to another level by adding slices of avocado and squeezing more lime juice over them. The recipe is located here.

Vegetable Chili (No-Meat)
No-Meat Vegetable ChiliHere’s a vegetable chili that even meat lovers will like. Dice the veggies for this in a larger dice than usual, about the size of a kidney bean, to give those meat eaters the “toothiness,” or, “bite,” that is usually associated with meat. Adjust your seasonings to taste, and you’ll have a dish that everyone at the table will find comforting and delicious. Here’s the recipe.

Spoon Dumplings for Soup
Black Pot Spoon DumplingsLooking for something a little special? Take any soup or stew to a whole other level by adding simple spoon dumplings just like great-grandma used to make. This recipe was handed down by Lea’s grandmother, and has long been a family favorite. These dumplings are moist and silky, adding another layer of flavor and texture to elevate your dish. Here is the recipe.

Do you struggle with guessing how well done your steak is? Do you make a calculated guess based on thickness of the steak, heat of the fire, and a length of time to the desired doneness? Sometimes that works, but often it fails dismally. So, is there a better way? How do steak houses seemly get it right every time? Have you noticed that they don’t poke them with meat thermometers? Any time you poke a hot steak you let all those delicious juices run out into the plate where they are wasted. Professional chefs can tell when a steak is done just by feeling it, and you can learn how to do the touch test too.

Chefs have developed four primary “touch” methods, including the “Face Test,” where the firmness of the steak is compared to various areas of the face. But, we don’t like the idea of our cooks touching their face while they’re cooking food, so we are going to discuss three other methods that use hands, which are more likely to be clean every time. Each of these methods takes a bit of practice, which is a great reason to cook (and eat) more steak.

Spring Back Touch Method

  1. Lightly press the center of the steak with your thumb. If it feels really soft, or jelly-like, it is still rare.
  2. When the center of a steak has a little more resistance and just springs right back, its perfectly medium rare. (It’s important that it springs back!).
  3. If it’s just firm and hard, and has no springiness, it’s well done (overcooked, in our humble opinion).

Fist Touch Method

  1. First, make a relaxed fist. The fleshy area of your hand between your thumb and forefinger is soft, which is how a rare steak feels.
  2. Now, slightly clench your fist. It will feel a little firmer, like medium doneness.
  3. The last step: Clench your fist tightly, and that area will feel like well-done meat.

Palm of the Hand Method
Palm tests for steak doneness
We like this one best: Here’s how to do the Palm method:

  1. Hold your hand out, palm up, and relaxed. Poke your hand by the base of the thumb with your other index finger. This is what raw meat feels like.
  2. Now, make an OK sign with your hand by touching your forefinger and thumb together. Feel the same part of your hand. It’s a little firmer. This is how meat feels when it’s rare.
  3. Move your other fingers to your thumb in the following order. As you do, you’ll notice the pad of your hand will get progressively firmer:
  4. Touch your middle finger to the tip of your thumb. That’s how a medium rare steak feels.
  5. Next, touch the tip of your ring finger to your thumb. This is what a medium-well will feel like.
  6. Lastly, touch your pinkie to your thumb. That’s the equivalent of a well-done steak.

Both these methods are fairly easy, and once you get the hang of it, you’ll cook perfect steaks every time.

Sound sound too complicated? It really isn’t, but we realize that the touch method can appear to be, until you get some practice in. In the meantime, if you would rather continue using an instant read thermometer, here are the temperatures for doneness:

  • Extra Rare – 115-120 degrees
  • Rare – 125-130 degrees
  • Medium Rare – 135-140 degrees
  • Medium 145-150 degrees
  • Medium-Well – 155-160 degrees
  • Well Done – 165 degrees

What happens if the steak has a gorgeous crust, but the temperature clocks in too low? It’s time for pan roasting! Fire up the oven and preheat it to 400 degrees F. Meanwhile, put your steak on a roasting rack on a baking sheet with sides. Stick it in the oven. It’ll finish cooking without getting too dark.

For other insights into proper techniques for cooking that delicious piece of steak, see our notes on 7 Tips to Cooking Great Steaks.

Have you ever noticed the cooks in your circles that have a favorite dish that is always requested for pitch-in dinners? There’s always the dessert folks, and the brisket baker, and, of course, the popular deviled egg favorite. Deviled eggs are always a hit, and so is the person that makes them. And, preparation isn’t that hard to do, it’s mostly a matter of boiling eggs and mixing up the yolks to go back into the egg whites. The problem with boiled eggs is the boiling and peeling. And, it seems there are always one or two that crack and leak some egg whites during the boiling stage.

There is a much better, more reliable, method that delivers great hard cooked eggs; steaming! I learned to steam eggs, rather than boiling, a few years ago while watching one of Alton Brown’s Good Eats episodes. This method has a few real advantages over boiling eggs, not the least of which is the ease of peeling them without destroying the wonderful smooth surface of the skin, and there are no cracked eggs caused by jostling about in boiling water. This method is reliable and provides perfectly hard cooked eggs.

