Cooking The Perfect Steak

Cooking Steak

Steak is such a treat that I think it’s worth learning to cook it really well. I was interested to see some advice from Heston Blumenthal recently that went against the grain, and so I decided it had to be tried. At first I’m experimenting with cheaper cuts of steak from Waitrose - but the aim is to perfect my technique so that I feel it’s worth spending on the better cuts from a top quality butcher.

Following Heston’s advice I took the steak out of its packaging and rested it uncovered on a rack on top of a plate in the fridge. He suggested leaving it for 2 days, but I only had a day. Then, a couple of hours before cooking time I took it out, and left it on the worktop to reach room temperature.

To go with this steak I decided to do golden new potatoes. I steamed them until they were nearly done, then transferred them to a frying pan with some olive oil, garlic cloves and sea salt, and slightly squashed them to increase the surface area, and fried them until they were golden on each side.

Meanwhile I was heating up my griddle pan, and then - when it was searingly hot and smoking, it was time to put the steak on. I didn’t put any oil in the steak pan, or on the steak. I just sprinkled the steak with some crushed sea salt and pressed it onto the bars of the griddle pan. In the background you can see the potatoes gently turning golden.

Now the interesting thing about all of Heston’s advice is how it flies in the face of accepted wisdom - leave the meat uncovered in the fridge, sprinkle it with salt before frying - and then he says that rather than leave it in the pan for a few minutes on one side before turning, you should actually turn it every 15-20 seconds! This, he says, is what allows the middle to stay rare and moist, but the outside to get the dark crust - the Maillard reaction. So, this is what I did.

To judge that the steak is done Heston, of course, suggests a digital thermometer (45 degrees celsius for rare, 55 for medium, 65 for well done), but I didn’t have one to hand - and more’s the pity because I let mine get a bit too overdone. This is probably because because I wasn’t entirely trusting of the idea of turning it ever 20 seconds.

It’s then time to take the steak out of the pan, pour over any juices, and just allow it to rest for 5 minutes. I served the steak with Argentian chimichurri sauce (parsley, garlic, olive oil, oregano, bay leaf, white wine vinegar, pepper), the potatoes, a tomato grilled in the steak juices (once I’d taken the steak out and left it resting), and a lightly dressed green salad.

The meat was tender and juicy, even though it was medium rather than rare, and on the whole I judged the experiment to be a success. So next time, I’m going do just what Heston tells me. I’m even going to get a digital thermometer. All in the quest for the perfect steak.

Written on April 2, 2012