Tips from Clif Family Executive Chef John McConnell
Tips for Cooking and Seasoning Proteins
Temperature, seasoning, timing, and patience are the keys to nailing the cooking of a great cut of meat.
Temperature – First, pull your desired protein out of the fridge, one hour before you plan to cook it. Bringing the protein closer to room temperature allows it to cook more evenly and helps retain the flavorful juices.
Seasoning – When you pull your protein from the fridge, season it at that moment! Season your protein more than you think it needs. A common, critical mistake is under seasoning proteins. This can be the biggest difference from enjoying a steak at a restaurant versus at home. Use large granular sea salt. The salt breaks down and dissolves more gradually within that hour and penetrates the protein beyond just the surface. It should also be noted that salt is a natural tenderizer and the longer this process is allowed, the more tender the protein will be. It is quite difficult to over season a thick cut of meat; however, pork ribs or skirt steak are significantly thinner and therefore take less seasoning.
Timing – Determining the cooking time of various proteins can be challenging. Remember that charring and the browning of proteins result in more flavor. If cooking a large piece of protein, you’ll want to cook it slowly so that you don’t as to not lose flavorful juices. If you have a smaller piece of protein, then cook it hot and fast. When in doubt, pull the protein from the heat and LET IT REST. Carry-over cooking happens after you remove the protein from its cooking source. The internal temperature is continuing to climb even after it has been removed from the heat. I generally will cook my proteins one temperature less than the desired doneness, to allow for carry-over cooking. Once properly rested, the protein should not release juices and the appearance of the doneness you are trying to hit will be perfect.
Patience – You need patience before you cut into that protein you worked so hard to cook perfectly. By doing this, you are allowing the flavorful juices to be retained inside the protein. My general rule of thumb: let the protein rest for 5 minutes per inch of thickness. For example, if the steak you’re grilling is 2 inches thick, then let the steak rest away from heat for 10 minutes before slicing.