Talking Turkey And Steak With Michael Symon, Geoffrey Zakarian, And Marc Summers

This weekend, The Daily Meal got to witness a cooking demonstration lead in large part by Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian, with a side of Marc Summers and The Chew's Michael Symon, who is opening his new restaurant, Angeline, at the Borgata Hotel and Casino. As part of the hotel's weekend-long Savor Festival, Zakarian opened it up to the audience to ask questions about all things steak, which, in November, naturally lead to talking turkey.


Here's how it played out.

Audience Question: I'm horrible at cooking steak. What's the best steak for an amateur?
Geoffrey Zakarian:
Delmonico rib-eye. (Slaps raw steak) Right here. My preferred thickness is about an inch to an inch and a half.

With steak tartare, how do you know it's safe to eat?
Go to a butcher you trust, and don't cheap out.
Michael Symon: No Styrofoam on the bottom, no plastic on top, nothing that's been sitting there.
Marc Summers: And not with blood on the bottom. That's like a petri dish. Don't do it.
Zakarian: Make sure he cuts it fresh right there in front of you.

I like my steak well-done —

Zakarian: What?
Symon: He's saying he likes his steak over-cooked.
Zakarian: Listen. My dad ate his steak well-done until he was 85 years old. When I went to culinary school, I said, please try it medium-rare. From then on, until the the day he died at 95, he ate his steak medium-rare. Now, if you do just like well-done meat, use short rib. Not a rib-eye.

What's the best way to sear a 12-ounce ribeye to medium-rare?
Buy a digital meat thermometer. I don't use it because I don't have to because I've cooked a million steaks. But the center should be about 115 to 120 degrees, then let it sit for five minutes to ruse, and it'll go up by about 5 degrees. If you like it well-done, let it cook up to 125 before removing it.

What inspired you to be a chef?
It wasn't a direct line....
[Symon steals and runs off with the now-finished steak tartare]
In my family, everything was about food. At breakfast, you talked about lunch. At lunch, you talked about dinner. If you're Italian, you understand. I actually got a college degree in economics and urban studies — which is doing me a lot of good now because I'm here making you steaks — but I went to France, supposedly to get an MBA, and they were living the culture I was living, with two-hour lunches and fresh bread every day. It was like home. So cooking found me.
Symon: For me, it was because I flunked out of high school.

Is the egg in that tartare coddled?
I took care of it, but I didn't coddle it.

In my house, we have four-dozen farm-fresh eggs at a time that we keep cool but don't refrigerate, and eat practically raw. Have you ever had Caesar salad? Mayo? They all have raw egg. It's safe.

Symon: Geoffrey, I'm surprised you're alive.


Should I use a meat grinder for steak tartare?

Zakarian: No, chop it by hand. If you put it through a grinder, it emulsifies the fat, and it's not a good mouth-feel.

What's the difference between a good Pittsburgh-style steak and a bad one?
: Actually, Geoffrey, can you explain what that means?

Zakarian: Basically, you put it in the pan, count to ten, and take it off. It's just charred. It should be rare but not cold.
Symon: I like everything about it but the name Pittsburgh.

Should you use salt to season a steak?
Steak without salt tastes like death's door. You need salt on steak and almost all your food.
Zakarian: More importantly, don't play with your food. Leave it alone, don't move it around. That's when stuff starts to stick.

Where's the best place to cook it?

Zakarian: Not on a grill, unless there's wood involved. Use a cast-iron skillet. The beef and the fat stays in the pan. It gives it extra flavor, like basting a turkey.


Speaking of turkey, what's the ideal temperature for that?

Zakarian: Same temperature, cook it to 125 and let it rise for an hour.

Summers: I'm confused.

Zakarian: You're always confused. That's why we run our turkey help hotline every year.

Symon: Just use a cheesecloth wrapped in butter and herbs, cook it at 400 degrees, take it out, take the cloth off, put it back in at 180, and you're done. 

Summers: I'm still confused.

Symon: Yeah, Marc's gonna be the first one calling our Thanksgiving hotline.