You Won’t Believe How Easy Charlie Palmer’s Steak Recipe Is
The DC legend’s instructions begin with cracking open a beer
Charlie Palmer’s eponymous steakhouse is an institution in more ways than one. Not only is the contemporary spot a favorite among lobbyists and other folks on the Hill thanks to its industrial-chic vibes and views of the Capitol, but Palmer himself has long been an innovator on the American foodscape, earning a James Beard “Best Chef in America” recognition back in 1997 and advocating for better sourcing since long before it was cool. When asked how to cook a steak to perfection, then, it’s no surprise that Palmer recommends starting with the beef itself.
“The biggest steak no-no is not knowing the source or buying something that was pumped with a bunch of hormones,” he says.
At the restaurant, he begins with corn-finished sirloin, which offers the ideal marriage of grass-fed’s depth of flavor and corn-fed’s juiciness and marbling. He gets them dry-aged by his vendors — somewhere between 18 and 30 days, depending on the cut.
“From my experience of cooking, sampling and testing over the last 25-plus years, I’ve found that the optimum number days for aging is 25 to 30 days,” he explains, noting that since dry-aging causes shrinkage (the good kind, we swear), the resulting steaks boast highly concentrated flavor and a far tenderer texture.
To get the same quality at home, he recommends going straight to a reputable butcher — and armed with questions.
“If they’re aging steaks, make sure they are aging big cuts and not just individual steaks,” he says, noting that those without access to a good butcher can seek out prime angus beef at the grocery store.
“The meat shouldn’t be bright red,” he counsels. “It should smell fresh when you open the package.”
Of course, due to the fact that dry-aging leads to water loss (and thus weight loss), ounce for ounce, dry-aged beef will be more expensive — about 15 to 20 percent more than non-aged beef, according to Palmer.
“In addition, when you dry age, the piece develops a cap, also known as a shell that must be trimmed away as you portion the steaks.”
That extra trimming means you’re looking at an additional 10 to 12 percent price hike over non-aged steaks.
But all that extra money will be worth it — not just for the flavor, but for the fact that a great steak demands very little effort to make it exceptional.
Start by taking the steak out of the fridge at least an hour before grilling. While you wait, crack open a beer, heat the grill to high, and mix together a seasoning rub of salt, pepper, onion, garlic, cumin and a touch of sugar to promote even better caramelization. When you’re ready to cook, just season the steaks liberally, and throw them on for six minutes per side (or, if you’re using a thermometer, to 118 degrees internal temperature). And that’s it! Rest for five minutes, then slice and serve.
This steak is frankly phenomenal enough to enjoy all on its own, but you can also opt for a sauce like Palmer’s green tomato relish — a go-to in September and October, not just to cut the richness of the steak, but also to make good use of unripe tomatoes, which, Palmer notes, could otherwise languish.
“There’s a lot of green tomatoes left in September and October,” he explains. “This dish is a great way to prevent waste while enjoying the seasonal flavors.”
If you’re looking for an even lower-impact way to balance the steak’s richness, the right wine might be just the ticket.
“I’m biased,” Palmer admits, noting nevertheless that his Charlie Clay Pinot, made in partnership with Clay Mauritson in the Russian River Valley, is ostensibly the perfect pair.
“The acidity cuts the richness,” he says, “and the fruitiness of the wine compliments the nuttiness of the dry-aged steak.”
Charlie’s Grilled Sirloin Steak with Green Tomato Relish
For the steak:
- 1 prime, boneless, thick-cut sirloin steak (24 ounces)
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- .25 teaspoon onion powder
- .25 teaspoon garlic powder
- .25 teaspoon ground cumin
- .25 teaspoon raw sugar
For the green tomato relish
- 3 pounds green tomatoes (seeds removed and fine diced)
- 1 medium red onion(finely diced)
- 1 green bell pepper(finely diced no seeds)
- 1 red pepper (finely diced no seeds)
- 1 jalapeño (finely diced no seeds) optional
- 2 cups cider vinegar
- 1 cup cane sugar
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon celery seed
- 1 teaspoon mustard seed
For the steak:
- Remove the steak from the fridge an hour before grilling. Heat the grill to high. Mix the spices together and season steak liberally.
- Grill over high heat for six minutes per side, or until 118 degrees internal temperature. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
For the green tomato relish:
- Bring vinegar, sugar, seeds, and salt to a boil. Add all the vegetables, and bring back to a boil.
- Simmer for 35 minutes or until thick. Serve cold.
This article was featured in the InsideHook DC newsletter. Sign up now for more from the Beltway.
Suggested for you