I read a blog yesterday that had a tip on how to turn a cheap cut of steak into a more tender steak - see Jaden's Steamy Kitchen here.
If you can't be bothered going to the link, I'll paraphrase. The idea is that you take a thick piece of steak, coat it very liberally with salt, and then leave it for 15 minutes to an 1 hour. After the time has passed, rinse off all the salt, pat the meat dry, and then grill/fry as per normal.
And the science behind it: initially the salt draws out moisture from the meat. But after sitting for a while, some of the salty water gets sucked back into the meat, and that salt does something to the proteins that makes it more tender. Hello, tender steak!
Sounds too good to be true? I think an experiment is in order!
Today at the market, I bought some pieces of cheap rump steak. I salted two pieces as per the instructions on Steamy Kitchen with some crushed garlic and peppercorns. I used about 4 teaspoons of sea salt crystals, and crushed them into smaller crystals with garlic and peppercorns. In the interests of science, I left one piece as a control: no salt, only covered with crushed garlic and peppercorns (yay science!).
After 30 minutes, I pulled the steaks out of the fridge to rinse them. There was an obvious difference between the control and salted steaks. The salted steaks were glistening with moisture, and the control was dry. I rinsed the salt off the salted steaks, and the garlic and pepper off the control and patted them very dry.
To cook them, I probably should've used a pan, but I was lazy and stuck them in the George (Foreman Grill). After pulling them out of George, and resting them for 10 minutes, I was ready to submit the steaks to the test!
I salted the control steak just before eating, then took alternative bites of the control and then the salted steak. The salted steak WAS salty, and the garlic had penetrated all through the meat. MHMMM. Was it more tender? Yes, it was! I didn't think it was an astounding difference, but it WAS noticeably more tender. And on the plus side for the salted steak, the control didn't have much garlic flavour.
But, like I said, the salted steak was salty. It was just the right amount, but leaving it covered in salt for more than 30 minutes (or using more salt) would probably have been too much.
So the results are in (yes, I know I should've done a double blind test to be truly scientific): salting your steaks does seem to make them more tender and flavourful. It's worth a try if you like steak.