2 1/2 Qt saucepan with steamer basketAll you need is a saucepan with a steamer basket and a lid, or, for larger batches, a Dutch oven with steamer basket and lid.

The keys to getting this just right are:

  1. Decide whether you want your egg yolks, soft, medium or hard;
  2. Decide how many eggs you want to cook in a batch (minimum is 4, I’m told);
  3. Determine how long to steam the eggs
  4. Plan the process, and get tools and accessories ready

This all comes more easily after you try it a couple of times. I usually cook in batches of 12-24, so I will focus on the Dutch oven process. As mentioned, you can cook small batches of 4 or more eggs in a saucepan with a steam basket, although I have not experimented with the smaller amounts. I have found some info on the small batches, which indicate:

  • 6 minute active steaming in a single layer for soft yolks
  • 10 minute active steaming in a single layer for medium yolks
  • 12 minute active steaming in a single layer for hard yolk with bright color

The reason I use the term “active steaming” is because warm up time doesn’t count. If you put cold eggs straight from the refrigerator into the pan, you have to recover the heat you lost when you lifted the lid, and you have to heat the egg to room temperature before any real cooking begins. So, you put in the eggs, you replace the lid, and you watch for steam to begin to escape from your vessel, then start your timer. I also read in various comments that if you steam your eggs in a double layer, it adds about two minutes to active steaming time to get the same results as listed above.

Here’s my process for steaming 18 Extra Large eggs, which is the maximum I can get in my Dutch oven steamer basket in a single layer.
18 eggs in steamer basket

  1. Remove the (extra large) eggs from refrigeration 30 minutes before cooking begins, and place on the counter next to the steamer basket
  2. Add at least one inch of water to the Dutch oven up to 1/2 inch below where the bottom of the steamer basket will be
  3. Cover the Dutch oven with the lid, and bring to a boil over high heat, and when steam starts escaping, reduce the heat to medium high, to produce a steady simmer (indicated by steam escaping)
  4. Meanwhile, arrange the eggs in the steamer basket
  5. Remove the lid from the Dutch oven, drop in the steamer basket loaded with eggs, and replace the lid
  6. Watch the Dutch oven for signs that steaming has begun, and when it appears, start your timer for 12 minutes for soft yolks, 14 for medium, and 16 for hard
  7. While the timer is running, prepare an ice bath. I do this by emptying my ice maker tray into a clean sink and adding enough water to cover the eggs
  8. When the timer is finished, turn off the heat, remove the lid (lift the edge away from you) to release built-up steam
  9. Basket of Steamed Eggs in Ice Water Bath

  10. Move the Dutch oven to an area near the water bath, and lift the steamer basket out, and place into the ice bath
  11. If you are going to peel the eggs right away, let them sit in the bath about 3 minutes so they are cool enough to handle, and yet are slightly warm in the center

Larry with Pot of Hot BrothTo peel your eggs, roll them on a hard surface so that you crack the middle of the shell all the way around. I use the palm of my hand to roll them, but I’ve also seen chefs use the handle of a knife, too. If everything works well, you should be able to peel the cracked part off pretty easily, and then pull the ends off in whole pieces. I have had varying degrees of success with this, and believe that fresher eggs peel more easily. The longer they sit in the refrigerator, it seems, the more I have to pick away at tiny pieces to get them peeled. By the way, I use these large batches of eggs to make Pickled Eggs, an occasional, fun, treat for the family.

We love a tender, juicy, well-cooked beef steak. Because preparing it perfectly involves proper technique, temperature control, timing, and seasoning, cooking a steak is a great test of your culinary skills. Cooking the perfect steak might not be as easy as you wish, but with practice, and some insight, you can quickly master it. Here are six tips on how to cook the perfect steak every time.

1. Get Your Grill On

Grilled Rib Eye with Baked Potato

Grilled Rib Eye Steak

Grilling is the best way to cook a steak, whether indoors or out. And, the way to best grill a steak is to get the grill very hot. Place your steak on it. Stand back. Don’t touch it. After about three minutes, use a long pair of tongs to flip it over. Grill it for another two minutes or longer, depending on how thick it is. Don’t poke it with a thermometer, or cut into it to see what color it is, because the hole or slice will just let all the juices leak out, and your steak will be dry and chewy. A medium-rare steak will be light pink at the center and between 130° and 140° F.

Grilling times depend on how thick the steak is cut. However, in every case, the grilling should be done on a very hot grill directly over the heat source. To cook your steak to medium-rare:

  • 3/4 inch thick – cooks 3-5 minutes per side
  • 1 inch thick – cooks 6-7 minutes per side
  • 1 1/2 inches thick – cooks 7-8 minutes per side
  • 2 inches thick – 10-12 minutes per side

grilling-times-by-steak-thicknessThese suggested times will vary, depending on how hot your grill gets. A little practice will help you nail down the perfect timing. Additional methods of cooking vary by the type of steak you’re serving, and there’s some great insight on cuts of meat and cooking techniques here.

