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How to cook steak with the JKF method (just keep flipping!)
Rediscover the art and amazing flavor of real charcoal grilling with this simple but foolproof steak cooking method – JKF!
You may have landed here because you’ve been hearing a lot about this JKF method, and you’re curious to learn more. Or perhaps you’re here because you want a fantastic method for cooking steak. Not just any steak, all steak. Thin steaks, chunky steaks, lean steaks and nice big fat ones, too. Good news – JKF works with all of them. Literally, “just keep flipping” will let you cook any piece of steak to perfection. To understand the significance of JKF, let’s start by addressing the popular Reverse Sear method.
What is Reverse Sear method for steaks?
If you want to deep dive, you can check out this article, but basically: Reverse Sear is the concept of cooking a steak using low heat, then applying a super hot and quick sear to finish. Reverse Sear method gained tremendous popularity because it’s pretty much foolproof. If you follow the instructions exactly, you end up with a steak cooked perfectly on the inside from edge to edge. So for a lot of people, it’s a great way to gain confidence in their steak cooking skills, and then become braver about spending money on more expensive cuts they might like to try, like tomahawks or wagyu steak. If you KNOW you’re going to cook it well, it’s less of a risk to attempt cooking a fancier steak.
Here are the problems with the Reverse Sear method:
1. It takes a long time. Generally, at least 1-2 hours.
2. The steak need to be a minimum thickness to work.
3. Crust issues. Reverse sear calls for no more than 1-2 minutes MAX searing per side. People are so scared of overcooking the edges just a little, that they are sacrificing the steak crust for the doneness. In some cases, the surface for the “hot sear” will not actually be hot enough, so while you might achieve some color, you’re not getting true Maillard reaction (the one that makes the yummy brown edges) and crust. In other cases, particularly with hot cast iron griddles, you’re actually getting a burnt edge. There’s a difference between a developed steak crust and a charred exterior of burnt seasoning.
4. It can be wasteful. For example, many people do the low part in a smoker or oven, and then sear using a grill. This means they are using a bunch of charcoal to light a grill for two minutes of cook time.
5. A one minute sear over charcoal is not going to get you a complex, char-grilled flavor.
Reverse Sear is basic. JKF is advanced.
My biggest ‘beef’ (lol) with Reverse Sear is that while it’s a GREAT option for beginners, I think it has also resulted in fewer people actually developing live fire cooking skills. It’s nearly like only ever riding a bike with training wheels attached – you never really get to hone your skills of controlling and balancing the bike. With ‘cooking training wheels’ on, there’s no room for further development of skill, intuition or understanding your heat source. JKF will allow you to gain a deeper understanding of the development of a crust, where your hot spots are, how the various cuts perform when they are fatty versus lean, etc.
The ingredients for a successful “Just Keep Flipping” cook.
1. A REALLY hot heat source. You can do JKF with cast iron and propane, but I’m imploring you: cook over charcoal. I’ve already received so much feedback from people remarking that they’d been reverse searing so much, they’d forgotten just how amazing a properly charcoal seared steak can be. Instead of spreading your coals out, try leaving them concentrated in one area so they can really form a heat vortex.
2. Don’t skimp on the charcoal. Further to point one: charcoal is cheap, meat is expensive. Don’t ruin your cook by being conservative on fuel. If you’re cooking for a crowd, load that baby up so you get concentrated heat zones over your entire grill.
3. A dry surface. Pat your steak dry before applying seasoning, and season right before you hit the grill.
4. Just keep flipping. Seems obvious somehow, right? But seriously, the key here is to flip every 30 seconds or less.
5. A quality thermometer. Just like Reverse Sear, the best way to accurately tell when your steak is done is by monitoring the internal temperature. With time and experience, you will be able to tell doneness intuitively, but until you become a full steak whisperer, a quick temp check is your best bet. I use and recommend the Thermapen.
