What is the perfect steak?There is no such thing as the perfect steak. Your perfect steak won’t be the same as ours, so we need to establish what you are looking for in a steak. If money is not an issue, there are many expensive steaks available, depending on the breed, the land it is raised on, the food it eats and the farming method. You can opt for pasture fed, organic, free range, rare breed, dry aged, or any combination of those. If you are looking for value, there are many steaks available that will fit your spending limits, and some cheaper steaks are high in flavour and nutrition while not breaking the bank.
What steak to chooseFirst, buy the best steak you can afford. Go to a reputable butcher you can rely on, someone who takes pride in the meat he sells and where it comes from. Tell the butcher what you are looking for, your likes and dislikes, and he will look after you really well. You will come to rely on him for the best cuts.
BreedIf you want to be really picky, go for a specific breed. The most expensive are Wagyu or Kobe Beef and the taste is amazing. Wagyu is heavily marbled and to the uninitiated can look like very fat meat. The intramuscular fat is considered to be higher in omega-3 and omega-6 and the marbling increases the ratio of monounsaturated fats to saturated fats. Chianina is becoming very trendy among chefs, and the bistecca alla fiorentina is the most famous steak from that animal, the tallest cattle in the world. Aubrac beef is really good, tender and lean but you will have to look for a butcher who stocks it. Highland cattle are reckoned to have an authentic beef taste, and lower cholesterol, but again finding a stockist can be difficult. Hereford and Angus are the favourites but there are other breeds to look out for. Dexter, the original small Irish breed is making a comeback lately and Piedmontese is popular because it is double-muscled and has very little fat. The latest trend is for Galician beef, cattle up to 15 years old who have stopped giving milk. In Galicia, in Spain, they let the cattle graze for a few years to recover condition before slaughter. The beef is then aged up to 90 days to achieve a unique flavour. It is pretty pricey too.
Pasture fed versus feedlotA cow’s digestive system is uniquely designed to extract nourishment from grass, something we humans can’t do. However, feeding grass to cattle to reach slaughter weight takes time so the feedlot system came into being to get animals ready for slaughter in a shorter time. Feedlot cattle are fed on a diet that puts weight on quicker than grass, but at a cost to the health of the animals. “Antibiotics are mixed in with the feed to keep livers and guts from failing.” – Mark Schatzker. “Steak.” Cattle have to be given growth hormones and antibiotics to counteract the lack of grass. In the USA this is by far the most common type of beef available.
Choose your steak based on your primary criteriaTenderness = Fillet Size and tenderness = Striploin Juiciness and Tenderness = Rib Eye Size and Flavour = Rump/Sirloin All of the above = T-Bone or Porterhouse
TerroirWikipedia defines Terroir as “ the set of all environmental factors that affect a crop’s epigenetic qualities, unique environment contexts and farming practices, when the crop is grown in a specific habitat. This is usually used in reference to grape-growing for making wine, but it applies to meat also. Where an animal is raised, the food it eats, the temperature and conditions, all have a bearing on the quality, taste and texture of the meat.
Cooking for FlavourIf you are the sort of person who will only eat steak well-done, try this once. Cook a steak to medium, let it rest for 5 minutes, season and taste. Forget that there is any pink meat, concentrate on the taste. If you give it a fair try you will never go back to well-done again.
Selecting quality meatThin steaks will be cooked right through, so if you like a rare or medium steak, ask for a thicker cut. If the steak is for more than one person you can always cut it into portions after cooking. Look for grass fed beef steaks that have been dry-aged for 21 days or more for maximum tenderness and flavour. Buy from a real butcher and he will get to know what you like and will try to have what you want when you shop with him. Cooking Method
- Bring steaks to room temperature for bout half an hour. Heat your griddle or frying pan until smoking hot over a very high heat.
- Brush the steak with a little olive oil and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper just before cooking.
- Don’t griddle/fry more than two steaks at a time, and keep them spaced well apart. If you add more than two steaks to the pan at once, the temperature will drop and the steak will steam, rather than fry.
- Don’t turn the steaks until the required time is up, then turn them over and cook on the other side (see timings, below).
- Let the steak rest for about 5-10 minutes (in tinfoil) before serving, to allow the juices that have been drawn to the surface to relax back into the meat.
- Blue: 1 minute each side
- Rare: 1½ minutes each side
- Medium rare: 2 minutes each side
- Medium: 2¼ minutes each side
- Medium-well done: 2½ – 3 minutes each side.