2. Warming Things Up

T-Bone Steak, uncookedWhether you’re cooking a thin strip steak, or a thick porterhouse, you have to plan ahead, and that means taking the steak out in advance of actually cooking it. This gets rid of much of the chill, and lets it approach room temperature. The warmer the meat starts out, the less time it takes to cook the center, and therefore, less time the outer layers are exposed to high heat which can cook them beyond the desired doneness.

So, how long is “well in advance”? For the thinner cuts, twenty minutes to a half-hour on a cooling rack will do. If your steak is over an inch thick, plan on 45 minutes to an hour or more. Remember that the top will warm more quickly than the center (or the bottom surface if it is not exposed to air, such as when it is placed on a platter). This is why we recommend the cooling rack for this step. Remember, too, that once any surface reaches room temperature you have about two hours before dangerous bacteria begin to grow in that surface.

3. Marinading and Seasoning

Horseradish and Pepper Crusted Rib Eye

Horseradish and Pepper Crusted Rib Eye

When it comes to marinading and seasoning, this is the time to be bold. You can’t flavor the inside of the steak, so the flavor has to come from the exterior. Your marinade should point in the direction you want your flavor to go, or create a complementary contrast. Larry’s General Purpose Marinade is a perfect basic mixture that can easily be modified to suit your needs. Soak your steak in the marinade for at least ten minutes per side. If turning the steak, use tongs. We don’t want any holes that will let juices drain out during cooking.

In addition to providing great flavor for your steak, seasoning also aids the formation of a gorgeous crust. What we want to achieve here is big, bold flavor. We sometimes create our crusts from a thick coat of seasoning. Use coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and season generously so that you can actually see the salt and pepper. If you want to use a flavorful rub to create that crust, visit our dry rub page, which lists some simple, easy to make rubs for various pallet pleasing flavors. You can easily modify these basic rubs to let your favorite flavor dominate.

4. Chilling Out About Resting Your Meat

Smoked Rib Eye Steak

Rested before slicing

Aside from over or under-cooking and incorrect seasoning, not allowing meat to rest properly is probably the cooking blunder of which we are all most guilty. Cutting into hot meat before it has properly rested lets all the juices run out, causing dry, chewy, meat. Here’s why: when you place your steak into the hot pan or grill, the juices are forced away from the heat towards the center, increasing the concentration of moisture in the middle of the steak.

When the steak gets flipped over, the same thing happens on that side. The center of the steak becomes supersaturated with more liquid than it can hold on to. So, when you slice it open, all that extra liquid pours out. By resting the steaks, you allow all that liquid in the center time to migrate back out to the edges. How long to let it rest? For thin cuts, 5 to 10 minutes will do; for larger, thicker steaks, plan for 10 to 15. Don’t worry, your steak will not get cold, it will still be quite warm, juicy, and delicious.

5. Slice Across the Grain

Roast Beef on Meat Slicer

Slicing Roast Beef

There seems to be some confusion around cutting meat “against the grain,” or, “across the grain.” Those terms mean the same thing, but what is that meaning? You see in the photo in the next paragraph the fat that lies between the muscle fibers in that cut of meat. To slice “across the grain” means to cut those long strings of muscle into short pieces so they can be chewed more easily. Flank steak, skirt steak, brisket, and London broil have visible lines in the muscle. These are typically long, flat, and prized for the flavor, rather than tenderness.

Fat marbling in beef

Grain visible in beef

These cuts of meat are usually sliced in a way so that the fibers are cut through, making the meat more tender and easier to eat. Notice the horizontal lines of fat running in long lines throughout the raw steak shown here. If you slice in the same direction as those lines, you’ll have to chew through those long fibers that will end up like strings. If you cut across the lines, however, the knife will have already done that work, and the meat seems to be more tender. Try slicing thinly while holding the knife at a 45-degree angle for a more elegant presentation. You can also shave the meat on a meat slicer like the one shown above.

It isn’t usually an art form, but serving well prepared and handled steaks will get you a reputation for knowing what you’re doing, and you will get more comfortable taking better cuts of meat to the fire. Getting it right every time takes practice, but it is a skill you can definitely develop, and hopefully these tips will help those that want to step it up. Do you have favorite techniques you like to use?

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Food Prep Terms

Need to know when to Chop, Dice or Chiffonade? How about Stir, Blend, Fold, or Mix? What are the differences? Click here

Surviving God’s Woodshed

Read about the terrible ordeal Lea and Larry underwent in 2005 when Lea spent 78 days in a coma during 180 days of emergency treatment in Hartford Hospital. Read about her miraculous healing and eventual return to an active lifestyle. Click here.

Recipes for Large Groups

Looking for recipes for a large group? Lea and Larry cooked for 50-100 at church functions. Find their recipes here

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