3 ideal moments for salting steak
1. 40 minutes before grilling
2. Just before grilling
3. After grilling
Why not any other time?
If you salt your steak and let the meat absorb the salt for less than 10 minutes, the process of osmosis causes the salt to pull juices from the meat, but without enough time to reabsorb them. This causes the meat to lose moisture and gives you a more difficult time achieving a perfectly crispy crust. When salting steak, it takes at least 40 minutes for all the meat juices to be expelled and then reabsorbed. Additionally, we don’t recommend salting while you’re grilling because the herbs and salt will just fall off and stick to your grill, leaving you with more cleanup later.
How to salt steak perfectly every time
At least 40 minutes before grilling
The salt dissolves into a brine that breaks down the muscle fibers and is absorbed by the meat. Because of osmosis, the meat juices leave the meat and mix with the marinade and salt before being absorbed again. This makes for an explosive meat flavor. You can still enjoy a juicy cut of beef by only salting the steak directly before grilling, but for even more flavor, go for Otto's marinade method.
Just before grilling
Season your steak generously with salt just before putting it on the grill. The salt stays on the surface of the meat without dissolving and the meat juices stay within the muscle fibers for a juicy steak. By immediately grilling the steak at a very high temperature, the steak forms an evenly distributed and crispy brown crust.
If you have a really good cut, you might not even need a lot of seasoning-- you can go ahead and sear the steak without salting it at all beforehand. Then, if you like, you can season to taste with salt and pepper after grilling. What’s a good cut of steak? Check out Otto's steak chart below!
The moral of the story
It is a question of taste and time when you salt your steak, as well as how long you cook your steak. And, as always with grilling, a little bit of experience. Don’t forget to time your grilling and use a thermometer to reach your ideal degree of doneness. If you overcook your steak, not even the right amount of salt will save it!
But remember: if you have the time, try to season your steak at least 40 minutes before grilling it. You'll thank your past self that you did!