The Pittsburgh-style steak is not just a meal; it’s a tradition, a culinary journey that takes you back to the steel mills of Pittsburgh. A unique cooking method that results in a steak charred on the outside while remaining rare or raw inside. The dish was said to be the choice of steelworkers who didn’t have much time for lunch and would cook their steak on the hot steel. Hence, the steak cooked rapidly, charring the outside while leaving the inside rare. This distinctive cooking method is a nod to the city’s industrial heritage, providing a unique experience for both locals and visitors alike.
Understanding Pittsburgh-style Steak
The History of Pittsburgh-style Steak
Going back in time, around the late 19th to early 20th century, the city of Pittsburgh was a significant player in the United States’ steel industry. It was a city filled with busy steel mills and even busier steelworkers. Due to the nature of their work, these steelworkers had limited time for lunch breaks. This led them to create a fast, efficient way to cook their steaks using the hot steel from the mills. The result was a steak seared and charred on the outside, but left rare or raw inside. This technique of cooking steaks quickly caught on and is now known as the Pittsburgh-style steak.
The history of this culinary delight is deeply rooted in the lives of these hard-working steelworkers. Each bite into the charred exterior, followed by the taste of the rare inside, serves as a delicious, hearty nod to those who contributed significantly to the city’s industrial past.
What Makes Pittsburgh-style Steak Unique
What sets the Pittsburgh-style steak apart from other steak preparations is its unique cooking method. It starts with a high-quality cut of beef, usually a thick cut to withstand the intense heat without becoming overcooked. The steak is then cooked over an extremely high heat, charring the outside quickly while keeping the inside cool and rare. The result is a blackened crust enveloping a center that’s as raw as you prefer.
This unique black-and-blue steak, as it’s also known, provides a contrasting flavor experience. The charred outside offers a smoky, almost burnt flavor, while the raw inside retains the meat’s natural, juicy flavor. It’s this unusual yet harmonious combination of tastes that make the Pittsburgh-style steak a unique culinary experience.
Choosing the Right Cut for Pittsburgh-style Steak
Picking the right cut of beef is essential for preparing a perfect Pittsburgh-style steak. Since the cooking method involves very high heat, the cut needs to be thick enough to prevent it from being overcooked. Cuts like the New York Strip, Ribeye, or T-bone are great choices due to their thickness and marbling.
Marbling, or the fat content in the meat, plays a crucial role in a Pittsburgh-style steak. When subjected to high heat, the fat melts and aids in forming the steak’s distinctive charred crust. At the same time, it keeps the inside moist and flavorful, allowing for the characteristic rare or raw center. Whether you’re dining at a restaurant or preparing it at home, knowing the right cut is key to enjoying a true Pittsburgh-style steak.
Preparing Your Pittsburgh-style Steak
Essential Ingredients for Pittsburgh-style Steak
The core ingredient for a Pittsburgh-style steak is, of course, the steak itself. As mentioned earlier, thicker cuts such as the New York Strip, Ribeye, or T-bone work best due to their ability to withstand high heat without overcooking. But there are a few other ingredients that are essential to this dish.
First and foremost, you’ll need a good seasoning blend. A simple mixture of salt and freshly ground black pepper can do the trick. You can also add in other spices according to your taste. For the authentic experience, some cooks like to use a bit of garlic powder, onion powder, or even a dash of cayenne pepper to bring out the steak’s flavors.
Additionally, a high smoke point oil like canola or avocado oil is crucial. This type of oil is necessary to handle the high heat required to create that distinctive charred crust on the steak.
Marinating and Seasoning Pittsburgh-style Steak
While a traditional Pittsburgh-style steak doesn’t require an elaborate marinade, seasoning the steak appropriately is crucial. The seasoning blend should be kept simple to let the rich flavors of the charred beef shine through.
Start by patting the steak dry with paper towels. This is an essential step as removing the excess moisture helps achieve a better sear. Once the steak is dry, apply a generous amount of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Feel free to customize your seasoning blend by adding a touch of your favorite spices, but remember not to overpower the natural taste of the beef.
Some cooks like to add a touch of oil to the steak before seasoning. The oil can help the seasoning stick to the steak and can add to the charred crust. However, be sure not to add too much as it could cause flare-ups when you’re searing the steak at high heat.
