Chef, schmef. Who understands steak better than the butcher?
To kick off the grilling season, we enlisted Lou Kreitzman, owner of the 21-year-old Prime Time Butcher on Long Island and third-generation scion of a meat-wholesaling family. Not only has Kreitzman been selling meat his whole adult life, he’s been explaining to his customers how to cook it. We spent an afternoon with Kreitzman at his Great Neck home and took notes while he grilled five steaks and shared expert advice.
Steak prep: Let the steaks come to room temperature before grilling — which will take from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on thickness. For the home griller, 1 inch is the maximum thickness Kreitzman recommends.
Heat: Kreitzman preheats the grill for at least 15 minutes on high. Once the steaks go on the grill, he turns it down to medium. “Unless the steaks are very thin — like skirt steaks — it’s best to grill with the top down,” he said.
Leave the steaks alone: Once you put them on the grill, don’t move them around. “When they’re ready to be flipped, they will release from the grill.” Another indication the steaks are ready to flip: “Moisture will begin to bead up on the exposed side.”
Doneness: After you flip a steak, the second side will need about half the time the first side needed. “The best way to tell if a steak is done,” Kreitzman said, “is to use an instant-read thermometer.” An internal temperature of 120 to 125 degrees is rare, 125 to 130 is medium-rare, 140 is medium, 150 is medium-well, 160 is well. Steaks should always rest 5 to 10 minutes after cooking, during which time the temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees.
Marinade: It’s not that Kreitzman doesn’t like marinade. “It’s just that I really like the taste of meat,” he said. Thick, flavorful, pricey cuts, such as porterhouse or rib eye he grills with no seasoning, but he’s not averse to “infusing” other steaks with some extra-virgin olive oil and herbs. At the store, he sells hanger steaks in a marinade based on his own barbecue sauce.
Cleaning the grill: “When you’re done for the day,” he said, “cover the grate with heavy-duty foil, turn the heat to high. The grill will start to smoke, but in about 10 minutes, depending on how dirty your grill is, the smoke will clear. Open the grill and all the gunk will be reduced to ash.”
His favorite summer steaks: