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Should you pat down steak? (Explained)

Should You Pat Down Steak?

Patting down a steak before grilling creates a dry surface that produces a more flavorful sear. It also ensures that more of the grill’s heat energy is going toward cooking the protein in the meat fibers, rather than wasting it evaporating surface moisture.

There are strategic ways to employ the steak patting technique to maximize the Maillard process in a way that enhances the flavor of the sear. All it takes is a little extra salt, a little time, and some clean paper towels 

If you lightly salt the steak in advance and let it sit for 20 minutes, the salt will start to draw out some of the water-soluble proteins to the surface of the meat. You can then use a clean paper towel or tea towel to pat the steak dry, which will remove the moisture while intensifying some of the natural beef flavors. 

Marinated steaks don’t need to be patted down, as this would just wipe away the seasoning. Dry rubbed steaks can be patted down to remove any residual surface moister. Then you can apply a little more dry rub right before bringing it to the hot grill grates. 

What Patting Down Steak Does

Patting a steak helps dry the surface to help more of the grill’s heat energy to penetrate the meat. This creates a more flavorful sear and intensifies the beef flavor of the steak

This is a technique that you can use with most cut-down pieces of meat like pork chops, lamb chops, and even chicken breasts. Though it won’t do much with processed meats like hamburger patties or all-beef hot dogs

When You Would Need to Pat Down a Steak

You should pat down your steak right before you bring it to the grill. If you’ve seasoned it in advance the patting might take away some of the salt, pepper, and other seasonings. 

So, it’s best to lightly season the steak again after patting it. Then you can give it an optional glaze of butter or olive oil to help it release easily from the grill grates

If you’re making a steak that’s been soaking in a wet marinade, patting might be a bad idea, as it will take away some of the seasonings from the surface. 

The benefits of patting still apply to dry rubbed steaks, as the salt in most dry rubs draws out excess moisture. Just be sure to apply a light coating of seasoning after patting to replace any trace seasonings that depart on the backside of the paper towel. 

Final Thoughts

Patting a steak is a great way to dry the surface and maximize the heat transfer between the grill grates and the surface of the meat to produce a more flavorful sear. You can even take this up a notch if you salt your steak and let it sit, fully wrapped on the counter for 20 minutes while you preheat the grill. 

This will draw out more water-soluble proteins which you can pat away. You can then pat the steak dry, lightly season it again, and bring it directly out to the grill. 

This technique works great for steaks that are seasoned simply with salt, pepper, and other reasonably dry seasonings. Though it’s not a great idea for a steak that’s been marinated, as you’ll likely end up wiping away a lot of the complex surface seasonings. 

For a steak that’s coated in dry rub seasoning, you can still pat it down to dry the surface. Just reapply a little dry rub again to make sure it’s fully seasoned to your taste.