How to Cook the Perfect Steak

It’s one of the questions a chef is most commonly asked. Just how do I get my steak perfect every time? It was with the recent contact with Green Meadows Beef that inspired me to record exactly how and give you some pointers on getting the perfectly cooked piece of meat.

Firstly I am not going to list times or temps as you would see in a cook book as it is completely useless. Each cut will be a different size, shape and have a different structure i.e. less or more marbling.

There are a few things here and there though that you can do to help yourself.

 

I am using Green Meadows sirloin steak for this, beautiful flavour and well-aged, half of the work has been done for you even before you buy the steak. They treat their cattle in the best possible way with beautiful pastures so the flavour is really deep and delicious.

 

What is Marbling?

So you will tell by the name that it is the appearance the meat will have by the fat inside the muscle giving it a marbled look. There are lots and lots of influencing factors such as breed, feed, and pasture, how the beast is treated. Obviously certain factors drastically affect the meat like being on feed for longer or higher quality feed will result in better quality and less yield so that of course results in a more premium item as well.

Generally more marbling will always be a positive to a certain extent as this fat melts during the cooking process and produces a really juicy steak!

How to pick the best steak for the job

A lot of it is down to personal choice. The most expensive cut is the eye fillet this is because it has no exterior fat when purchased as a steak or served in a restaurant. It means it is incredibly meaty and as long as it has reasonable marbling has a lot of flavour, but it can suffer by not having any of the delicious exterior fat.

Then for example you have a sirloin and scotch, a scotch is soft and has an eyeball shaped piece of fat and has a lot of flavour and is probably my favourite steak to eat at the moment.  On the other side a sirloin I find is firmer and the fat connected doesn’t always add a lot to the dish as it isn’t melting into the meat.

There are other cuts, T-bone is a mixture of short loin and filet with a T shaped bone separating the meat and he weight of the bone is often what makes them so expensive.

The rump is a cut of meat which has several different muscles and this can result in several different textures and degrees of cookery in one steak.

 

Again it’s all about your preference, eye filet if you don’t like fat and scotch if you do, would be my only 2 choices. The only reason I wouldn’t pick a T-bone is sometimes the bone can be most of what you are paying for so be careful with that.

 

When selecting your steak, look for colour, marbling and even find out from the butcher the source of where the meat comes from, at producers like Green Meadows which can be found at Farro Fresh amongst other places you can find out exactly where the meat comes from and what they eat and do on a day to day basis.

 

Pre-cooking tips

Before you even switch on your stove you need to know 3 simple steps.

  1. 1. Remove the steak from the fridge 30 minutes before cooking to get it to room temperature.
  2. 2. Use a hard bottomed pan and if you don’t have one the minimum requirement is a flat outside base. If it is bowed you won’t get an even cook. The alternative of course is if you are using a griddle pan. Cast iron is my preferred choice.
  3. 3. Use a plate to season. Put oil, salt and pepper onto the plate and wipe the steak in it. Don’t season the pan under any circumstances you will likely end up with burnt salt and pepper.

 

  1. 4. In regards to preparing your pan and the heat needed before and during cooking. It will vary steak to steak but with the steak I have used in the pics below they where cooked completely in a pan. Any thicker and you will have to use the oven to finish anything after medium rare. Start with a little cooking oil and when the pan begins to smoke you are ready to add your steak. Be aware your steak shouldn't have excess blood or this will boil. Pat dry before starting.

 

Cooking the Steak

There are 6 well known stages of cooking blue, rare, medium rare, medium, medium well and well done. I eat different steaks in a different way eye fillet blue, sirloin rare and scotch medium rare and this is down simply to the fat content.

From what I know generally medium rare is the most popular order I receive. But all of this is irrelevant you eat your steak as you see fit it is really a case of choice. I believe, or it is certainly my opinion that the fact chefs hate cooking well done is a myth and any chef who has a problem with it possibly has an ego issue to go with it. I do recommend you don’t have it well done but if that is what the customer wants that’s what they get. I don’t feel the same about venison though as it is pretty horrible well done.

 

How do I know when I should turn my steak?

Another critical point. When to flip and how many times. It is often a mistake that peope flip and flip and flip the steak. Big no no. You should carefully turn your steak no more than twice. Again cooking times vary from steak to steak dependant on fat and type of steak. Generally speaking I cook medium rare simply by doing a 90-120 seconds on each side in a hot pan and rotating 90 degrees after you flip. You cook twice on each side.

 

But ultimately you will only be able to tell when to flip if you are a novice by using your tongs to take a sneaky look and checking out the colour. Again use the pictures below to check the colour.

 

If you are cooking more than medium and have a thick steak you may need to pop it in the oven for a short while. See fingertip test below.


 

 

The fingertip test

You will hear mainly on TV how chefs have so much experience they can tell when a steak is cooked by simply touching and it is true but it is just through habit more than anything else and you too can possess this skill.

Hold one hand naturally and touch the fatty part under your thumb in this position this is how a raw or blue steak would feel to touch.

Now join the tip of your thumb to the tip of your first finger and with the other hand feel that fatty part again, this is rare you can continue this through all of your fingers as so

Thumb to first finger - Rare

Thumb to middle finger – Medium rare

Thumb to index finger - Medium

Thumb to pinkie – Well done

 

Failing this it’s pure practise. Have a look at these images and they can help as a guide, look at the outside of the steak as well and see how the colour changes and have a look at how the inside looks differently on each degree of cooking.

 

Blue


Simply warm the steak to room temperature and then put into the pan until both sides are coloured. Rest and serve.

Rare


Cook a little longer than blue but not much you should start to see the brown ring appearing around the red meat which still has a twinge of purple.

Medium Rare


The brown will now be increasing but this degree should definitely still have a degree of rawness to it in the centre.

Medium


The whole steak should have a red twinge to it still but it should be consistent throughout the whole piece.

Medium well


A tad dryer now but still should have an ever so slight mark of red in the centre the whole steak should be turning brown. For me this is a degree of cooking which shouldn’t exist once you are at this point you should just eat either well done or medium.

Well Done

No blood or redness at all, fully cooked and brown on the inside. A good sauce is required and probably a healthy jaw as well!

 

Resting

The final point is on resting of the meat. You can imagine how tense you become after you burn your hand really badly. Well when a steak cooks it does the same. So in an ideal world the method of resting would be to rest for the same amount of time as you cook. Sometimes this is unreal so you should rest for a few minutes. Generally finish the steak cooking and put it on to either a cooling rack or on a plate and do a couple of other things to finish off your cooking and you should be fine