The perfect steak
The small matter of cooking the perfect steak
This is something that sits conveniently alongside being able to dig a good hole in the ground, fixing a proper martini and making a decent fire
We’ve kind of got 5 categories to look after here; The meat, the preparation, cooking with fire, allowing some rest time and serving it up.
Easier said than done, but as basics go, finding you a great bit of meat is the only way to begin this journey. Whichever cut you have a fancy for, and I’m a top rump kind of person make sure you look for a really nice marbling of fat throughout the meat.
The fat really is all important to enjoying a good steak. The flavour, basting and juice all comes from the fat. Something that’s ideally been hung for at least a couple of weeks is a bonus too, and if this steak thing is a once every now and again treat, then the time taken here is well worth it. Dark red meat and yellowing fat is the guide here and anything close to that will help with the end results no end.
I was always taught not to season too early, and more and more recently I hear of the desire to season after cooking is the way to go. I like to season it, and season it well and early. Massage your meat with good olive oil and then season with plenty of flaky salt and very coarsely ground black pepper.
Get a good heavy frying pan really hot and sear any fatty edge first until a bit of a crust has formed. Now that the pan is hot, but not so hot the red meat will burn rather than sear, get the steak into the hot oil and give it a good seeing to. Anything a couple of centimetres thick can be left for two to three minutes before needing a turn, and only turn at this point. Fiddling about at this stage will only drop the pan temperature and lead to excessive juices making their way out and a boiled steak which isn’t cool.
Another three minutes or so on the B side and good overall golden brown caramelisation and the pan work is complete.
The most important thing, and almost always overlooked, is the resting period. When the steak looks ready, smells ready and you think its ready; you’re almost always ten minutes ahead of yourself.
Leave your meat in a warm place for that nail biting 10 minute stretch and allow all that insane heat which has tightened up all the fibres in the steak settle down and relax. This time spent also allows the juices to start eeking out, the meat to continue cooking ever so gently and the evenness of cooking ripple all the way through the meat. If fancy is needed, dress it up a little. If not, the least you deserve are a few chips.
for the house made mustard
Makes about 230g
90g mustard seeds
110g mustard powder
45ml vinegar (cider, white wine or sherry)
100ml white wine
2 tsp salt
Grind the whole mustard seeds for a few seconds in a spice or coffee grinder, or by hand with a mortar and pestle. You want them mostly whole because you are using mustard powder, too.
Pour the semi-ground seeds into a bowl and add the salt and mustard powder. If using, add one of the optional ingredients, too. Pour in the vinegar and wine, then stir well. When everything is incorporated, pour into a glass jar and store in the fridge. Wait at least 12 hours before using. Mustard made this way will last several months in the fridge.
Rub your steak all over with olive oil, not too much; just enough to give it a good gloss, then the salt and grind a little black pepper over both sides. Get the grill pan hot, then slap on the steak and press it down onto the ridges with a metal spatula. Let it cook for two to three full minutes. Do not move it.
Now turn it over (long metal tongs are useful here), press it down again, and let it cook for a further two to three minutes. The best way to tell if your steak is done is to press it with your finger.
Timing is a hopelessly inaccurate measure because so much depends on how your meat has been hung and butchered. The best—by which I mean the juiciest—results will come from a steak where your finger has left a slight indentation. Until you get to know the “feel” of your steaks you may have to make a small cut into them, but you will lose juice this way. If you want a well-done steak, with no blood in it, then I can’t help you. Well, I could but I won’t.
Incidentally, I sometimes pour a little wine onto the grill pan after removing the steak and let it bubble, then pour the meagre, intensely beefy juices over my steak. Serve with chips, creamed spinach, onion rings and the mustard