Sunday, 12 June 2011

Trying to cook the perfect steak (Volume 2)

I think I've come to a conclusion about the best way to cook steak. It has to be on the barbecue. No other method gives such a deeply savoury, smoky crust to the exterior. The tricky part is in the execution. Exactly how much heat your coals are giving out is difficult to gauge. Here is yesterday's attempt.

First and foremost, we need a piece of meat that is up to the task. I'm usually an advocate of buying the best you can possibly afford. A good piece of beef should be an occasional treat worth forking out for rather than a cheap everyday dinner. Having said that, take a look at this....

....and guess how much it cost. £6.60. For just under a kilo of pretty decent looking bone-in rib. It's not the finest looking beef I've ever seen, but it looks pretty damn good at that price point. This was from the South African butcher whose sausages I've already blogged about. I noticed they had a couple of big rib joints and a T-bone on the counter on my last visit, and made a mental note to return for some barbecue supplies.

I like a butcher who keeps some larger joints available so you can choose your own cut and size. So many places have everything pre-cut and trimmed down into small, boring pieces. I tried to buy a good steak from one of the more renowned farm shops in the area recently, and failed miserably. On display was nothing but prissy little 8oz sirloins and 6oz fillets. I asked if they had anything out back with a bone in it or at least to cut a larger size from, but was told no I'd have to make an advance order and return another day to collect it. Surely I'm not the only person in Yorkshire who wants a massive slice of cow, preferably with a bone in it.

Anyhow, now that I've got that off my chest, what shall we do with it?

Remove your steak from the fridge at least two hours before you want to cook it, then salt the steak at least half an hour before you cook it.

When the charcoal is white hot and there are no flames, whack it on the grill. Chilli boerewors to the left by the way. Yum.

Turn it a few times to make sure a crust is developing, but it's not burning.

This was the best part of two inches thick, so I left it on the grill for over 15 minutes.

Leave to rest, covered in a warm place for 15-20 minutes.

How did it turn out? Aaarrggghhh. Well done. Steak sacrilege.

With the juices poured over and some crusty bread it was still a pleasure to eat. A whole rib steak carries enough fat to keep it moist even when it's overcooked and you really cannot beat the umami hit the barbecue brings.

The Verdict

Method: Yes, cooking over charcoal is definitely best.
Execution: Rubbish, overcooked. I need to get a meat thermometer.
Meat: Excellent quality for the price. Not the finest but very good. I'll be back.

Next time: Buy a meat thermometer. Repeat as above. Stop cooking when the temperature says rare or medium rare.


Neil, Eating isn't Cheating said...

Had a very similarexperience myself recently cooking steak on the barbie. Underestimated the heat and overcooked it. I agree it gives an unmatchable flavour though.

Can I ask, whats the theory behind salting the steak well in advance? Wont that draw out the moisture form the steak making it less juicy?

Dave said...

Hi Neil, the theory is that the salt draws out excess moisture, but not so much that the steak becomes noticeably less juicy. This means that the steak is drier when you put it on the heat. This allows the Maillard reaction to work better (the chemical reaction that results in the browning and resultant deep, savoury flavour)as you don't get the initial steaming of the meat as the excess moisture evaporates.

That's the theory, and it could be bollocks. There are loads of conflicting theories on assorted internet foodie forums.

I've never done a proper test by cooking a salted and unsalted steak at the same time. That said, my memory tells me salted is better than not, so I'm sticking with the theory for now.

Neil, Eating isn't Cheating said...

Fair enough! Will give it a try on my next steak

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