Grass fed and finished beef has a different texture than conventionally raised beef due to the differences in their diet and lifestyle. Grass finished steers spend their lives walking around looking for the tastiest bit of foliage they can find, whereas a conventional steer from the grocery will have spent his last few months in a confined area being fed a mixed ration to maximize his weight gain.
Naturally, this means that the grass finished cow has leaner and stronger muscles (and more Omega-3 versus Omega-6 fatty acids), but that also means that high heat cooking methods on a grass finished steak may leave you feeling like you are eating jerky.
But it is okay. You don’t have to eat jerky. You just have to plan, and we can help.
Preparation is key with grass finished beef. It is crucial to thaw your steaks overnight in the fridge the day before you want to use them, and then please, please, please (I actually genuinely beg you!) let them come to room temperature before you cook them. They really respond well to sitting on the counter for two hours or more and then taking a little salt and pepper seasoning bath before you cook them. If you do this before you cook you will be much happier with the results.
But we also have a secret weapon, called reverse searing.
What is this witchery? Well, instead of placing the steaks in a hot pan until cooked to the desired doneness, steaks are heated in a moderately warm oven at 275°F and then seared afterward in a preheated skillet (cast iron is amazing for this). The warm oven dries the surface which removes the moisture for more efficient and effective pan-searing later on - so you get that crispy edge we all love. Slow and even heat in the oven provides more control and prevents overcooking. You also get more consistent pink internal color, and limit grey edges.
How to Reverse Sear Steak
Place the oven rack in the center position and another below in the lower third.
Preheat the oven to 275°F.
Place a large cast iron skillet or heatproof pan in the oven to preheat if you have one. This will be used to sear the steak at the end, so if you don’t have one or you want to do your sear on a grill you can skip this step.
Line a baking sheet with foil and then place a wire rack on top – I use my cookie cooling racks with great success. I have also done this just on a baking sheet and had good luck with it.
Dry the surface of the steaks with paper towels to remove excess moisture.
Place the steaks on the wire rack and season both sides with salt and pepper.
Place the steaks in the preheated oven for 7 minutes (thinner steaks, 15 minutes for 2”).
When cooking the steak in the oven, use an instant-read meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the thickest part of the steak. Once 7 minutes pass, check the temperature and continue checking every 5 minutes until you hit:
90 to 95ºF for medium-rare or 100 to 105ºF for medium
The steaks will finish cooking in the skillet (or a hot grill if you prefer!) and continue to increase in temperature, so you don’t want to cook the steak in the oven completely.
Remove preheated cast iron skillet from the oven if you are using it and transfer it to the stovetop. Otherwise you can also use a regular skillet for this, but don't melt your handle off and just heat it on the stovetop like you normally would. Turn the heat to high, once the pan is hot add oil that has a high smoke point temperature. I use vegetable oil or clarified butter.
Sear the steaks on each side in the hot oil or fat for about 2 minutes, or until the desired doneness internal temperature is reached. If you are using a grill then about 1 minute per side is usually enough.
Aim for an internal temperature of 120- 125ºF for medium-rare or 130ºF for medium.
An option is to add 1 tablespoon of butter and some fresh rosemary at the end of cooking. The hot melted butter is spooned on top to baste the steaks for enhanced browning and flavor.
Sear the sides of the steaks to render the fat, about 30 to 60 seconds per side.
And then let it rest to redistribute the juices. The internal temperature of the steak keeps rising for about ten minutes, so don’t overcook!