The Reason You Should Pat Steak Dry Before Cooking It

A trip to the steakhouse is one that is usually reserved for big events and celebrations. There is nothing quite like the perfectly charred steak being brought to the table and set down in front of you. The scent alone makes your mouth water and cutting into it for that first bite is a victory all its own.

There are endless diatribes about how to bring that level of culinary joy to a steak made at home, but Cooking Light has one tip that will make a huge difference the next time you celebrate at home with your favorite cut of meat. They recommend patting your steak dry before putting on the grill to get that steakhouse quality sear. And, while many will recommend letting the meat warm up for a period of time before throwing it in the pan, they say the real difference maker is to remove as much moisture as possible from the meat's surface before cooking.

High heat is also crucial to the meat-cooking process

As Cooking Light notes, the key to a steakhouse quality char is the Maillard reaction. According to Serious Eats, "the Maillard reaction is many small, simultaneous chemical reactions that occur when proteins and sugars in and on your food are transformed by heat, producing new flavors, aromas, and colors." Basically, it's the thing that makes browned, charred foods like caramelized onions, crusty bread, and steaks and other meat dishes so flavorful and complex. The Maillard reaction is key to charring and browning meats, enhancing savory notes, and bringing all of those flavors together in a beautiful symphony of flavor.

Cooking Light shares that high heat is key to this process, and patting your steak dry is an important step for making sure your heat isn't wasted. When your meat hits the pan, energy is being transferred that will evaporate moisture on its surface, and catalyze those Maillard reactions. Evaporating moisture takes a huge portion of that energy, and is absolutely necessary before the real magic happens. So, the easiest way to expedite that process is to quickly and easily pat your steak dry with a paper towel before throwing it on the grill. You can also salt your steak in advance to help it draw out and reabsorb any excess moisture to speed things along without losing that juicy interior (via Steak School).