When is there enough spice on a steak?
This has been the perplexing question that grillers face. Everyone's pallet is different. If you watch any of the modern cooking shows, you're encouraged to kick up the spice - usually with pepper flakes. Even large chain steakhouses make the mistake of adding too much spice. So what's backyard every man griller to do?
I rely on the 4 amigos - Sea Salt, Black Pepper, Onion Powder, and Garlic Powder. I usually rely on these spices in that order. I spice both sides of the steak. So while the steaks are on the plate side 1 is spiced. I place the spiced side to the flame and repeat the spices on the now up-facing side of the steak. This technique has proven time and time again.
Now how much spice? I use shakers to spice the meat. I shake until I have lightly spiced the entire side. For those of you who are more comfortable with measurements, each side of the steak would receive about 1/8th teaspoon of each of the four amigos (or for those of you with a size 13 ring on your 4th finger - a pinch between the forefinger and thumb).
This spicing works really well; however, the most important ingredient is the quality of the steak. Choosing a steak that has good marbling (small pieces of fat in the muscle) really makes the steak sing. One reason is that the fat helps to infuse the muscle fiber with the spices you placed on the surface. In addition, the fat rounds out the flavor in the mouth. This means that the fat helps your taste buds detect the flavor of the meat and the spices.
To achieve a similar effect, many restaurants add a dash of butter on the top of the steak before it is plated and served.