Right, we are going to get the bare bones here and share some good house rules as to how to cook the perfect steak. Given our experience at Turner & George, we like to think that we’ve got this particular area down to pat. But of course, you may have other opinions.
Whatever they are, we can definitely all agree that after spending money on a properly sourced, well-aged and marbled piece of meat, the last thing you want to do is mess things up.
So, here we go.
TYPE OF STEAK
It goes without saying that the choice of steak has become massive these days, with more and more cuts making it from the board and across the counter. Rib eye, sirloin and rump are all firm favourites but flat iron, onglet and Porterhouse are also very popular with our customer base.
Not forgetting to mention our Galician and Basque steak, using cuts from beef that are older (up to 15 years) and therefore a lot deeper in flavour.
One core principle remains with all steak though, it is good to be aware of the fat content. Lean and thin steak benefits from fast cooking. Whereas heavily marbled slabs of meat deserve just a bit more time, so that the fat renders down and helps to baste the steak.
BRINGING TO ROOM TEMPERATURE
One commonly forgotten factor when preparing steak is the necessity to bring the meat up to room temperature, or ‘tempering’ as it is known in the trade. A cold steak will take everything out of your control and plunge you into the unknown. So, after taking from the fridge, you should allow at least 30 minutes or more on the side for it to warm up, depending on the thickness of the steak.
Not forgetting to cover with some kitchen towel and leave in a secure place. For fear of buzzing creatures or roaming pets.
As we have already alluded, there are a whole range of seasoning methods and recipes out there and yes, we do like to keep an open mind. When it comes to some of the more robust cuts, like bavette, we’d even go so far as to say that marinating beforehand isn’t a bad idea. With some red wine, herbs and a squeeze of citrus, to help break down the fibres a touch and to get the party started.
However, nothing quite beats a healthy sprinkling of good ol’ fashioned salt and pepper. Go for seasoning just before cooking though, as the salt can draw out excess moisture. And use sea salt flakes, rather than the table variety. It is just too harsh.
SOURCE OF HEAT
By and large, many of us will simply approach the hob to fry a steak off in a hot pan but it is worth considering other fiery routes, such as cooking over charcoal or wood, to impart some smoky flavour. If you are feeling particularly adventurous, you could go ‘dirty’ and slap a steak straight onto smouldering coals.
And a fine cheats method is reverse-searing, where you place your steak in an oven set at 120°C, speared by a meat thermometer. Once the internal temperature reaches between 50°C the steak is very nearly ready to go. You just need to give it a blast on both sides in a searingly hot pan, to get that all important crust. Great for keeping a cool head at dinner parties.
TOUCH VS PROBING
Having mentioned temperatures and probes already, you can keep an eye on proceedings, again by carefully monitoring the internal temperature of your steak as it cooks. The range for medium-rare by the way is between 53°C and 57°C and medium done is 58°C to 60°C. Not that you’d want to go beyond that. Heavens no.
And then there is the classic ‘pinching-finger-to-thumb-and-prodding-of-your-Mount-Venus’ test for done-ness. Where you run the gamut of digits, starting from your index (medium-rare) to your pinkie (well-done) and make a touch comparison with the steak. It does work and is a great technique that relies on your senses and better judgement.
REST, REST, REST...
You’ve chosen your steak. You’ve brought it up to room temperature. You’ve seasoned it well. And you’ve cooked it to your own preference. Excellenté. And after all that, the last thing you want to do is mess things up right up by cutting into it straight away, right? Well, now is the time to let that steak rest. In the pan, still but off the heat. Straight on a plate and left in a warm place. Or even wrapped up in foil. But whatever you do, leave it alone, for at least ten minutes, to relax and unwind.
Steak and chips are hard to beat and perhaps that is all you will ever need. But sometimes, it is worthwhile going the extra mile and rustling up a béarnaise or peppercorn sauce. If you’ve gone to the trouble of basting your steak in butter whilst it cooks (another good technique) it is also worth throwing in some extra aromats in, such as garlic and thyme. To help flavour and finish. But if you have invested in something that is quality and just that head above the rest, it is probably best enjoyed unadorned and straight up. You’ve come this far, so why spoil things?
Whatever you do, just try to be patient.
If you can get into a certain ‘steak of mind’, then that is probably the best way to reach that nirvana we are all seeking.