There’s just no substitute of an old-school steakhouse dinner. As a celebratory meal, a treat yourself occasion or just a celebration of perfectly seared slabs of red meat, steakhouses appeal to our inner carnivore. At least once a semester, a Sodexo promotion called Elite Events brings Stone Steakhouse, an upscale pop-up concept, to the students of SUNY (State University of New York) New Paltz.
That means a meat-eater’s dream come true: filet mignons, T-bones, rib-eyes, NY strip steaks and classic steakhouse sides, like twice-baked potatoes and creamed spinach.
“A perfectly seasoned steak, cooked correctly, can be a great gastronomic experience,” says Matthew Hill, campus executive chef with Sodexo at SUNY New Paltz.
So far, Stone Steakhouse has popped up three times in different locations on campus, and adapted well to different set ups.
“We did it as a sit-down restaurant, it’s been served at a station in a resident dining hall and the last event we did at our retail restaurant, Element 93,” Hill says.
For the last event at the restaurant, most customers who attended brought some new-school tech into an old-school dining experience, using the ordering app Tapingo to place their orders and then pick up their juicy steaks at the counter.
Hill says the most popular cuts of meat are the flavorful rib-eye with its extensive marbling and the NY strip (aka porterhouse), known for being tender because it’s from the short loin of a cow, which is a muscle that doesn’t do much work.
Here are some of Hill’s best practices and “mis-steaks” to avoid:
Do start with a good steak and season. “You need a good cut of steak with a USDA grade of prime,” Hill says. “You want the steak to be at least 1 inch thick. Season with a good amount of salt and pepper.”
Don’t forget to put a good sear on steaks to get a nice crust on the outside. “Depending on which kitchen we are working out of, we use a flat grill or char broiler,” Hill says. “A mistake that we can make when we’re extremely busy is that we don’t develop a good sear on the steak, which leads to a soggy steak that bleeds out on the plate and is a little chewy.”
Don’t overcook. “Overcooking is an obstacle to avoid because it leads to a very dry steak,” Hill says.
Do set yourself up for success with temperature zones. “To avoid overcooking, we carefully plan our station setup. We set up one part of the grill with very high heat for searing, one part with indirect heat to finish cooking, a hot oven to finish well-done steak and a warm place for the steak to rest before we plate it.”
Don’t guess at the doneness of steaks; use a thermometer. “Cooking times of steak vary depending on the thickness, the type of steak and the temperature of the grill it’s being cooked on,” Hill says. “The best method we’ve found—and that all our cooks could handle—is using a sanitized digital probe thermometer with a thin tip.”
Do let it rest. “Let it rest for 5 or 10 minutes before serving or cutting to let the juices settle in the steak and yield a much better flavor,” Hill says.
Don’t forget to add a pat of compound butter as the very last step before serving. Fresh herbs make the steakhouse experience that much richer.
Do try this peppery way to serve steak. “When we use the flat grill, we do steak au poivre, which is steak crusted in black peppercorns and served with green peppercorn sauce…that’s my personal favorite,” Hill says.
Do offer something for pescatarian and vegan guests. “At our last event, our retail executive chef Shawn Wilcox offered a tuna steak and a vegan steak.”
Don’t get stuck on being too classic (aka, boring). “I enjoy the fact that steak can be a culinary vehicle for so many other dishes,” Hill says. “Steak can be stuffed, roasted whole and sliced, and even served raw as tartare or carpaccio.”