Want an awesome dinner on a Saturday night but can’t be arsed to cook for hours? Got to be steak night!
Anyone can fry a steak and bung a few chips in the oven, but steak is actually very versatile. This post is going to start by talking about cuts, move on to how to cook it, then finish with a few serving ideas that will make your steak night even better!
Summary: Buy a quality steak at least an inch thick, season it an hour in advance, sear it in a hot cast iron skillet, finish it with butter.
Do the above and you’ll have a great meal, want a few more specifics, then read on…
Most people think this an inferior cut, but a high quality, well aged, organic rump steak can be better than any other cut. Best avoided in the supermarket, but worth considering at a quality butcher or from a rare breed.
More tender than the rump, but a tight texture and grain means this can retain a bit chew. Easy to cook but overrated in my opinion.
Marbled, beefy and quite loose in texture this is the steak eater’s steak. Can be a bit gristly if you’re unlucky, but best for those who won’t confuse delicious fatty meat for gristle.
Expensive but great for the fussy eater who is going to leave anything remotely suspected of being ‘gristle’ – you know who you are missus! More about the texture than the flavour, very loose and soft, almost melt in the mouth. Probably the only one I’d consider with a sauce.
The smaller side is fillet, the other is sirloin, so don’t get ripped off with a tiny bit of fillet on it. Mix of both cuts can make it tricky to cook.
Forerib of Beef:
Often sold as a roasting cut, but a 1 bone cut of forerib can be cooked as a steak, particularly good for the BBQ, good to slice on the board and share
This is a big lump of ribeye still attached to 12-18 inches of bone. Popular on the BBQ circuit you can buy these online or even from Costco these days I think!
Chuck it in, cook it hot, eat it – right? Well yeah, but if you want your steak to be restaurant quality, then read on, there are a few tips and a bit of science to get your head round. Something I’m sure of, doing it right takes practice…
- Thin steaks are hard to cook, look for one that is 1-2 inches thick. Find a good butcher and buy your steak there, they will cut it to thickness for you and it will be better than mass produced supermarket steak.
- It’s too wet in that supermarket packaging! Unwrap it when you get home and sit it in the fridge on a plate with a bit of kitchen roll over it.
- Salt for a minimum of 45 minutes in advance, go for an hour, max out at a day. Once committed, stick it out, because osmosis will start inside 5 minutes and then moisture will be drawn to the surface cells. Moisture, in particular surface moisture is the enemy of a great steak because the pan heat uses energy to evaporate water instead of caremilse meat. Brush excess salt off before you cook and pat thoroughly dry with kitchen roll. (get some nice Maldon flake/rock salt).
- Invest in a cast iron skillet. They cook at high heat so much better than regular pans. Fast searing is essential if you want to build a thick brown crust without overcooking the interior. Get you pan HOT. Get that extractor fan on, or use the skillet low down over some coals because otherwise your kitchen is going to get smokey as fuck.
- Oil the steak, not the pan! Then grind on a good dose of pepper. Use an oil with a high smoke point. Extra virgin olive oil has a low smoke point and your smoke alarms will be going crazy. ‘Pure’ or ‘light’ olive oil has been refined to remove minerals, enzymes, and other compounds that don’t play well with heat and so has a much higher smoke point. Groundnut oil is my favourite.
- Oil the pan not the steak! Consider this option 2, I’d suggest you only do it this way if you want to use a big lump of beef dripping as your medium. Beef dripping also has a relatively high smoke point, goes well with the steak and mixes well with butter. In this method you flip and baste.
- Flip frequently! It will help develop a good crust, and cook your steak more evenly.
- Finish with butter. Have a knob or two ready in advance to avoid panic. Turn the heat don a bit and chuck that butter in for the last minute or two (burnt butter is nasty). Spoon over the meat as it foams up, this will also improve the colour of the steak as the proteins in the butter start to work.
- Get an instant read thermometer. Seriously why fuck about trying to guess when your steak is ready? A Thermapen is about £35 and is useful for all meat based cooking.
- Take your steak out early! Try 45-50 for rare, 50-55 for medium and 55+ for losers. This sounds lower that you’ll read elsewhere, but you have to remember you’ll get an increase of 3-5 degrees while resting it, and you did buy a quality steak didn’t you?
- Rest it! 5 minutes should do it, loosely cover with foil. Try to find a wooden board for this, because a cold plate will just make your steak cold. (ok, you can use a warm plate, but a wooden board is so much cooler!)
Somewhat controversially, I don’t think that ‘regular’ steaks have any place on a BBQ. ‘Primeval’ cuts like forerib, tomahawks or huge lumps of Bistecca alla Fiorentina are all great for BBQ. Quite simply it’s usually just too hard to get a garden BBQ hot enough to caramelise the outside and leave the inside anything under well done (I suppose owners of gas BBQs are exempt here as they are essentially just outdoor hobs). Thicker cuts can handle the longer duration required to form a nice crust. However, if you insist on BBQing a ‘normal’ steak then:
1. Never use fast acting or instant light coals – you steak will taste like petrol. Instead find a supplier of high quality restaurant grade lump wood (usually your local BBQ specialist shop). It will burn hotter too.
2. Cook it in a skillet, not on the grill. Then you can switch to a bit of direct fire to try to get a charred flavour before switching back to the skillet for the last minute for the butter basting stage.
Butter and steak are a match made in heaven. Plain butter, or a gently flavoured one is where it’s at. Take 50g of soft butter, mash it up with a clove or two of roasted garlic and a few thyme leaves and you’re in business. A quick grind of pepper and a small pinch of rock salt, with a big blob of butter and that’s the meat done.
Again, not great for a normal steak, but if cooking a big lump on the BBQ, consider a board sauce: https://barbecuebible.com/recipe/board-dressing/
Buttered steak, fat chips, grilled portobello mushroom, oven roasted cherry tomatoes still on the vine.
Steak and Beetroot Salad
Beetroot for some reason goes really well in a side salad with a bit of thinly sliced red onion, pea shoots or other baby leaf type salad and a drizzle of hot, sticky, reduced balsamic. Buy a pack of precooked beets, dot around the salad and serve with some sauté potatoes and the steak sitting on top.
Instead of herby butter, take 2 tsp of dried yeast, mix with 2 tsp of water and then mush this paste into some butter. It results in a tangy, umami rich butter that is amazing with the meat.
Go Argentinian style and serve with skinny fries, humita saltena, heirloom tomatoes, an N’Duja mac n cheese and a homemade chimmichurri sauce.