Step-by-Step Guide to Preparing Pittsburgh-style Steak
Now that we’ve gone over the essential ingredients and seasoning tips let’s dive into a step-by-step guide to preparing Pittsburgh-style steak.
1. Start by choosing the right cut of steak. It should be thick and have good marbling.
2. Pat the steak dry with paper towels. This will help you achieve a better sear.
3. Season your steak generously with your chosen blend of spices. The seasoning should be robust enough to stand up to the high heat and charring.
4. Heat a cast-iron skillet or grill to a very high temperature. You want it smoking hot to get that distinctive charred crust.
5. Lightly coat the skillet or grill with high smoke point oil and then place your steak onto the hot surface.
6. Cook the steak for about 2-3 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness. The outside should be charred, while the inside remains raw or rare.
7. Once cooked, let the steak rest for a few minutes to allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat.
8. Slice against the grain, serve, and enjoy the unique taste of a Pittsburgh-style steak.
It’s important to remember that this style of steak is typically cooked rare. If you prefer your steak cooked to a different degree of doneness, you may want to adjust the cooking time or method accordingly.
Cooking Pittsburgh-style Steak to Perfection
Best Cooking Methods for Pittsburgh-style Steak
There are several ways to achieve this black and blue effect, but the two most popular methods are using a cast-iron skillet or a grill. Both methods require extremely high heat, which allows the outside of the steak to quickly char before the interior has time to cook through.
If you’re using a cast-iron skillet, preheat the skillet over high heat until it’s smoking hot. Once the skillet is ready, add the steak, cooking it for about two to three minutes on each side. Remember, the goal is to create a charred crust while keeping the interior rare.
If you prefer grilling, the process is similar. Preheat your grill to its highest setting, and once it’s hot enough, place the steak directly over the heat. Again, cook the steak for about two to three minutes on each side. This high-heat, quick-cooking method will ensure you achieve the characteristic Pittsburgh-style char.
Achieving the Perfect “Black-and-Blue” Cook on Your Steak
To achieve the perfect “black-and-blue” cook on your Pittsburgh-style steak, timing is everything. Too little time on the heat, and you won’t get the desired char. Too much time, and you’ll end up cooking the interior more than necessary.
Firstly, ensure that your heat source, be it a cast-iron skillet or grill, is extremely hot before you place the steak. You should see smoke coming off the surface. This high heat is crucial for achieving a seared, almost-charred crust while keeping the inside of the steak rare.
When you put the steak on the skillet or grill, let it sear undisturbed for about two to three minutes. This time allows the crust to form. Then, flip the steak using tongs (not a fork, which would pierce the meat and allow the juices to escape) and sear the other side.
After you’ve seared both sides, remove the steak from the heat and let it rest for a few minutes. This rest period allows the juices to redistribute throughout the steak, keeping it moist and flavorful.
Common Cooking Challenges and Their Solutions
Despite its seemingly simple preparation, cooking Pittsburgh-style steak can present a few challenges. However, understanding these challenges can help you avoid them and achieve a perfectly cooked steak every time.
One common challenge is the steak sticking to the pan or grill. This issue often arises if the cooking surface isn’t hot enough or if the steak is moved too soon. The solution is to make sure your pan or grill is smoking hot before adding the steak and then let the steak sear undisturbed for the recommended time.
Another common issue is overcooking the interior of the steak. This problem can occur if the steak is too thin or if it’s left on the heat for too long. To avoid this, select a thick cut of steak and limit the cooking time to about two to three minutes per side.
Finally, flare-ups can be a concern, especially when grilling. Flare-ups can result from excess fat or oil and can lead to uneven charring. To minimize flare-ups, trim excess fat from your steak and avoid using too much oil.
With these solutions in mind, you’ll be well on your way to cooking a perfect Pittsburgh-style steak.
Savoring Your Pittsburgh-style Steak
Accompaniments for Pittsburgh-style Steak
When it comes to pairing sides with your Pittsburgh-style steak, think about complementing the robust flavors of the steak with more subtly flavored sides. Classic choices include a simple baked potato or some grilled asparagus.
Mashed potatoes with a touch of cream and butter offer a soft, creamy texture that complements the steak’s charred crust nicely. A fresh salad, such as a Caesar salad or a simple mixed greens salad with a tangy vinaigrette, can provide a refreshing counterpoint to the rich steak.
