Grilling To Perfection: The steaks are high

Published on Wednesday, 21 May 2014 00:57 - Written by Christine Gardner

Ask someone what makes the perfect steak and you’ll get as many answers as there are cows in Texas. That’s why this Saturday’s Steak Cookoff competition at FRESH by Brookshire’s has become a very competitive annual event.

Benefiting the East Texas Food Bank, the competition takes place from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. The teams represent an eclectic mix of local businesses, media outlets and foodies who have strong opinions on how to cook the winning steak.

The judges will be deciding the winning steak based on doneness, flavor and appearance. Individuals chosen for this difficult task include Barbara Bass, Ryan Luke, Elicia Eckhart, Mike Smith and East Texas Food Bank Executive Director Dennis Cullinane.

The winner will be announced at 6 p.m. and will be presented the “Ace of Steaks” championship belt.

From 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. a steak dinner will be served. A limited number of tickets are available for $20 per person at FRESH by Brookshire’s. The dinner includes a 12-ounce New York Strip, Garlic Rosemary Potatoes, Grilled Asparagus, Garden Salad and Brioche roll. All proceeds will be donated to the East Texas Food Bank.

Other activities scheduled during the afternoon, while the competition is taking place, include family games, the Freshpet Strut Your Mutt contest and Freshpet Yippee dog races, a Classic, Hot Rod and Custom Car Show and live music from Stephan Cotter and the Rastabillys and Taylor Heard Band.

In the spirit of the competition the Tyler Paper readers and some of the event’s competitors, judges and chefs have weighed in with their definition of the perfect steak.


Judge’s Preference

“I like a steak cooked rare, with a cut that is thick enough to get a cool center. Salt and pepper is enough for seasoning. It’s all about the steak.”

Former Tyler Mayor, Barbara Bass


The Competitors Weigh In

“I once dated a guy, who cooked my steak well done, let me tell you, it was FAR from a job well done. I mean who cooks a steak without a beautifully cooked red center?! Medium rare is the only way to cook a steak as far as I am concerned.

So after that incident, I have slowly started spending more time behind the grill. It may be my first cook-off competition, but I wouldn’t let my guard down if I were the other competitors. I have an amazing team who works well under pressure and can handle the heat!

Getting the temperature of the steak will be crucial to the judges. How will we do it? We have had steak 3 nights in a row so far. We have two recipes that we love. Now it’s a matter of deciding to go for a Latin/Asian fusion or an Italian flavor.

It isn’t Saturday yet, and I have a fridge full of steak waiting for Krystal and her Pistols to experiment. My grill is almost out of propane, but we are close, SO CLOSE! The “steaks” are high, and we are ecstatic to be a part of an exciting competition for an amazing cause! We plan to go out and have a blast. We will be updating everyone who can’t make it via twitter @krystalvpistol.”

Krystal Villapuda, Cook Team Captain for East Texas Radio Group


Grilling steaks has been part of my family since I was a little boy. I remember grilling steaks on a hibachi, with Dad looking over my shoulder. Then we got an Old Smokey and eventually a bigger grill. I remained a charcoal purist – until I got my first gas grill. Nothing beats a steak cooked over a wood fire, but working with gas is easier and more efficient and makes one tasty steak.

Couple all my carnivorous institutional knowledge with the world-class five-star-rated expertise of Food Editor Christine Gardner and our ringer, Dana Dixon Hughey of KYTX CBS19 - and give us the world’s greatest grill to work with - and it’s hard not to have a can’t-lose attitude about this.

My perfect steak is a filet mignon pre-soaked in Worcestershire and seasoned with salt, course pepper and a secret ingredient I won’t reveal until after we win the steak cookoff. Steak on!”

Brian Pearson, Cook Team Captain for Tyler Morning Telegraph/CBS19


Advice from the Chefs


“Ribeye is my favorite cut and when you have a great piece of meat all it needs is kosher salt, fresh cracked black pepper and maybe, some fresh thyme. I hate seeing people mess up a good steak with lots of marinades and stuff. I like to let the meat that I spent money on do the talking and not mask it with a bunch of spices and flavors.

Use the good and simple technique of searing. Also let the meat rest for 10 minutes before serving. Meanwhile, smear a little soft butter on the steak right after it comes off the grill. To be honest, cast iron is my favorite way to cook a steak, even over using the grill.”

