Joel McHale Talks To Us About Steak And Only Steak

A few weeks ago (days before the Community movie news), Joel McHale went up Estes Park, Colorado’s Mount Via Ferrata to have a five-star meal in a promo pop-up centered around Certified Angus Beef, reasoning that, “If there’s a platform stuck to the side of a cliff, why not have a steak dinner there?” Prior to his ascent up rebar stairs and before he repelled down to a portaledge for a meal prepared by Chef Ashley Breneman, I Zoomed in, armed with sarcasm, questions about cannibalism (McHale has never tried the most forbidden of meats, for the record), and dreadful steak takes. We’re talking well-done meat by blow-torch and ketchup on a steak.

I’m lucky I wasn’t there in person, the Community and Stargirl actor might have cut my tether.

The ensuing phone interview wasn’t merely a chance to traumatize McHale, though. It’s also the latest effort by Uproxx to bring you Comedians In Zoom Chats Talking About Food They Like and, in this case, some meaningful dialogue about cooking and steak, topics McHale is very passionate about whether he’s up a mountain or in his own kitchen.

Do you get to meet the cow before something like this?

Oh, I think I met the cow last year. We went to Kauai together. It was great. We had a great time. Went to Hanalei.

Sad that it ends this way.

Right? I’m going to be like, “I cannot wait to meet you again.” Do you eat a lot of steak, Jason?

I do eat a lot of steak.

What’s your favorite steakhouse?

Morton’s or Ruth’s Chris.

Very good.

What’s your favorite steakhouse?

Well, it was Adam Perry Lang’s steakhouse in Hollywood, but during the pandemic, it sadly shut down. So now I like going to Curtis Stone’s steakhouse called Gwen. I still think CUT is great in Beverly Hills by Puck. And in Seattle, I go to El Gaucho and Canlis and Matt’s in the Market. Boy, if I’m in New York, I go to Cote. It’s a Korean steakhouse. But if I’m at home, I have like five barbecues, and my wife is now wondering if I’m a full-on hoarder.

I cook a lot of steak and eat a lot of the steak. And so, you start with high-quality stuff. If you have that you’re already like 90% there, just as long as you don’t ruin it in the cook.

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What’s your favorite cut?

I like a bone-in ribeye or a bone-in New York strip, anything with the bone in, or a bone-in filet for that matter because when you cook them, the flavor of the bone seeps into the meat. And you can cook them a few different ways. Everyone always orders filet because it’s the leanest cut, and I think it also just has this reputation of being the best thing. I grew up with flank steak and my mom would marinate it with honey and soy sauce and green onions, and then some pepper flakes and let that marinate overnight and then we’d throw it on the barbecue. And it was some of the tastiest meat you ever had. So preparation, obviously everyone gets intimidated by it, but I think it’s just like practicing a sport.

The more you cook your steak to a way you like it, the better you’re going to get at it.

So, I eat steak sometimes with ketchup. I just need to get your reaction to that. I am a terrible person, but is that the defining thing that makes me a terrible person?

You are. Here’s why. Okay. There are versions of ketchup.

Let me tell you that the first time I went to a really nice steakhouse, I asked for ketchup with a nice New York strip, and I’ve never had someone stab me in the throat with their eyes before.

I would’ve just stabbed you in the throat with a knife and put you out of your misery. It’s pretty sacrilegious. It’s the same way where a beautiful Chicago-style, Vienna beef hot dog, they never put ketchup on it. And I’m not saying ketchup is a terrible condiment. It’s perfectly fine for something like french fries, because it’s such a powerful condiment. It overpowers almost everything you’re eating.

This is true.

If you put it on a beautifully made steak with complex flavors, all you’re going to taste is the ketchup. And it would be putting a lot of hot sauce on something, where you’re like, “Well, my mouth’s on fire, and I’m not sure what I just ate.” I love hot sauce, but in moderation. So with your ketchup, if there’s a very mild version of the ketchup next to the French fries, I’m going to say, yeah, you can use that about 5% of the time.

The reason why you buy quality steak, like Certified Angus Beef, is because of the complexity of the flavors of the meat. And so salt and pepper really is all you need, maybe a couple of rubs that have a few other like paprika and stuff like that.

So you don’t go in for the big, like the garlic butter and the whole thing on top and everything?

It’s putting a hat on a hat for that. So there are a thousand other great sauces you can put on steak that illuminate the flavors. So I mean butter is fine, but I mean, a lot of people cook with that. But really, for the next five steaks, don’t use ketchup. When you ask for how you want your steak to be cooked, what do you say?

Okay, so I’ve gotten a little bit better on this because it used to be…

Are you going to say well done?

I sure am. I used to. I believe some places won’t do it. (McHale gets up from his chair in disgust) Joel has left the chat.

No, I have not left the chat. I’m just kind of taking a moment.

I was young. I was stupid.

You walked into a Morton’s Steakhouse and were like, “I’ll take a well-done New York strip and half a cup of ketchup.” What is your choice of drink with that? Do you have a boba tea?

Soda pop! They should have vetted me before this, huh?

No, no, no, no. I’m glad we’re doing this. It’s an intervention.

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I get medium well, or medium now.

I will say this, medium is the most difficult flavor. It’s the most difficult temperature to achieve because it’s easy to do medium rare because you just sear that thing off, and you can put it back in the oven if you need a little bit more. Once it gets to medium, it’s only there for a few seconds before it’s ruined, and it can be delicious and perfect if it’s perfect all the way through, but it is a very high bar for a chef to achieve.

The next time you go to a steakhouse, this is what I’d like you to do, just go in and go, “Have the chef cook it how exactly they want it. How they would cook it.” That’s all you do. I’m sure they’re going to have a homemade A1 steak sauce, even a bearnaise, which can be pretty heavy but also very tasty, not nearly as loud as ketchup, or something like that. Mine eyes have seen the coming of the steak. That’s what it’ll be. You’ll be like, “Wow.”

I feel like you’re taking me under your wing here. I feel like I’m now your mentee.

Did you think we would talk this much about steak? You can ask about other things.

What level of done-ness is the script for the Community movie? Medium, medium-well?

It’s still in the fridge right now.

You can see Joel McHale in episodes of ‘Stargirl’ on the CW, in an eventual ‘Community’ movie, and in a steakhouse near you.