How long should you season your steak upfront?

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How long should you season your steak upfront?

Personally, I love to season my steak after I grilled it. But it’s a widespread belief among chefs to season your steak upfront. And the timing differs to just before grilling and up to 2 days upfront.

I wanted to know what the perfect time is to season the steaks or if it’s making any difference at all.

I cut five thick ribeyes from the same rib roast. This way, I was sure that all the different steaks are basically the same in taste and tenderness. If you want to do an experiment, you have to think it through.

Then I seasoned four steaks in half the interval of the last one. The first one I seasoned 2 hours upfront and set the timer. The second steak I seasoned at the one hour mark, the third one at 30 minutes, and the fourth one at 15 minutes.

The last one I seasoned just before putting them on the grill. This gives me a good reference for the perfect time to season my steak.

You can see a clear difference in colour between the steaks I seasoned and the one that just came out of the package. The seasoned steaks are dark red instead of the paler non-seasoned steak. Part of this difference is due to oxidation and has nothing to do with the salt. There isn’t much difference in colour between the different seasoned steaks at this point.

So there is only one way to find out what the difference will be, and that is by grilling them. I am going to use the reversed sear for these steaks because they are thick enough. I fire up my grill for indirect heat and place the steaks on the grates at the same time to let them come to a core temperature of 48°C (118F).

After that, I sear them one by one over direct heat and make sure all the steaks are grilled simultaneously. Then I let them rest to let all the juices redistribute.

Now, all we have to do is taste them, and I asked Morrison to help me with this part. We begin with the one we seasoned just before hitting the grill. The last one will be the one we seasoned 2 hours upfront.

The first steak tastes just fine. It has a good beef flavour, and the salt enhances it a bit. But we notice that the seasoned steaks are tasting less and less like beef the longer they were seasoned. The steaks we seasoned one and two hours upfront even start to taste like brined meat.

I love brined pork and chicken, but brined beef is not my favourite. It takes away from the natural beef flavour and hides the characteristics of the ribeye. And that can never be the intention of seasoning a steak.

The one thing that we liked when seasoning up front is that the crust gets better and better. You can even see some blisters starting to appear on the steaks that were seasoned one and two hours upfront.

This experiment teaches me something which I may have already known. The best way to season your steak is after you grilled it. That way, you keep the natural beef flavour, and the salt only enhances this without covering it.

Next time you grill your favourite steak, just try my method and only salt them after you grilled it. I think you like it more than the method you are taught for years.

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