Chef Michael Brady, FRESH by Brookshire’s


“Find the perfect piece of meat with lots of marbling. Season it with rock salt and fresh ground black pepper. Place on a hot grill or cast iron pan and sear it on both sides.

Try to get a fresh cut steak to ensure juiciness. Wait for the juices to come to the top of the steak before flipping. I like thick cuts so four minutes per side cooked to medium rare is the best.”

Chef Simon Webster, Sabor a Pasion Country Estate & Vineyard


The Perfect Wine Pairing

“Two wines that I like to serve with steak include Rutherford Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon and Santa Rita Triple C from Chile. One is more economical than the other. Rutherford Ranch is under $20 and Triple C is in the $30 range.

In 2013, Rutherford Ranch was named Napa Valley winery of the year for 2012. And the Santa Rita Triple was rated number 47 on the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list.

I like my steak grilled medium rare and topped with a red wine reduction.” Rhonda Acquistapace-Breland, FRESH by Brookshire’s Wine Specialist


Readers Sound Off on Steak Preferences

“Medium rare filet with saut←ed mushrooms and melted blue cheese.” Leslie Wilson Watson, Tyler

“Just to the point of no pink, please.” Melanie Dingler Mogle, Tyler

“Bone-in ribeye — medium rare — rosemary garlic butter, side of asparagus and baked sweet potato. Now I’m hungry!” Beth Walker, Lindale.

“Warm that puppy up with a slap and slather it with herb butter.” K’Lin Noble, Tyler

“I like it medium rare, and I don’t like to use any steak sauce. The sauce just gets in the way of the awesome flavor that is cow.” Amanda Main, Tyler

“Ribeye is my steak of choice. Put a little Tricky Dix Mojo original on it and cook it medium rare. No steak sauce. Just can’t ruin a good steak. Add some grilled veggies and a baked potato, and I’m good.” David McKinney, Tyler

“New York. Rare. Fresh ground sea salt and coarse black pepper only. Stab it. If it doesn’t ‘moo,’ it’s done!” Debbie Lee Townsend, Hawkins

“Any way I can get a steak, I want it and love it! I like it seasoned with McCormick’s Monterey steak seasoning and grilled on a Weber grill. Yum.” Susan Seaberry Wells, Tyler

“Medium rare ribeye, with asparagus spears, garlic, jalapeno-flavored potatoes and buttered wheat roll.” Vel Williamson, Tyler

“Marbled ribeye. Rare. Nothing but salt and pepper with a great, strong cabernet.” Michael Kennedy, Bullard

“I prefer the short loin variety, like New York strips, porterhouse, T-Bone, filet mignon, tenderloin or Kansas City strips because of the marbling, and, if done correctly, they melt in your mouth. Very tender cooked medium. Grilling or broiling is best. I don’t use seasoning much because of the cut. It shouldn’t need any. If it does, I will use a little black pepper, garlic and maybe a very light coating of a olive oil but nothing else. Fixings on the side would be baked sweet potato with butter, cheese. Maybe a little fruit mixed with salsa or saut←ed mushrooms and onions are nice” Jimmy Arber, Tyler

“Medium with saut←ed mushrooms and all the fat cut off!” Jennifer Dunn, Tyler

“High heat seared spice crust outside red juices inside!” Becky Campbell, Henderson County

“I love a big, thick ribeye or Porterhouse, with a warm, pink center. Seasoned with salt and garlic pepper and butter. Cooked on a charcoal grill with mesquite chips for extra flavor. Served with saut←ed mushrooms, loaded baked potato or a sweet potato with a cinnamon/brown sugar butter, and grilled asparagus.” Suzanne Fluker, Tyler

“I prefer it when the piece of meat is dead. Well done is my favorite (butterflied), and I still eat my steak with ketchup. Don’t judge me — I’m from Odessa. Favorite steak side — macaroni and cheese (again, don’t judge).” Kyna Adams, Odessa native

“A boneless ribeye, pan-seared in a pre-heated cast iron skillet in a 500-degree oven, 1 minute each side.” John Moore, Tyler

“Bone-in ribeye, cowboy cut, medium!” J.D. Osborn, Tyler

“Sirloin seasoned only with salt and pepper, cooked medium rare on the grill. If it’s brown inside, you might as well dump it in the trash. Served with real mashed potatoes and fresh green beans!” Dwain Hare, Tyler