Monday, 19 December 2011

Trying to cook the perfect steak (volume 3)

My little mission to find the best way to cook a steak continues. It's been a while since I've had one so I thought I'd treat myself to a little early Christmas present.

Here we have about 650g of T-bone from Farmer Copley's just outside Pontefract. Copley's is one of the new types of farm shop I tend to moan about; the prices are high and a lot of money has obviously been spent on the premises. The butchers counter was full of the usual ready trimmed, small not-very-exciting cuts but in this case they were happy to fetch a larger piece from out back and cut me something to order (unlike certain other farm shops where you have to order two weeks in advance in triplicate by fax just to get a decent sized steak on the bone).

In this case they'd already boned out all the main sirloin and fillet portions but did have some T-bone ends on offer. I'd rather not have the fillet section at all, but at least at the end there's not much of it to be bothering about.

On to the cooking method, so far this year I've tried the following:

- slow in a pan with a constant basting of butter followed by a long rest.
- fast over charcoal followed by a long rest.
- fast in a hot dry pan followed by a long rest (I haven't blogged this but it used to be my stock method).

...all of which have pros and cons, but this one is my new favourite, at least in December it is when I have no intention of firing up the barbie. I found the method on the Serious Eats website and you can find it here and here. These guys really know their steak!

Here is what I did.

Get a thick steak. At least one and a half inches. Anything thinner you might as well flash fry and eat in a sandwich.

Remove it from the fridge at least two hours before you plan to cook it, and salt it generously at least one hour before you plan to cook it. Salting early really does work. The Serious Eats link explains why, and if you look carefully at my photos (very carefully because they're rubbish) you can see the evidence. The photo above was taken about 15 minutes after salting. There are loads of tiny little pools of liquid on the surface of the steak where the salt has drawn out the moisture.

The photo above was taken about 40 minutes after the previous one. The liquid pools have disappeared either entirely or have left a little solid salt deposit, like the crust from evaporated seawater. If you don't believe me and want to get all Blumenthal-obsessive about it then go check out the time lapse video. I waited a full hour after salting because it took longer for the moisture to re-absorb for me.

When it was eventually good to go I heated up some neutral cooking oil (sunflower, groundnut or whatever) in a flat, thick bottomed frying pan until it was smoking. I don't use a ridged griddle anymore because although it makes your steak pretty it actually hinders development of the crust (because the surface of the meat between the ridges is actually kept away from the heat slightly).

When the oil was smoking profusely I threw in the steak, then kept turning it every thirty seconds or so for a few minutes. The exact time will depend on the thickness of your steak, you'll have to guess if (like me) you don't have a meat thermometer.

This is after the first minute.

And here we are after three minutes.

After 5 minutes I threw in a big knob of butter, then started turning it even more frequently.

After about six and a half minutes the crust was looking good and it came out of the pan and on to a warmed plate. I then covered it with tented tin foil and left it for about seven minutes.

The finished article, looking pretty damn fine. How about the inside?

Almost cracked it! I was looking for that dark, crusty almost charred but not burnt surface giving way to pink right the way through the centre. This was just very slightly overdone in the centre, but only just. The texture and flavour were excellent. The salt had permeated right through the meat leaving it perfectly seasoned, and it had a strong, minerally flavour. Really, really good. I also had the urge to eat all of the fat from the edges, as it was all lovely and creamy and more-ish, always a sign of a good steak.

With a bit of tweaking, this is the method for me. I'd probably knock 30 seconds off the overall cooking time for a steak the same size, and add the butter 30 seconds earlier. Other than that it was wonderful, and the meat itself very good too. I'll go to Farmer Copley's again.


Gary said...

This is interesting, I'm of the school of thought that you don't move it at all during cooking, except to turn it. Will have to try this way.

Mr Noodles said...

Not tried it myself, and it might be more a method for a Hawksmoor-esque 1kg+ cut, but what about the quick sear then ridiculously hot oven followed by a bit of a rest?

Dave said...

Gary - as discussed on Twitter, it was news to me as well. Serious Eats food lab stuff can be found here:

Mr Noodles - haven't tried that method yet, but I don't think I've got the cooker for it. My ceramic hobs aren't hot enough for the quick sear and I doubt my oven is up to the task either. Reckon I could have a go using the bbq for the sear. One for next summer...

Clare said...

I do love a good steak and that looks amazing. Next time I cook one, I'll refer to this post for help... it seems that I have been doing everything wrong in the steak cooking department over the past few years!

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