Some people also enjoy pairing their steak with a more hearty side, such as a mushroom risotto or a portion of macaroni and cheese. The earthiness of the mushrooms or the creaminess of the mac and cheese can provide a wonderful contrast to the meaty, smoky flavor of the steak.
Beverage Pairings for Pittsburgh-style Steak
Choosing the right beverage to pair with your Pittsburgh-style steak can significantly enhance your dining experience. A robust red wine, such as a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Malbec, is a classic choice. These wines have the body and tannic structure to stand up to the bold flavors of the steak.
For beer lovers, a dark beer like a stout or a porter can be an excellent choice. The rich, malty flavors of these beers can complement the charred flavors of the steak well. If you prefer a lighter beer, a lager or a pilsner can also work well.
Of course, if you’re not a fan of alcohol, there are plenty of non-alcoholic options as well. A simple glass of sparkling water with a squeeze of lemon can be very refreshing. Alternatively, a non-alcoholic cocktail or a fancy soda can add a touch of sophistication to your meal.
Presenting Your Pittsburgh-style Steak
The presentation of your Pittsburgh-style steak is the final step before you can sit down and enjoy your meal. Presentation not only enhances the aesthetic appeal of your meal but can also heighten your anticipation and enjoyment of the food.
Start by placing your steak in the center of a clean, warm plate. Arrange your sides around the steak, ensuring not to overcrowd the plate. Remember, less is often more when it comes to presentation.
Next, consider adding a garnish. A sprig of fresh rosemary or thyme, or a sprinkle of fresh parsley can add a pop of color and hint at the flavors within the dish. If you’ve made a sauce for your steak, drizzle it around the steak rather than pouring it over the top. This method allows the steak’s charred crust to remain visible.
Finally, serve your steak immediately. Pittsburgh-style steak is best enjoyed hot from the grill or pan. Now, all that’s left to do is to sit back, relax, and savor your perfectly prepared Pittsburgh-style steak.
Nutritional Aspects of Pittsburgh-style Steak
Nutritional Breakdown of Pittsburgh-style Steak
A typical serving of Pittsburgh-style steak, which is about 3 ounces or 85 grams, can contain around 200 to 300 calories, 17 to 25 grams of protein, and 13 to 22 grams of fat, depending on the cut. It is also a good source of essential nutrients such as:
1. Protein: Steak is a high-quality source of protein, which is necessary for the repair and growth of cells and tissues.
2. Iron: The iron in steak is in the heme form, which is more easily absorbed by the body than non-heme iron found in plant foods. Iron is essential for oxygen transport in the body.
3. Zinc: This mineral is crucial for immune function, protein synthesis, and DNA synthesis.
4. Vitamin B12: An essential vitamin, B12 is required for nerve function and the production of DNA and red blood cells.
5. Selenium: This is a potent antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage.
Remember, the steak’s final nutritional profile can also be affected by the preparation method, seasonings, and what it is served with.
Health Benefits and Considerations of Pittsburgh-style Steak
When consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet, Pittsburgh-style steak can offer some health benefits. The protein in steak is complete, meaning it provides all the essential amino acids the body needs. This is particularly beneficial for muscle growth and repair. Furthermore, the B vitamins in steak are important for energy production.
However, there are also health considerations. High consumption of red meat, especially processed meat, has been linked to increased risks of heart disease, certain types of cancer, and other health conditions. Some of these risks are believed to be related to the high saturated fat content, the method of cooking, and the production of certain harmful compounds when meat is cooked at high temperatures.
It’s important to note that while the exterior of a Pittsburgh-style steak is charred, this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s laden with carcinogens. The high-heat cooking method is quick and the inside remains raw or rare, which may limit the formation of these harmful substances.
Incorporating Pittsburgh-style Steak into Your Diet
Pittsburgh-style steak can be part of a healthy diet when eaten in moderation and balanced with plenty of vegetables, whole grains, and other lean proteins. Here are a few tips:
1. Balance your plate: Aim for half your plate to be filled with vegetables, a quarter with whole grains, and a quarter with lean protein like your Pittsburgh-style steak.
2. Watch your portion size: A serving of meat should be about the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand.
