THE PERFECT STEAK – A ‘HOW TO’ GUIDEServes: 1 Prep Time: 5 Minutes Cooking Time: Up to 40 Minutes
Buying – Always choose good steak! You very much get what you pay for when it comes to prime cuts but there are a few key things to look for
Marbling – one of those ‘cheffy’ terms which basically means a good, even amount of fat running through the muscle. Anything too lean will lack flavour and potentially be tough.
Colour – don’t choose anything bright red! This might indicate a lack of aging and may lead to a tough steak. Aging helps to tenderise a steak – something a bit dryer or darker in colour will be deeper in flavour and almost certainly more tender.
Sinew – there will always be bits and pieces of sinew or gristle in most steaks, with the exception of fillet. Try to pick a steak with as little as possible visible sinew as no amount of cooking will tenderise this. Don’t confuse gristle with fat – fat is important!
Temperature – A crucial part of the cooking process before, during and after.
Room temperature – remove your steaks from the fridge at least half an hour before you intend cooking them. This will allow the meat to get up to room temperature and the fat will begin to soften. This will result in a more flavoursome and tender steak.
High heat – whether you are barbecuing, grilling or pan-frying your steaks, starting the cooking process on a very high heat is absolutely crucial. Forming a good crust on the outside of your steak will lead to a great, caramelized flavour and attractive colour and also seal in any delicious juices. A low heat will result in a tough, grey-coloured steak.
Warm spot– Resting your steak is probably the most crucial part of the process and the most often overlooked. Resting your steak for at least half the cooking time, uncovered, in a warm – not hot – place will help relax and tenderise your steak even further and allow any excess water to drip out of the finished steak.
Cooking Temperatures – If you don’t feel comfortable gauging the done-ness of your steak by touch then invest in a digital probe. A rare steak should register 48c, med-rare 52c, medium 58c, med-well 62c and 68c for a well done. The temperature will increase by 2-3 degrees immediately once rested before cooling down. Like any prime cut, be it beef, lamb, chicken or pork, the longer you cook it, the tougher it will become.
Seasoning – enhance the steak rather than flavour it
Salt and pepper – a good hit of salt and pepper will help flavour the steak and make it taste more ‘steaky’. The salt will also draw out any water. Season the steaks just prior to cooking.
Oil – giving the steaks themselves a rub with a little cooking oil before placing onto the heat will prevent them sticking and also give a better sizzle and seal. Avoid olive oil at all costs as the flame-point is too low and the olive oil will burn before the steaks are sealed properly.
Butter – adding a good knob of butter to your frying pan towards the end of the cooking process will add an extra layer of flavour to your steak. Let it foam and baste the steak for the last couple of minutes of cooking. If you are grilling or barbecuing, then adding a smear of butter while the steaks are resting will achieve a similar result. Pour any melted butter or steak juice back over the steaks while they rest.
Carving and serving – ‘Against the grain!’ If you are carving your steaks, then always try and carve against the grain wherever possible. For something super tender such as fillet or ribeye, this is less crucial. However, for tougher or trickier cuts like bavette, onglette or even rump, always carve or slice against the grain rather than with it. This will ensure the slices remain tender. If the steaks have rested to a point where they are no longer hot enough to serve, simply flash them very quickly on the BBQ or under the grill to heat the outside. Avoid recooking for too long as this will definitely toughen the meat.