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FE&SEditorial Archives2005 — July — E&S Spotlight

Steak Production: Serving Steaks with Sizzle
As steak retains its popularity with patrons, skilled chefs use different pieces of equipment, sometimes in tandem, to prepare various styles and cuts perfectly for service.

After fabrication and trimming, steaks ready for preparation and service at Keens Steak & Chophouse are stored in rolling racks in a designated storage walk-in cooler.

In the walk-in cooler designed for dry-aging of meats at Keens Steak & Chophouse, NYC, a band saw located inside the cooler is used for daily fabrication of steaks.

One end of the hot line in the main kitchen at Keens is anchored by a grill and broiler, used in tandem for steak preparation.

The grill in the kitchen of Lovells of Lake Forest (top) is used for preparation of steak burgers, and for initial marking and searing of steak filets.

After searing on the grill, steaks at Lovells of Lake Forest are placed in cast-iron sizzle pans (above) and cooked in a high-temperature convection oven.

New York City’s Keens Steak & Chophouse first opened in 1885, and is the historic sole survivor of the old New York Herald Square Theatre District. The classic steakhouse remains extremely popular today while staying true to its roots by serving various steaks such as sirloin, porterhouse, filet mignon and T-bone, as well as a signature mutton chop.

While Keens’ front-of-the-house areas maintain a charming old-time ambiance, including much historical memorabilia, the busy back-of-the-house kitchen areas are well-equipped and organized to support the high-end menu. “The high-temperature, commercial broiler is definitely the key piece of kitchen equipment for steak production in our kitchens,” says Bill Rodgers, Keens’ executive chef. The broiler anchors one end of the 24-ft. hot line in the main la carte kitchen and in Keens’ third-floor banquet kitchen. The stacked configuration of radiant heat broilers includes two cooking “drawers” and a hinged oven box providing the hottest temperature area in the broiler, just below the heat elements. Keens uses adjacent grills in conjunction with the broiler for prep, to give steaks grill markings and take the refrigerator chill off the meat, which allows for a faster cooking time.

Keens’ lower level houses kitchen prep areas and storage walk-ins. The restaurant cuts its own steaks and chops but first dry-ages the meat, generally for three weeks, in a specially designed, 15-ft. by 25-ft. walk-in cooler that features stainless racks and hooks to hang carefully labeled product. Inside the aging room, workers use a band saw to portion most steaks. Keens’ staffers then wrap the individual cuts in cellophane, placing them on rolling racks for easy transport to a designated meat walk-in.

Keens’ chefs brush the steaks with a vegetable oil before cooking, which adds no flavor, but enhances surface searing. Chefs use a variety of items when cooking steaks such as metal tongs, and large forks that pierce the meat, allowing juices to escape, Rodgers explains. Side sauces that accompany steaks, such as béarnaise, hollandaise, au poivre or a red wine jus reduction, are prepared fresh on-site in the prep kitchen and held for service on the chef’s line, which includes hot- and cold-holding areas for drop-in hotel pans, as well as low-boy refrigerators beneath the line and wooden cutting boards on top. Other equipment found on the hot line in Keens’ kitchen includes a double-stacked combi oven used for preparing vegetables and lobster entrées, two six-burner ranges with ovens beneath, and a cook-and-hold oven box used for preparation of prime rib.

Patrons at Keens are provided with hefty, wooden-handled steak knives with table service. Keens serves certain types of steak, such as the porterhouse for two or three, on special wooden service platters, with a stainless-steel liner and small trough to collect escaping juices. “For porterhouse steak service, we add a bit of clarified butter at the expediting station as the steak is leaving the kitchen, which adds a special ‘sizzle’ to the presentation,” Rodgers says.

When it opened in 1998, Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse was the fulfillment of a 30-year-old ambition to create a quintessential New Orleans steakhouse in the owning family’s hometown. While the menu continues to make this dream come true, the equipment package Dickie Brennan’s uses has evolved over the past five years to meet customer demands.

The menu’s prime meats, butchered and wet-aged especially for the restaurant, are prepared differently to enhance specific qualities of the cuts, driving equipment configurations in the 3,000-sq.-ft. kitchen. “Originally, we had one broiler on the front line for preparation of our filets, which accounted for about 80% of our orders, but our nightly volumes, averaging about 400 covers, have almost doubled from initial estimates,” explains Gus Martin, executive chef. “We added another broiler to the front line, which now handles preparation of our popular 8-oz. filets almost exclusively. The addition of that station really helps out our broiler chefs and enhances the consistency of the preparation. Broiler 1, as we call the original, now handles preparation of our 16-oz. strip steak, which after the addition of salt and cracked black pepper is broiled in a cast-iron skillet.”

Two years ago, the back line in the kitchen at Dickie Brennan’s steakhouse was reconfigured with the prchase of a grill with a refrigerated drawer base, used for preparation of rib eye and porterhouse steaks. The new grill station took the place of a fry station, the location of which helps the staff with the tricky synchronization of steak orders, Martin says.

On one end of the kitchen’s back line, a cook-and-hold box slow-roasts prime rib, which is held in a cast-iron pan. “That’s a really good piece of equipment. There’s nothing too fancy about it — no computerized operation panels or anything, it just works really well, with vents that can be opened or closed during the cooking process,” Martin adds.

