Today is my birthday so I decided to talk about what I would choose as my birthday meal nine times out of ten. What makes a good steak is a very personal thing. The cut, the heat, the seasoning all of these things are important when purchasing and preparing your favourite steak.
I personally like a Boneless Ribeye, seasoned with black pepper, sea salt and finished with fleur de sel*, cooked blue. When you read this know I am assuming you have a barbecue as pan frying a steak is a whole other monster which I may release as a recipe one day.
Before you Buy:
If you are going to the butcher ask them questions. Where did the animal come from? How many days did you age it? How did you age it? The things you want to hear is that the animal is local(less time to market) The meat has been aged for 21 to 28 days, and that is has been dry aged. Most super market steaks have been wet aged in vacuum bags. It takes less time to age but it makes the meat usually less marbled with fat and less flavourful.
There are dozens of different cuts of beef that are considered steaks. They are regional and they go by lots of different names. I will give you a few that you will find at your local butcher shop.**
The Striploin: Also known as the New York Strip this is a medium lean steak with a very dense texture with a thick fat/connective tissue cap on one side. Super tender if seared properly and cooked at lower heat, needs to be cooked with the fat cap on to lock in the juices.
The Ribeye: Also known as a prime rib steak. A good cut has tons of fat marbled through it. The texture is much less dense than a strip loin. One of the most flavourful cuts of steak. It should be well seared and then taken off the grill. Overcooking a ribeye is a crime against humanity.
The Porterhouse: Also known as the T-Bone. This is a combination cut of the strip loin and the tenderloin. It’s usually very expensive because of the sheer size of the cut. I personally dislike it, because it is wasteful, difficult to eat and it never cooks evenly enough for my liking.
The Fillet Mignon: The Fillet Mignon is cut from the small end of the tenderloin. It’s a very expensive cut and is so tender most steak lovers actually dislike it. It also doesn’t have a ton of natural flavour so it just screams for a béarnaise sauce or some kind of exotic rub with some flavour. Nothing like spending 30 bucks for steaks and having to slather them in cream sauce or wrap them in bacon to make them taste good.
The Sirloin: The Sirloin steak is a less expensive cut of steak which is is very flavourful and ranges from very lean to nicely marbled. It’s a bit inconsistent when it comes to quality but it’s wonderful cut up for a steak sandwich or a salad.
The Flank Steak: The most utilitarian cut. It’s a long, thin cut of beef. It has lots of connective tissue which can be problematic if it’s over cooked. But all kinds of great dishes like The London Broil use flank steak. The beef is super flavourful and quite reasonably priced.
Raw: This is not usually something reserved for steaks. Sashimi, carpaccio, and tartare are just a few raw beef applications.
Blue: Seared on the outside and raw on the inside. My rule of thumb is 3 minutes on a screaming hot grill on each side. Score it, make it look pretty and take it off the grill. Of course this varies and you need to use your judgement.
Rare: Seared on the outside and with a little more cooking than Blue. I will post a video in the footnotes which shows you how to tell when your steak is heated to your liking.
Medium Rare: Almost cooked totally through. Just a bit of pink in the middle.
Medium: Cooked through but still a little bit of colour in the middle of the steak. No pink, but lots of juice.
Well: Cooked through, usually with a good char on the outside. Not my cup of tea but a lot of people fear the pink.
I am a minimalist when it comes to steak, I like to buy more expensive cuts and let the meat do the talking. I prep it with olive oil, black pepper and sea salt. This allows the steak to get a nice caramelized crust with lots of flavour. With some of the lesser steak cuts, I love to do a spice rub, there are lots of fantastic ones out there that range from Montreal Style with sea salt, coriander, and black pepper, to southwestern with a selection of dried chilis, cumin and sugar. Sometimes life happens, and you have to get a grocery store steak and work some magic with a marinade(I like teriyaki with a little bourbon, for this because it really does well to break down connective tissue). If you don’t have a barbecue first I am sorry and second doing a pan fried steak in a nice cast iron skillet can be magical with the right rub and technique.
Like I said earlier in the article, steak is a personal thing. Everyone has their right to be absolutely wrong about how they like their steak.***
*Fleur De Sel is a hand harvested sea salt from Brittney, France. It has a much higher mineral content than most other salts and an uneven texture which gives a slight crunch on the outside of your meat.
**Yah, notice I didn’t say super market, or grocery store? Butchering is more and more becoming a lost art.
***Cooking a great cut of meat to well done seems like a crime to me, as does slathering a steak in BBQ sauce. That is just wrong.
And as promised a little bit of Jamie Oliver to show you some steak cooking tricks and to enchant the fairer sex.