It seems the easiest culinary task in the world. To brown both sides of a healthy slab of cow so it’s succulent, tasty and attractive. So why is it so gosh-dang difficult? The answer is, it isn’t, you’re just doing it wrong. Probably over-thinking it. All you need to do is have great, fresh ingredients and the right tools for the job. Soon you’ll be chowing down on perfect steaks like a hungry lumberjack or Ron Swanson after a difficult bout of woodworking.
Like many things in life: the thicker the better. If your steak is unnaturally scrawny, it will cook through too quickly and be dry and nasty inside. A nice thick cut will provide a deliciously cooked outer layer and a moist, tasty interior. Don’t be swizzed into thinking there’s just rump, sirloin and T-bone out there for you. Experiment with more unusual cuts such as point steaks, onglet and feather blade to find the perfect variety for your appetite. Cuts from the middle of the animal will need less cooking time than steaks from the front and rear of the beast.
Take your steaks out of the fridge a good 45 minutes before cooking and allow them to reach room temperature. Just add salt at this stage, which will help draw out moisture and ultimately tenderise your meat. Don’t add pepper during the cooking process, as this can char in the pan and affect the taste. Have any sides or sauces already prepared or dealt with, so you can focus fully on your steak.
Pan frying is the ideal way to cook your steak. Some cuts go well on a barbecue, as long as you can get the grill hot enough and don’t leave it on there too long. Heat is they key. Heat is your friend. Heat is the secret to the perfect steak. You need it hot, hot, hot. The hotter the better. Think it’s too hot? It isn’t. You want to sear the outside instantly to allow the slower cooking of the meat inside. Use your largest, heaviest pan or griddle pan and your most efficient heat source. Add a couple of teaspoons of groundnut or canola oil to the pan. Make sure you get an even spread across the surface. Once the oil is smoking and starting to separate, add the meat.
Professional steak people (yes they do exist) will tell you that you must only flip your steak once while cooking. Though young, thrusting, maverick types now believe that frequent flipping cooks the meat more quickly and effectively. So basically, it’s a matter of you being old school or new school and only you have the answer to that. Timing depends on how you like your meat cooked and it’s thickness. It’s usually three to four minutes each side for a medium, but your butcher may have some advice for the ideal duration.
If you’re the type of person who likes to ‘sauce’ their steak, now is the time. A couple of minutes before it’s done, add a couple of generous butter chunks and whichever herbs you prefer. Cuts with less fat (like fillet) may be improved by a peppercorn or blue cheese sauce (prepared separately). Others feel any additions, apart from a little light seasoning, is a filthy blasphemy.
If you’re one of those gadget heavy types that likes to look at all the gadgets on shows like The Gadget Show, then you’ll probably have a meat thermometer. Now is it’s time to shine! Jab it in there and see where it’s at. Rare steaks should be around 12o F, while medium should be closer to 140 F. If you think all these thermometers are the devil’s work, use the old finger test. Give it a prod. The softer it feels to the touch, the rarer it will be. If it feels like a house brick, you have gone too far.
Due to magic or possibly science, your steak will still be cooking even after it’s removed from the pan. Tuck into it straight away and all those lovely juices will just flood out and be useless. Leave it to rest for five minutes and that lovely moisture will be reabsorbed into the fibres of the meat. It’ll be fine for a good ten minutes and won’t get cold but if you are the worrying kind, then place it into some foil.
That’s it, just slap it onto a plate and tuck in. If you’ve cooked up a whopper of a rump steak, you might want to slice it into strips before serving. Unless your Fred Flintstone, in which case, just dive in.