Key E&S for Steak Production

Dry-aging walk-in cooler
Wire metal storage racks
Roll-in racks with sliding metal shelves
Band saw
Designated meat walk-in cooler
Stainless prep table
Boning knife
Carving knife
Cryovac bags
Cellophane wrap
Plastic storage containers
Chef’s table
Drop-in hot-holding wells
Cold-holding wells
Undercounter refrigeration
Refrigerated base with drawers
Range tops
Conventional oven
Convection oven
Combi oven/steamer
Cook-and-hold oven
Metal tongs
Cast-iron sizzle pans
Cast-iron sauté pans
Service platter
Service steak knives

Numerous space artifacts and the “Steeds of Apollo” mural, originally painted for the St. Regis Hotel in New York City, are appropriate additions to the ambiance of Lovells of Lake Forest, Lake Forest, Ill. The popular, seven-year-old restaurant represents yet another career mission for Captain James Lovell, the notable astronaut who flew Gemini and Apollo missions for NASA in the 1960s. James “Jay” Lovell III, Captain Lovell’s son, is co-owner and executive chef at the family’s restaurant.

Lovells seasonally rotates its high-end continental menus and features filets, strip steaks and steak burgers served with various house-prepared sauces or reductions, and seasonal side dishes. Lovell buys his beef from a local purveyor who wet-ages the product for 28 days in cryovac bags. Lovells stores its meat products in a designated walk-in, and fabricates steaks daily in-house, according to service needs. Lovells’ grill man does most of the meat fabrication on a stainless prep table outside the walk-in using a boning knife and carving knife, and placing cut steaks in plastic storage containers as they are cut. Steaks served at Lovells are well-trimmed, and as much of the meat trimmings as possible are ground for the restaurant’s steak burgers. “Beef is an expensive product, representing a significant food investment for our operation,” Chef Lovell says. “It makes sense for our bottom line to get as many menu items as possible out of the product.”

Lovells stores steaks for daily mise en place preparation on the chef’s line that features four undercounter reach-ins, six refrigerated drawers and a double-stacked reach-in at one end. The parallel hot line includes a double-stacked convection oven, three six-burner ranges with ovens beneath, fryer, salamander, 36-in. grill and adjacent convection oven, which are the key pieces that work in tandem for steak preparation. Cooks at Lovells brush steaks for service with olive oil and season them with salt and cracked peppercorns pressed into the meats’ surface. Staff then place steaks, briefly, onto the grill to mark and sear them, and then transfer the menu items into special cast-iron “sizzle pans” inside the 700°F. convection oven for quick roasting in the hot pans.

Located on 1,000 acres in the heart of Boca Raton, Fla., the private Broken Sound Club offers homes for vacation or year-round living, two championship golf courses, tennis courts and spa, as well as fine dining for its 1,600 members within its 60,000-sq.-ft. clubhouse. A recent $30 million renovation of dining facilities at Broken Sound Club included the lounge area and elegant 500-seat dining room, as well as the 3,000-sq.-ft. kitchen where foodservice consultant firm DEI was responsible for kitchen design, as well as purchase and installation of new kitchen equipment.

According to Broken Sound Club’s executive chef, Helmut Karner, steak is a popular item on the Club’s menus, both for dinner and for special events. A local purveyor dry-ages the beef for three weeks and then custom-fabricates the steaks for the club’s menus. New York-style sirloin strip steaks are the most commonly ordered steak at Broken Sound Club, but filet mignon, T-bone steaks, porterhouse and “Cowboy” steak (rib eye) may also be ordered by patrons.

Broken Sound stores steaks in plastic containers in the kitchen’s designated meat walk-in cooler and transfers them daily to refrigerated drawers on the chef’s line, keeping them close at hand for meal preparation. The key piece of equipment used for steak production is a new, high-end, 110,000-Btu charbroiler that anchors one end of the kitchen’s hot line. “We use the broiler for about 95% of our steak preparations, as the high heat provided by the radiant elements provides a wonderful char on the steaks, as well as cooks them quickly and with a predictable element of control for the grill man on the line,” Karner says. “For a nice, thick sirloin cut, the broiler cooks a perfect medium-rare steak in seven minutes.” Other equipment items found on the kitchen’s hot line include a grill located adjacent to the charbroiler, a three-burner range, convection oven, double fryer, large griddle, eight-burner range and a baker’s oven. For some special steak menu items, such as an Oriental-style steak preparation, steaks are pan-seared in cast-iron sauté pans on the range top, with the meat drippings, soy sauce and rosemary providing a simultaneously pan-prepared reduction.

Steaks prepared for special event menus may provide a chef with a challenge. “On New Year’s Eve, Broken Sound Club hosted a special event that included a steak dinner served outdoors near the golf course,” relates Chef Karner. “I really had to improvise for that. I ended up searing steaks on the grill in the kitchen, and then using cook-and-hold ovens to prepare the steaks. Four hours in the ovens provided for delicious medium-rare steaks, and we were all happy with that outcome.”

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