Ready to ditch the training wheels? Here’s how JKF works:
Are you ready for the whole #JKF secret? JUST KEEP FLIPPING YOUR STEAK! The whole concept of #JKF is to build an epic crust BUT without letting the steak sit too long on any one side. With this method, you get both a tremendous crust AND a perfectly cooked interior without the greyish “doneness gradient”. JKF achieves this by flipping the steak constantly through the entire cook over very high heat. And I do mean constantly, like every 20-30 seconds. If you are cooking steak with a thick seam or cap of fat, like a ribeye or top sirloin, you’re going to have to flip even more frequently to control flare ups. That’s where the skill and practice comes in – over time you’ll learn exactly how often that steak needs to keep moving. If you happen to be cooking a round shaped steak, like a whole tenderloin, you’re gonna rotate the steak rather than flip it so the cylindrical shape cooks evenly.
Don’t be alarmed, just Trust The Crust.
The first time you flip the steak over will be super underwhelming. You might want to curse me a little, but DON’T PANIC. You gotta trust the crust. See, as the surface of the steak dries out and the fat begins to render, we’re going to build an amazing brown char. It’s just going to take time. Now theoretically, you could get the same crust by leaving the steak alone for 7-8 minutes to develop the crust one side at a time, but you’re also going to get a steak that’s super overcooked on the inside. So why choose inside or outside when you can have the best of both worlds?! Seasoning can also help develop a crust, forming a textured foundation for it to grow from. For steak I recommend Hardcore Carnivore Black seasoning.
Ready for the progression? Use that cool zone too!
Once you have nailed the concept of JKF, and REALLY understood how that your steak is responding to fire, you’re ready for the next progression, which is adding use of the ‘cool zone’. You may have noticed in the grill setup above, because all the coals are piled to one side to concentrate the heat, there’s also a cooler zone without any direct coal heat. You can use this cool zone to your advantage for larger steaks and roasts. All you need to do is proceed as normal with the JKF method, but once you’ve achieved a crust you’re happy with just move your meat onto the cool zone to finish cooking until it reaches the desired internal temperature. You can also use this cool zone as a safety resting zone if you’re cooking super fatty cuts and dealing with flare ups.
If you can’t stand the heat, just use gloves.
Grilling next to concentrated heat can be pretty tough on your hands. And I’m not talking about those delicate soft hands from dish soap commercials. Even a seasoned pro can find the radiant heat of a ragingly hot grill a little too much, especially when you’re working with multiple steaks and reaching across to the back. In essence, your hands are being slowly cooked themselves, so it’s totally ok to feel like you wanna protect ’em. You may want to consider picking up some extra long tongs (I use these 16″ ones) and a pair of high heat grilling gloves.
JKF works. Every time, on any type of steak.
JKF method just works. On any kind of steak. On any thickness of steak. And honestly, though I’ve been singing the praises of charcoal, JKF also works on any cooking surface (stove, cast iron, griddle) as long as it’s hot enough and can maintain that high heat throughout the cook. It’s not quite as failsafe as Reverse Sear, because there’s some variability to learning how hot to get your grill, and exactly how frequently to flip, but you’ll also be learning a lot more about how that steak actually cooks, instead of setting and forgetting.
Need more proof? Here it is:
Watch this “JKF in action” video, where I cook three steaks of three different sizes and thicknesses ALL at the same time.
The JKF method for steaks (Just Keep Flipping!)
- 1 x steak of your choosing
- Full chimney of charcoal
- Salt or Hardcore Carnivore Black seasoning
- Heat a grill by piling lightly ashed coals to one side to concentrate the heat. Leave them an additional 5-10 minutes to really build in heat.
- Pat the meat dry, then season with salt or Hardcore Carnivore Black. Place the steak directly over the coals.
- Flip the steak every 20-30 seconds through the entire cook, keeping an eye on spots and rotating it if necessary. Use a digital thermometer to check for internal doneness (guide is above).
- When your steak reaches the desired temperature, rest it for 5-10 minutes before serving.
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