Steak Cosmétique

Some weeks ago, during one of my more fruitless google sessions, I noticed that Witch Hazel had some government's clearance as a food additive. I think it had something to do with London broil, but that may be a Clavinism. IF that were the case, I think they would have got it backwards. Glycerin, not Witch Hazel, shows the greatest potential as a steak marinade.

I should note, the wife and I love steak, but I'm not an expert by any means, and allow her to handle the cooking of this particular item. I stick to the backyard brazier, surest way to get the desired residue of sizzle, dark crystals of sugar-fat flavor. Broiling in the oven, too often the juices run and pool, washing the flavor away.

Glycerin should certainly help that! The history of modern cosmetics begins with the discovery of glycerin. Reversing the natural flow of skin moisture from the blood to the atmosphere makes most people feel that their skin has been enhanced somehow. Working carefully around its hazard, razor burn, I've very recently learned to appreciate how it leaves my skin dry at the surface. And with steak, that could be a very good thing. My brother, a better cook than I, gets his cuts from the "dry aged" case at a smaller shop, and I've heard it said specifically by TV experts that the flavor crystals depend on dry heat for their creation.

Test 1

Method. Four drops glycerin and maybe a quarter teaspoon of baking soda were mixed in palm, diluted in water enough to be spreadable, and rubbed on boneless chuck steak. Corn oil and salt (normal prep for steak) were rubbed on immediately after. Left to come to temperature in briefly lit oven, 20 minutes before actual cooking. The idea was to tenderize with the baking soda, something I've used in shaving also. Result. Indeed, this steak was incredibly tender, despite not being aged at all. The only chewy parts were well-ensconced in fat, where glycerin would not have particularly wanted to go, following the water. But the sizzle on this steak was not what I had been aiming for. More of an overall brownness, and quite a bit of drippings were found in the pan still. Good flavor, good texture... no thrill.

If I had to put my finger on it, I'd guess that it was the fat ingredient missing from the mix in the sizzle. I maximized the Maillard reaction, but stopped short of caramelization, which would have put up more of a physical barrier against fluid egress, and given the salt somewhere to stick. Okay, so now I know what Witch Hazel has to do with it, as I've felt it release the oil from my skin. That must be the real secret of good marinade: optimizing ooze to create the caramel. Sorry, steakhouse:

The secret formula will soon be MINE! HA HA HA HA HA!

Test 2: Witch Burger

Method. Cured Witch Hazel (>18h shaving leftovers, ~3ml) applied directly to hamburger patty just before final forming, to the surface of the disc, without mixing it in. Result. Extra sizzle relative to preceding (kids') burgers. Even when removed from pan, a spot of apparently boiling oil remained in that spot. It apparently enhanced browning, too, because my wife said it was not cooked in the center. I have to admit that I sometimes make that error anyway; but the kids' (non-experimental) burgers were fine.

How the hell did ground beef get back into my routine? I switched to turkey more than a year ago. I hate the pan full of grease, what a waste! (Could that be where artisanal "tallow" comes from?) ;-) I solved that one, though: took the remainder of my weak-flavored beans and mashed them into bean-burgers.

Test 3: Rare Treat

I bought a decent, thick cut for a change, and just gave it a splash, like I would my face, before putting a little oil in the pan, and none on the meat. It browned very nicely, but there was still one chewy part in the fat. I cooked it low and slow (another tip from brother), and while one with some roasting experience would expect that to result in cooking through, it ended up being super rare. Fine by me!

Test 4: Just like the "Mr. and Mrs."

Exerpt from another post: ... using baking soda as a light dry rub (having some sense of its mild flavor, at this point), and a splash of Witch Hazel. Talk about sizzle! Oh, and tender: hardly lost a drop of juice until I oiled and salted it, after the turn. This combo essentially said to the steak: I'm going to thermally expand the water in you, now, but you can't change volume, except by sending oily flavor precursors to your surface. Very close to optimizing the caramel, now.

Test 5: Coconut Oil

Refined organic coconut oil is fairly flavorless and takes high heat. Prepared like Test 4 except for the oil, melted in the pan. Great sear, but seemed like it could have used more flavor. Maybe because I allowed some pungent vegetables to touch it before serving... maybe just needed salt. I think I'll rub a little of the standard corn oil on the steak and use less coconut oil in the pan. Interesting side effect: easiest pan cleaning ever!

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