Got a steak lover in your life? Here are all the tools they'll need to produce perfect steaks each and every time. Some are essential, some are just for fun, but all of them are practical.
To be honest, mail order steaks are fantastic if you are in a steak-deprived area (I like the stuff from Double R Ranch and Snake River Farms, but if you've got a good local butcher, take the time to talk with them about ordering in some nice prime-grade ribeyes, dry-aged if possible. You'll get a better price, and will be able to see what you're getting to inspect it for marbling before you buy it.
Do a good job and you may even be rewarded with an awesome steak dinner!
A Kettle Grill
Forget gas. If you want to get the highest heat and the best flavor for the most reasonable price, a coal-fired grill is the way to go, and the classic kettle-style grills from Weber are still the leader in terms of quality-to-price ratio. You can opt for either the Weber One-Touch 22 1/2-inch Kettle Grill or the Gold version, which comes with an easily removable bucket for catching ashes and drippings.
A Chimney Starter
You can start coals with lighter fluid... if you want your steak to taste like lighter fluid. Instead, use a charcoal chimney, like the Rapidfire Chimney Starter from Weber. Its unique design pulls air in through the bottom, getting a full five quarts of coals red hot and ready to cook in just about 20 minutes, no liqhter fluid required!
Does your giftee cook in smaller batches? Then perhaps you'd consider the Compact Rapidfire Chimney Starter, which will get a couple of quarts of coals hot and ready in fifteen minutes or less.
Cast Iron Grill Grates
If you've got the kind of meat lover who loves seeing perfect grill marks on their steak, then you'll want to upgrade their kettle grill with these Cast Iron Grill Grates. Heavier and thicker than the grates that comes with the Weber kettle grill, they hold more heat and deliver stronger, more defined lines (and better flavor) to your grilled steak.
Because they're cast iron, they require a bit more TLC than stainless-coated grills, but a quick wipe-down is worth the superior cooking.
A High-Output Torch
Forget those puny kitchen torches designed to make crème brûlée for ants. they're more of a pain than their worth. If you want some serious torching power in the kitchen for bruleeing desserts or for finishing off a sous-vide steak, you want a real industrial-style torch designed for house work. You'll get a deeper char than you can ever get from using a skillet alone.
The Bernzomatic High Intensity Torch Head has an adjustable flame knob, an instant trigger so you don't have to worry about a separate sparker, and a trigger lock so your finger doesn't get tired when you're searing off a whole primal. It takes standard propane fuel cylinders (not shippable in all states).
A Sous-Vide Circulator
Sous-vide steak is not for everyone, but if you like your meat to be perfectly cooked from edge to edge, there's no better way to do it at home. Sure, you can do it in a beer cooler, but with a number of new low-price/high-quality water circulators on the market, now is a great time to purchase one.
I'm currently in the process of testing the The Anova Sous Vide Circulator, the Sansaire, and the Nomiku (stay tuned for full results next week!). While all three do the job they're designed for, the Sansaire is not yet available and the Nomiku costs $100 more than the other options, which makes the Anova a very attractive option.
With a portable circulator like this, any pot or large container in your house becomes a restaurant-quality water bath that will give you unparalleled control over how your steak is cooked. Check out our Sous-Vide 101 page for recipes and more info on how it works.
The Splash-Proof Thermapen
A good instant-read thermometer is the only way to ensure that your steaks come out that perfect medium-rare every time. Forget about poking with your finger, relying on inaccurate timing guides, or the nick-and-peek method (read up on some of these old wives' tales about steak here). Buy a high-quality, fast, accurate digital thermometer, and never have a piece of over or undercooked meat again.
The Splash Proof Super-Fast Thermapen by Thermoworks has a hefty price tag, but it's money well-spent. It's head-and-shoulders above the competition with a stunning range of -58 to 572°F (-50 to 300°C), 1/10th of a degree precision, unparalleled accuracy, and a read time of under three seconds. Because of its wide range, you won't need a separate meat, candy, or deep-fry thermometer—a singe tool does all three tasks, and how.
Asides from my knives, it's my favorite piece of kit, and it rarely leaves my side while I'm in the kitchen.
Laguiole Steak Knives
If you're dropping $$ on a nice piece of meat, doesn't it deserve a nice knife to be sliced with? French-made Laguiole knives are synonymous with luxury when it comes to steak knives. The thin-but-sturdy blades are razor sharp and glide through meat like butter. They're available with a number of different handle styles: I like the look and feel of olivewood.
Be aware that there are a number of Laguiole knockoffs floating around the internet made from thinner, poorer quality steel with poorer construction. Make sure that if you order, your knives are actually made in France (and if the price looks too good to be true, it probably is!).
Good Meat, by Deborah Krasner
If the meat lover in your life is into the sustainable meat movement, then Deborah Krasner's Good Meat is an invaluable resource to help them source and cook it. It's packed with valuable resources, gorgeous photos, and plenty of good recipes (including a couple of my own!).
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.