What is a Charcoal Steak?
Whenever you visit your local mega mart’s beef case you are confronted with a wide array of choices. Steaks have so many different names. It can be hard to keep them apart. My mission is to help sort out some of these names, one steak at a time. Up today is the charcoal steak. What is a charcoal steak? Why is it called such? A lot of steak names can be based on the region in which they are sold. The best I can do is tell you what a charcoal steak sold in Saline, Michigan is. My research online did not provide any concrete answers, so I have to turn to my past history with beef. The cut is likely from the chuck primal. The chuck is the area of the cow located closed to it’s head. This area produces some of the best finger licking good cuts, like chuck eye which is great for pot roast. This area is also home to the flat iron steak, which is growing in popularity. The flat iron steak lead me to my conclusion as the charcoal steak I purchased looked much like the flat iron. In fact, I could have been easily fooled into thinking what I was getting is a flat iron steak. However upon eating it I can tell you that this steak is tougher than a flat iron. I cooked it close to the medium rare – medium threshold and I had to do a little more chewing than I liked. The flavor was still good though. So learning from this experience here is how I would cook it next time.
How to Cook a Charcoal Steak
I still think you can grill this steak, but I would use a marinade first. The marinade must contain an acid. Why is this important? Well acids cause our tongue to produce saliva. Saliva contains enzymes. Enzymes will help to tenderize the meat as we eat it, thus making the meat easier to chew. The most commons acidic ingredients to use in marinade are citrus (lemon or lime juice), wine, or vinegar. But you don’t need a lot. In fact it should only take up a small part of your marinade, say 1 part acidic solution and 3-4 parts other liquids (soy sauce and olive oil are good choices). The marinade can also contain things like peppercorns, red pepper flakes, cumin, fresh garlic, shallots, etc.
How long to soak the meat in the marinade? Charcoal steak isn’t that thick so you won’t need long. Hour is the minimum and I won’t go beyond two hours. When it comes time to cook, you can cook it on your grill or sear it in a nice hot cast iron pan (this is what I did). I cooked my steak for 3 1/2 minutes on one side and 3 minutes on the other and it was perfectly done for me. But that might be different in your setting. Using a thermometer and learning to know how the meat “feels” when cooked to your desired temperature is how to learn to cook your perfect steak. I would not recommend cooking this cut of beef past medium, it will be too tough.