There is a certain pressure that comes with cooking a nice piece of beef steak.
A good quality cut will cost more than most foods that an amateur chef would prepare at home, meaning that getting the dish wrong can be an expensive disappointment.
See also: Hawksmoor Restaurants and Recipes
Fortunately, there are a few simple steps that you can follow which will help to ensure you get a good result.
This is more a guide than a precise recipe, bringing together tips common to the vast array of cookbooks that I have read. As it’s a guide, this would apply to most cuts.
Steak of your choosing, sea salt a little oil, butter
- Buying the best quality steak possible
Steak that hasn’t been aged is nothing to write home about – look for beef that has been hung for at least three weeks.
The gold standard is dry-aged beef. After hanging, the cuts are kept at a controlled temperature, humidity and air quality, usually for another 20 days.
When beef is aged correctly, it will have a deep, rich red colour that darkens towards the edges. The fat will have a distinct, rich smell that is unmistakable and mouth-watering.
- Preparing the meat
Steak must be cooked from room temperature, so take it out of the fridge well before cooking. They need to be dry for a good crust to form, so pat any moisture off with kitchen roll.
Seasoning – a liberal sprinkling of sea salt is essential just before cooking, but pepper can be divisive.
Hawksmoor, who cook over coals, says not to use it before cooking, while many chefs will advocate the larger pieces of cracked black pepper (crush pepper then sieve it, keep the finer parts that fall through for later).
The reason is that finely ground pepper can burn, creating a bitter flavour.
There’s no need to add any oil to the steak, but you may want to add some to the pan depending on whether it’s non-stick or not.
Use a neutral oil like groundnut or vegetable in the pan.
It’s worth giving the pan you’re using a good five minutes to warm up correctly so that it holds its heat better when you start cooking.
Barbecues need to have been cooking until the coals are white-hot, to char the steak properly. Starting too soon can lead to too many flames, which can burn the meat.
Add the steak to the searing hot pan or barbeque, and don’t be tempted to move it for a little while to let a crust begin to form.
You may find the steak stuck, in particular, if barbequing – if it’s hot enough, then it will unstick after about a minute.
Flip the steak to cook the other side, and if it’s a particularly thick piece, you may need to introduce the sides to the grill or pan as well.
Towards the end of cooking in a pan, a knob of butter with some rosemary and a crushed garlic clove can further enhance the flavour.
If it’s on the larger side, you may need to put it into the oven to get the centre up to temperature.
- After cooking
The safest way to be sure your steak is perfect is to use a meat thermometer.
I use a Thermapen that I picked up from Amazon (affiliate link) – they seem to be the brand that lots of professional kitchens use.
Once you’re happy that the core of the cut of meat is at the right temperature, it’s critical to rest it.
A standard steak will only need about 10 minutes to rest, but larger cuts will need longer – a low oven will stop them from getting too cold.
The reason meat needs to be rested is that the core will continue cooking for a few minutes off the heat and as it cools, the structure becomes firmer and more able to retain water – meaning you get a more juicy steak.
Where possible, carve against the grain for improved texture, and use a sharp knife – a dull blade will compress the meat rather than cut it, and water will escape.
Ribeye is often considered best medium-rare, as the fat needs to cook long enough to render. Aim for a core temperature of 55 degrees celsius at the end of cooking.
Rump steak is one of the most flavoursome, but is not as tender as sirloin. Again aim for a medium-rare steak that is about 55 degrees celsius. The core temperature will rise a few degrees as it rests
Fillet is the most tender cut of steak, and most would eat it rare, which would mean an internal temperature of 50 celsius. You could also have it blue – effectively uncooked, save for a sear all over.