3. Limit processed meats: Opt for fresh cuts of meat rather than processed ones, which often contain unhealthy preservatives.
4. Use healthy cooking methods: While Pittsburgh-style steak involves charring the outside, try to limit other forms of high-heat cooking like deep-frying.
Pittsburgh-style steak, with its unique cooking technique and robust flavor, can be a satisfying and nutritious part of your diet. As with any food, the key is balance and moderation.
Pittsburgh-style Steak in Global Cuisine
While the Pittsburgh-style steak has its roots deep in the steel city of the United States, its unique cooking technique and flavor profile have captured the interest of chefs and food lovers around the globe. It serves as an inspiration for various steak dishes, and with a few adjustments, it has found its place in the culinary scene of different cultures.
Pittsburgh-style Steak Across Cultures
Steak is a global favorite and many cultures have embraced the Pittsburgh-style technique to create their unique version. In Argentina, a country known for its love of beef, the steak might be cooked Pittsburgh-style but served with chimichurri, a tangy, garlicky sauce that contrasts beautifully with the charred exterior.
In Japan, a country known for its unique and meticulous food preparation techniques, Pittsburgh-style steak might be fused with the country’s traditional cooking style. Here, the steak might be made using wagyu beef, renowned for its rich, buttery flavor and marbled texture, which creates a delicious contrast with the charred crust.
In France, a Pittsburgh-style steak could be topped with a pat of herb butter or a rich red wine reduction, adding a European twist to the American classic.
Pittsburgh-style Steak Variations Around the World
While the classic Pittsburgh-style steak is made using beef, different countries may substitute with locally preferred meats. In Australia, kangaroo meat might be used to prepare a Pittsburgh-style steak, providing a leaner, gamey alternative.
In parts of Italy, veal might be the meat of choice, resulting in a Pittsburgh-style steak that’s a bit milder in flavor but equally delicious. In Spain, Iberico pork, famous for its nutty flavor due to the pig’s acorn diet, could be prepared Pittsburgh-style, offering a delicious variation on the theme.
However, regardless of the variation, the essence of a Pittsburgh-style steak – a charred exterior with a rare to raw interior – remains consistent, providing a unique and delightful experience to steak enthusiasts around the globe.
Tips for Enjoying Pittsburgh-style Steak at Restaurants
Trying a Pittsburgh-style steak at a restaurant can be a wonderful experience. Here are a few tips for enhancing your culinary adventure.
1. Don’t be shy about expressing your preference. If you like your steak more on the rare side or a little more cooked, let the server know. The beauty of a Pittsburgh-style steak lies in its adaptability.
2. Explore the menu for unique sides and sauces. While the steak itself is the star of the show, a great side dish or sauce can elevate your steak experience.
3. Pair your steak with a suitable drink. Traditionally, a robust red wine like a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Malbec pairs well with the bold flavors of a Pittsburgh-style steak.
4. Finally, take your time to savor each bite. Enjoy the contrast between the charred exterior and the tender, juicy interior. That’s the essence of a Pittsburgh-style steak experience.
Remember, a good meal is more than just the food on the plate – it’s also about the environment, the company, and the joy of sharing a great culinary experience. So, here’s to the Pittsburgh-style steak – a global culinary delight with its heart in the American steel city.
1. What is a Pittsburgh-style steak?
Pittsburgh-style steak refers to a steak that’s charred on the outside but remains rare or raw on the inside. It’s a method popularized by steelworkers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
2. How is a Pittsburgh-style steak cooked?
Pittsburgh-style steak is cooked over extremely high heat for a short period, resulting in a charred exterior and a rare or raw interior. It’s also known as “black and blue” steak.
3. What cut is best for a Pittsburgh-style steak?
A thick-cut steak is ideal for Pittsburgh-style cooking. Ribeye, T-bone, or a thick-cut sirloin would work well due to their fat content and thickness.
4. Is Pittsburgh-style steak healthy?
Pittsburgh-style steak is high in protein and other essential nutrients like B-vitamins, zinc, and iron. However, like any red meat, it should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.
5. Where can I try Pittsburgh-style steak?
While many steakhouses offer Pittsburgh-style steak, the best way to try it is to make it at home. However, if you’re visiting Pittsburgh, several local establishments are renowned for their take on this unique style of steak.