[Cue "Hoedown" from Rodeo]
This post would have been more appropriate on International Eat an Animal for PETA Day, but you win some and you lose some. Men's Journal has a terrific article this month assuaging some fears about Mad Cow Disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) and explaining where on the steer the best cuts of beef are found (there's also a link to a really excellent virtual side of beef).
I liked this quote about Mad Cow, from an author calling himself "Mr. Cutlets": "You have a better chance statistically of having your throat cut by Merv Griffin than of catching BSE from your steak." The piece also has these tips for cooking a steak in a cast iron skillet, but they apply no matter how you prepare the meat:
AGE IT. Do this if you have the time, as aging rids the steak of excess water and starts breaking down the muscle for a more intense and tender chew. Mount the meat on a drying rack at the back of the bottom of your fridge for up to 48 hours -- but make absolutely sure that your box is running below 40 degrees first.
I always wondered what it meant to "age" beef. I thought you needed some special setup, like a smokehouse, or dry ice or something. Turns out you can do it in your fridge. Sweeeeeeet.
REST IT. Let it sit on a cooling rack by the warm oven for four or five minutes to allow the steak to relax and reabsorb its precious fluids. Apply fork and knife.
Never thought about letting my steak "relax," since I don't want to eat it cold. But it makes sense.
Honestly, though, I prefer bison to beef (don't get sucked in by the hybrid beefalo; go with the real thing). Don't get me wrong; I love beef. Love it. But bison is healthier than beef and tastes, well, meatier. It's richer, tangier, earthier. And, even though it's leaner than beef, it's much juicier when properly prepared. You can get some great bison cooking tips and recipes here.