How to cook the perfect steak

Cooking with Tatiana Bento – Marmalade Cookery School

Summer time….

Summer is here and in the cookery world that equals barbecues

During our classes we are asked all sorts of questions, however there is one that keeps on popping up…. how do you cook the perfect steak? It’s not always a simple one to answer and of course it depends on your own idea of what a perfect steak is, but we are known for cooking a pretty decent one so we have decided to share our secrets…. How to Cook the Perfect Steak – AND – two different steak sauces

Selecting the Meat

THE STEAK CUT YOU CHOOSE TO BUY IS DOWN TO PERSONAL TASTE AND BUDGET. WE’LL EXPLAIN THE DIFFERENT CUTS SO YOU CAN SEE THE DIFFERENCE.

1. Rib Eye Steak: This is our favourite, for the simple reason that it is the most flavour some. These steaks are normally large, rounded cut from the eye of the fore rib. They carry a bit more fat than other cuts but that is also what packs them with flavour.

2. Sirloin Steak: These are lean, tender, boneless steaks, with a thin layer of fat running along one of the edges. If fat is not your thing go for these ones as you won’t have to compromise much of the flavour.

3. Rump Steak: Large, longer cuts of steak, which have a firmer texture than cuts from the sirloin but much more flavour. They are normally a cheaper option but if not hung properly can become chewy.

4. Fillet Steak: Very lean, round steaks. They are the most expensive because tenderness is guaranteed, however we think they are the least flavoursome. If you worry about the fat content these are probably the ones to choose as you still have a fantastic tender steak.

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BESIDES THE TYPE OF STEAK YOU CHOOSE, THERE ARE A COUPLE OF OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER:

1. Thickness:  Most steaks should be cut at ¾ inch thick (2cm). The times for cooking are designed for that thickness and will not apply to others. That is also the thickness considered to enhance the meat and cooking. However you may find fillet steaks cut at 1.5 inches thick (4 cm), for those you should adjust your cooking times.

2. Age: Age of the steak is important, as the hanging process develops the flavour and tenderises the meat. So ask your butcher how long the beef has been hung for. As a rule, 21 days as a minimum and 35 days as a maximum is a good range to go for.

3. Colour: Good beef should be a deep red colour.

4. Fat: Check the beef has good marbling – little streaks of fat running through the meat. This melts when heated, helping the steak to baste itself from within as it cooks. This won’t apply if buying fillet steak.

COOKING THE PERFECT STEAK IS NOT HARD BUT IT INVOLVES A SERIES OF LITTLE STEPS AND TRICKS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO THE END RESULT

   First thing you want to do is remove your steaks from the fridge one hour before cooking. If you don’t do this the meat core temperature will be much lower and the cooking times given won’t apply.

   Once you are ready to cook the steaks fire up the barbecue and get it nice and hot.

Tip #1: Don’t worry if you don’t have a barbecue as you can cook perfect steaks on the stove top. Heat a griddle or frying pan over a high heat, until smoking hot. We like to use a cast iron flat pan for this but any heavy bottomed pan will produce good results.

   Now back to the meat. Get some kitchen towels and pat your steaks with them, trying to remove as much moisture as possible.

Tip #2: This might sound crazy but trust me it makes the difference. When exposed to high heat the sugars in the meat caramelise helping to form that crust that we all like to see in our steaks. If the steak is wet that won’t happen.

   Lightly brush the steak with a little olive oil but don’t season it yet.

Tip #3: Salt draws moisture out of things and that’s the last thing we want to do to our steaks. The more moisture the steaks hold inside them the more tender and succulent they will be.

   Now that the time has come make sure that your grill or pan is really hot and slap your steaks on. Season the top with a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and step away from the steaks.

Tip #4: Don’t grill 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 stew, rather than grill. If you add more than two steaks to the grill at once, more than likely some steaks will be hotter than the others and affect your timings.

   Cooking the perfect steak is mostly to do with how you like it so we will give you the timings for each type of steak so you can get it just right.

   These timings are based on cooking a steak that’s about 2cm thick. (Cooking times will vary slightly depending on the type and thickness of the steak, and how hot your pan is.)

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

Well done: 3½ minutes each side

   Don’t turn the steaks or move them until the time has passed, then turn them over, season the top with a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook on the other side.

Tip #5: Use tongs to turn your steaks. If you pierce the meat you’ll let some of the juices escape.

   Once cooked you must let the steak rest for about 3 minutes before serving. The best way to rest it is under a tent of foil. If you haven’t done so yet make your steak sauce.

Tip #6: Resting is essential to allow the juices that have been drawn to the surface to relax back into the meat. Don’t let your foil tent sit on top of the steak or you might lose the crispy outer layer.

   Serve the steaks with some chips or a fresh salad and top it with the sauce.

Enjoy

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Au Poivre sauce

Serves 4

THIS IS AN ABSOLUTE CLASSIC THAT WILL ALWAYS IMPRESS. IT’S MORE SUITABLE FOR THOSE GRILLING THEIR STEAK ON A PAN BUT YOU CAN PRE MAKE IT IF USING THE GRILL.

Ingredients:

3 tbsp black peppercorns, cracked

25g finely chopped shallots

60g cognac or other brandy

240ml of good organic beef stock

60ml of double cream

Small handful of finely chopped parsley

How to make:

   Grill your steaks first but have all the ingredients for the sauce ready to go. Once the steaks come out of the pan and are resting make your sauce.

Tip #1: If you are using a Bbq it is easier to pre make the sauce in a clean separate pan.

   Once the steak is done to your liking, remove the meat to a baking sheet and sprinkle on a generous portion of crushed black peppercorns on both sides of each steak.

   Add the shallots to the pan and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the brandy and as it boils, deglaze the pan by scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to dislodge all the browned bits.

Tip #2: The brown bits are packed with flavours so try and get them all. A spatula will help you do this.

   Once the brandy is almost cooked away, add the beef stock and turn the heat to high. Boil the sauce down until there’s a noticeable trail when you drag a wooden spoon through the centre of it (about 5 minutes).

   Pour in the cream in and resume boiling. Again, boil down until you can make that tell-tale trail from the wooden spoon.

   Turn off the heat and add the parsley and any remaining black pepper (no more than 1 tbsp, the rest should have already been used to pepper the steaks). Season with sea salt if needed.

   Pour the sauce over the steaks just before serving.

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Argentinian Chimichurri sauce

Serves 4

THIS IS AN ARGENTINIAN CLASSIC USED IN ALL SORTS OF GRILLED MEATS. IT’S FRESH AND TANGY JUST LIKE IT SHOULD BE FOR A HOT SUMMER’S DAY.

Ingredients:

25g fresh flat-leaf parsley, trimmed of thick stems and finely chopped

3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 tbsp fresh oregano leaves, finely chopped (or 2 teaspoons dried oregano)

120ml of extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp red or white wine vinegar

1 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

How to make:

   Get a bowl large enough to mix all the ingredients and add the parsley, the fresh oregano, and garlic and mix together.

Tip #1: You can place all the ingredients in the food processor for several pulses, just beware not to over mince it or it will turn into a pulp.

   Stir in the olive oil, vinegar, salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

   Serve immediately or refrigerate. If chilled, return to room temperature before serving. Pour the sauce over the steaks right before serving.

Enjoy!

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