The Perfect Steak

Beef Rib-Eye

I’ve eaten beef all over the world and nothing comes close to good Irish beef; it’s the best. I recall tucking into a chateaubriand in Spain a couple of years ago and I couldn’t get over the fact that despite the fancy cut and that I had perfectly seasoned and cooked it table-side on a hot stone, the flavour wasn’t a patch on anything I could get at home.

I’m sure everyone has their own way to cook what they think is the perfect steak. Here’s my 8-point, foolproof guide to steak heaven.

  1. Buy good meat. A little obvious this, but try to ensure your meat is from a good source. Buy from a reputable butcher and ensure the beef has been hung for at least 21 days. My favourite cuts are fillet and rib-eye. I like the decadence of fillet, the fact that you can buy it really thick. I like it about 2-3 inches, cooked rare. Sometimes I prefer rib-eye, vastly superior to fillet in terms of flavour, but not as lean or as tender. If you’ve never tried rib-eye before, do give it a try.
  2. Use a cast-iron grill pan. This is one of my favourite pieces of kitchen kit. Those ridges on the grill pan are not there for show. They give the steak an appetising ridged look, but they caramelise the sugars on the outside of the meat giving a deep flavour. Make sure your grill pan is absolutely smoking hot before adding any food.
  3. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Opinions are divided on whether to salt your steak before or after grilling. Some people say that salting before cooking draws out the juices. I’m not sure I subscribe to this. Provided you’re not cooking your steak to “well-done”, salting before grilling helps to give you that crusty, savoury outside and a juicy centre.
  4. Oil the steak, not the pan. When grilling anything, it’s important to oil the food, not the pan itself. This helps to give you the all-important charred effect.
  5. Turn only once. Grill on one side, then turn and grill on the other. You should try to move the meat only once during cooking. If you’re constantly moving or turning the meat you risk losing precious juices.
  6. Don’t overcook. My own personal preference is for medium-rare, as I like a warm centre. If you’re a member of the “well-done” brigade, you can get your coat and leave. 😉
  7. Rest the meat. This step is often overlooked, but it’s very important. Resting allows the juices to be distributed back into the centre of your steak. It also allows the meat to relax, making it a lot more tender.
  8. Serve with some simple accompaniments which allow the flavour of the meat to shine. I like some silky, buttery mash and some steamed greens – broccoli, asparagus and green beans are all good. Some good bread would not go astray.  I like to accompany this with a robust red wine such as a Barolo or Bordeaux.

4 Responses to “The Perfect Steak”

  1. 1 Will June 30, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    Some good tips here! I think the most important point that cannot be overstated is 1. buy good meat. Easier said than done, but the difference between good aged meat (30+ days for me) and mediocre meat is astounding.

    How do you overcome the risk of the steak cooling down too much during resting. This doesn’t bother me personally but some of my dining companions sometimes complain about the cold rare steak in front of them.

  2. 2 Conor June 30, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    Cheers Will. I was going to ask you for a couple of specific wine recommendations but I couldn’t find an email address on your blog. Recommend a couple of nice, reasonably priced reds?

    I normally rest the meat on a wooden board, this ensures it’s insulated and doesn’t lose too much heat. Then I cover it with a double layer of foil and tuck the edges under the meat. Probably a good idea to rest it on some foil too, to preserve the juices.

    I never waste the juices; if I’ve no sauce or onions to pour the escaped juices into, I just pur over the steak itself. Check out my recipe for “Red Onion Marmalade”. I put the steak juices into the onions when I made the steak sambo in the photograph.

  3. 3 Will June 30, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    My worry with tin foil is that the steak keeps cooking and I hate nothing more than an overcooked steak.

    I’m probably not the best person to recommend wine for anybody at the moment given my current obsession with Burgundy but since you have asked….

    Here are a few recommendations for the perfect steak:

    1. With money as no object – 2006 Ben Glaetzer Amon Ra (€55), a real blockbuster
    2. A little more reasonable – 2006 Denis Mortet Bourgogne Rouge Cuvee Noble Souche (~€25, E-mail Conor @ Burgundy Direct), refined/pure/delicious
    3. Affordable – 2000 Boschkloof Reserve (~€15, Enowine), mature/complex

  4. 4 Conor June 30, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    Excellent, thanks for the suggestions. In this instance, I don’t think your current obsession with Burgundy is a bad thing. 🙂

    I wouldn’t be concerned about the tin foil, the difference the foil will be negligible. I’ve never had any problems with it, if it’s rare going under the foil it will still be rare after resting. Might be worth comparing a couple of steaks.

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