Steak is a treat. Properly dry-aged meat from a well reared animal is hard to beat. It’s very simple to cook and needs very little in the way of preparation so a really good meal can be on the table in a matter of minutes. It’s very easy to get it wrong though, so we’d thought we would give you a few tips to ensure you make the most of what is an expensive cut of meat.
The most popular cuts are sirloin, ribeye, fillet and rump, but it’s also worth trying bavette, hanger (onglet), which has a slight offal flavour or featherblade. These lesser-known cuts are often preferred by people in the know and are more affordable.
If you take your steak out of the fridge and straight into a very hot pan, the outside will cook very quickly, crusting and charring while the inside will remain (relatively) raw. If you like your steak blue that’s fine but for most, we are aiming for a medium rare.
Tempering is the process of bringing meat up to room temperature, so that the whole piece is ambient before you start to cook. The temperature of the middle of the cut doesn’t have to be raised as much to get it to the blushing pink we want.
Tempering is even more important when roasting a large joint, as the heat must penetrate further. You should bring steaks out of the fridge 30 minutes (minimum) before cooking and large joints for a Sunday Roast at least an hour.
You must salt your steak (disclaimer: if your doctor has put you on a low sodium diet you should listen to them.) Salt brings out the natural flavour of food, it enhances it. It’s up to you how much you use, but I like a good fat pinch of flaky salt on each side, trust me, a ready meal will contain much more. Knowing when to season is just as important. If you season a few minutes before you cook, the salt will begin to draw out water due to osmosis. This water will collect on the steak. When you add it to the pan, the steak will boil rather than sear and this is not what we want. We want a nice dry steak to hit the pan and fry immediately, creating a crust and caramelising. This process is known as the Maillard reaction, it’s what creates the savoury flavour we all love. I could ramble on about dry brining and the science of salting for pages, but that makes more sense with large cuts of meat, so to keep in simple let’s just say…
Season your (dry as possible) steak and lightly oil it seconds before you start to cook.
Get your pan hot. Let it heat up for a good 5 minutes until it starts to smoke. Don’t use a lightweight non-stick pan, they are useless. Use a heavy pan, steel or cast iron. I favour the Alex Pole frying pan for my steaks. If you want a really good crust, the pan makes a difference.
Once it is good and hot put your steak in.It will sizzle and smoke (open a window). You can’t cook a good steak without smoke – it helps to flavour it. Leave it alone for 60 seconds before turning it. You can then keep on turning it over until you are happy with the crust. If it’s a sirloin, use some tongs to hold the fatty edge onto the pan and render that out a little.
How long it will take depends on many factors, the temperature of the pan, the temperature of the steak before cooking, the thickness of the steak and the cut. These variables make it impossible to advise on how long to cook it, but what I will say is a 1-inch steak should be cooked in roughly 5-6 minutes, if you have a nice hot pan. Chefs tend to finger prod steaks when cooking them to check to see how well done they are, the more resistance, the more well done the steak. Google ‘steak finger test’ for more information.
Once you are happy with your steak in terms of the colour and feel, remove it from the pan and place it on a plate or board and allow it to rest. This allows the juices to redistribute through the steak and you won’t have a plateful of juice when you cut into it. After all, you want the juice IN the steak. I tend to let a steak rest for almost as long as it has been cooking in the pan. A nice knob of butter works wonders sat on top melting over the rested steak.
Lewis, Durslade Farm Shop Manager