Every second person has an opinion on how to cook steak. Yet we’re surprised how many stuff it up. Then again, every other person has a preference as to how they like their steak cooked! So, a seemingly simple task of cooking a steak for dinner can be fraught with possible disaster.
‘Learn from the expert,’ the adage says, so we ask Aaron Smith, owner/chef of The Glenelg Public House for some tips and advice about cooking steak.
A Queenslander by birth, Aaron worked in Brisbane and the Gold Coast at the start of his career before completing his ‘rite of passage’ time as a chef at Clos Maggorie, Covent Garden, London. Returning to Australia, Aaron’s steak knowledge progressed even further at Aria, Sydney, working with Blackmore wagyu, Australia’s best beef.
Having cooked the best, and now running a steak restaurant of his own, Aaron had a few handy tips to ensure steak cooking success:
1. Choose your equipment to match your skill. You’ll need either a really good BBQ or a heavy cast iron pan large enough to cook the number of steaks you want. Both of them will retain the heat. Forget about glass-topped stoves or aluminium pans for cooking steaks, he says. They just don’t cut it!
2. Buy the best steak you can according to your budget. Talk to your butcher, tell him what you want, and buy a cut which will suit the way you want to cook it and the taste you want. Of course that partly depends on how many people you’re catering for and your own preferences! A rack of beef, whole sirloin or rump cap can be cooked on the BBQ and finished in the oven, single steaks on either the BBQ or a decent pan. Find out about different cuts and the provenance of your beef from your butcher: grass fed is fresh-tasting, grain-fed richer, as a rule of thumb.
(By the way, wonder why our beef prices are high? There’s an international shortage of beef at the moment. Drought in the US killed a lot of their stock, so they loaded up on Aussie beef. Now we have a drought, and our breeding stock is diminished. While it’s replenishing, we can see the knock-on effect with the prices of pork and lamb.)
3. Preparation. To age your steak in the fridge for two or three days, place it on a cake rack so that the air can circulate around it, slightly dehydrating it to concentrate the flavour. Take it out of the fridge, and season it approximately 40 minutes before placing in the pan. In this way, moisture extracted will be brought back into the steak. It also helps to tenderise the meat. Bringing the meat to room temperature lowers the cooking time (ensuring less dehydration from the grill) and helps the steak to cook more evenly, resulting in an improved steak overall.
4. Cook. Heat your pan to a medium-hot temperature, put a small amount of oil on the steak (not in the pan), season with sea salt if you haven’t already and put it into the pan. You can turn the steak multiple times (to help it cook more evenly) – don’t believe the ‘Turn it once’ rubbish, but don’t overcook it! There should be a deep golden exterior and preferably some charring. There’s no set time to cook steaks because the cooking time will depend on the thickness of the steak and even the fat content of the steak. (Fat insulates, so higher fat content meat is more resistant to heat. Beware of cooking high fat content meat on the BBQ, as it will cause the BBQ to flare and char, blackening and spoiling the steak.) Cook to your liking. (He gives me a quick rundown on the thumbpad rule, which I think is a really useful guide – see note.) Large cuts can be finished in the oven at 180 degrees.
5. Rest for 5 – 10 minutes (depending on the thickness of the steak), in a warm place with foil lightly over the top. When ready to serve, brush the top of the steak with some fresh butter and sprinkle with sea salt. Then touch lightly on the BBQ to bring heat back to the outside of the cut before serving. Remember that any secondary cuts with obvious grains should always be cut across the grain.
6. Enjoy (preferably accompanied by a glass of great red wine, even better company and sweet words of praise)!
Thanks heaps Aaron! In case you were wondering how I cook steak, I was a vegetarian, remember? I don’t cook steak. I leave room for you guys to cook according to my liking! (Boom boom!)
Better still, we go visit Aaron at Glenelg for a Master Kobe’s Rump Cap MB9+. It’s steak perfection – a whole lot better than we could ever cook, that’s for sure, no matter how great the instructions!
Reference: Pash A 2007, ‘Determine the doneness of a steak with your palm’, Lifehacker.com, Accessed 31 Jan 2016, http://lifehacker.com/267250/determine-the-doneness-of-a-steak
The Glenelg Public House, 2454-2460 Gold Coast Hwy, Mermaid Beach Ph: 5575 2284