The ABCs of How to Cook a Steak.
From picking the best cut of meat to the temperatures and time of each cooking variation. Learn how to cook a steak like a pro.
Firstly not all steak is created equally!
Variations in feed, environment and breeding can make a huge amount of difference in flavour, texture and tenderness.
Key quality markers:
It could be said that, you CAN judge a book by its cover. If it looks good, it generally will be, but when it comes to red meat proteins other contributing factors can make all the difference. You should be looking for a rich, deep red colour to your meat. The fat should be white with a buttery tinge. The more yellow the fat, generally the older the steer. 36 months or lower is the optimum length of time to produce good beef. Unless of course we are talking about veal, which is at its best between 3 and 16 weeks of age.
Now this is where it gets a little trickier. Each cut of beef will feel different – porterhouse will be firm as apposed to tenderloin, which will still (should!) be firm, but softer with less resistance. The general rule of thumb is that firm flesh should yield a tender, flavourful steak. Sloppy or loose meat is a sign of age or poor handling at the abattoir. Other reasons could be an inferior animal.
How to cook a steak
Now I know it is easy for me to say, that cooking a steak is easy, but it bloody is!
Here are some pointers on how to ramp up your steak cookery to the next level. WARNING – once you master the basics, everyone will look to you at the family BBQ to cook.
Best cut and technique for the job:
Now most of you will be throwing the barbie on for that Saturday or Sunday family and friends get together. Quick, easy and ready to eat. Most cuts are great to BBQ, but I would avoid the cuts that have worked hard on the body, like the leg muscles for instance. The reason tenderloin is so tender, is that it does little work on the animal. Less work = a tender steak.
Long and low
I particularly love this type of cooking as you get to use the secondary cuts, which in my opinion have the best flavour. Brisket, flank, cheek, blade, chuck all have a great deal of connective tissue that if cooked quickly will toughen up and become inedible. However, if slow cooked at a temperature between 65 and 100 degrees (depending on size and cut) with a moisture, rubs and vegetables. The results will be astounding.
There is a great deal of info out in cyberspace, so experiment and create your own style!
This one is messy and Smokey, but well worth the effort! You will need a good cast iron pan, a hob/oven that will reach and hold a high temperature. Depending on the ‘temperature’ that you like to have your steak – Blue, rare, medium rare, medium, medium well, well done – is how long you need to have your meat out of the fridge.
The ‘rarer’ that you like your steak, the longer it should be left to come to room temperature. Now I’m not saying, throw it onto the bench and let it sit for 2 hours – that’s dangerous! For a good 300g blue steak I would remove from the fridge a good 20 minutes before cooking. As you will see below, the guide shows you the temperatures that will deliver the goods! Use a temperature probe, especially if you are new to this.
Now to the cooking:
Based on a 500g scotch fillet cooked to medium.
– Firstly pre heat your oven to 220°c – for fan forced – 250 for static.
– Now ‘lightly’ season and oil the meat.
– Get that pan nice and hot. (The last thing you want to do is stew that sucker)
– When the pan is good and hot, carefully place the steak into the pan.
– Cook on high for 3-4 minutes. Turn over and cook the other side for a further 3-4 minutes.
– Carefully turn the steak onto its edge and ‘seal’ any area that is raw.
– Finally pop into the middle shelf of the hot oven and cook for approx. 6-8 minutes.
– Once cooked remove from the oven and place the steak onto a cake rack in a warm area for approximately 10 minutes.
The good stuff
All ovens are different, so regard these instructions as a guide.
Deglaze the pan after you have removed the steak with red wine/stock. Maybe some peppercorns, garlic, Worcestershire sauce and cream to make a cracking pepper sauce. N/B disregard if the pan is too black from cooking. Your sauce will be very bitter and inedible. You can also add a generous knob of butter, herb and garlic for another cracking sauce.
The sign of a perfectly cooked steak is the ‘Crust’. It should be dark, but not black, dry and firm to the touch – the ultimate caramelisation!
Rest that bloody thing! This allows all those amazing juices and flavours to settle back into the fibres and finish up in your mouth, rather than your plate. Use the probe if unsure, but if you want to go all cheffy, go by feel and timing. Generally the firmer the meat- the more cooked it will be.
Try using the Thumb to Finger method:
This is a pretty loose technique but it will give you a great idea of what you are looking for.
open palm – soft when depressing the ‘meat’ below your thumb.
Thumb to index finger – firmer below thumb
Thumb to second finger – firmer again
Thumb to third finger
Thumb to fourth finger
As with all things in the kitchen – sometimes you have to crack a few eggs to get the perfect omelette!
Until next time, crack away and enjoy the process.