Cooking the Perfect Steak
Believe it or not, the word steak comes from the old Norse word, steikjo, and originally meant to roast on a spit, something that has always been popular here in England. There’s clearly something primeval about cooking a large steak, something that calls to the soul, even if we’ve moved on a bit in terms of equipment and method.
The perfect steak starts, of course, with sourcing the absolute best quality meats. With our years of experience, fantastic suppliers, and passion for our craft, that’s something you don’t have to worry about when you buy from us. After that though it’s all up to you, but you can’t go far wrong if you follow our top tips!
Choosing your Steak
The cut of steak you choose is entirely a question of personal preference and budget. There is such an incredible variety of steaks available, with the unique cuts all delivering different levels of tenderness, texture and flavour.
Sirloin: Cut from the upper middle of the animal, the Sirloin is considered to be a prime steak like fillet, but with more flavour. Best served medium-rare.
T-bone: Cut from the subprimal posterior, where the sirloin and fillet meet. To make sure everything cooks evenly, it’s best to share a large piece, cooked using the reverse sear method. Great for sharing.
Bavette, Skirt, Onglet, Flat-Iron and Flank steak: These cheaper cuts are all taken from the area known as Flank in British butchery, an area from the back end of the animal. Although they are all cut slightly differently, much of the confusion comes from the mixing of French and British terminology for the same cuts. These cuts represent incredible value for money, and are incredibly succulent as long as they are cooked to no more than medium. Great for barbecuing.
Fillet: Prized as the most tender cut, it’s also the most expensive. It has little fat so is best served as rare as possible. Often cut as a large piece to be cooked as Chateaubriand for sharing.
Rib-eye, Cote de Boeuf and Tomahawk: Rib-eye, boneless and usually cut to serve one, and rib on the bone, also known as côte de boeuf or Tomahawk depending on how it’s trimmed. Also considered a prime steak, and more and more popular in recent years, hence the significant rise in price over the last couple of years.
Rump steak: The least expensive of prime steaks, it will be tough if cooked anything beyond medium, but is incredibly flavoursome.
General Storage and Preparation Tips
- There are two main types of bacteria in meats, spoilage and pathogenic.
- Spoilage bacteria will cause your meats to change colour, smell and taste, but don’t usually impact the safety of your food.
- Pathogenic bacteria are dangerous to eat, but don’t necessarily change the appearance of your meat. They can grow rapidly if you don’t store your meat well.
- Make sure that your fridge is set between 1 and 4 degrees C. Most modern fridges will have a separate box for meats that keeps a slightly different temperature. Worth double checking with a thermometer if you’re not sure.
- We suggest one of two main methods for cooking your steaks. For individual steaks, up to a maximum size of about 400g are best cooked in the pan, unless you like your steaks well done, when we would suggest finishing the cook in the oven. For larger steaks, we would always recommend the reverse sear method.
- If you don’t have a separate meat box, store on the lowest shelf to ensure any drips don’t contaminate other foods.
- Store in a bowl or lipped plate to collect any run off juices or blood. If not vacuum packed, cover with clingfilm to keep out any contaminants.
- Take the steaks out of the fridge half an hour before you intend to cook them. This gives the meat time to relax and to come up to room temperature. Oil and season straightaway.
- Add the oil to the steak, not to the pan or tray. Rub the steak all over with good quality olive before seasoning well.
- If you plan to trim the steak of fat, consider doing so after cooking, so as to keep the flavours.
- However you plan to cook your steak, don’t overcrowd them in the pan when you sear them. If you need to do so in batches, utilise the resting or oven cooking times to allow you to serve them together.
- Select your thickest frying pan, and ensure that you preheat it. Make sure that it’s nice and hot, and ready to sizzle. It’s very hard to overheat a steak pan at home. When you come to add the steak, make sure you lay it away so that nothing splashes back on you.
- Make sure you keep the pan nice and hot, and make sure the steak is properly seared and coloured before you turn it. Don’t forget the sides and any seams of fat.
- Think about adding some additional flavours to the pan, such as crushed garlic, rosemary or thyme. These will complement the beef and help to bring out it’s full flavour.
- Just before you finish cooking the steak, add a couple of knobs of butter and baste the steak well. Let the butter foam and caramelise for added flavour.
- Make sure you let the meat rest. Depending on the thickness, anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes.
- The best way to tell how your steak is cooked is to use the texture of your arm and hand as reference. If you touch your arm just above the wrist, as if you’re going to take your pulse, that’s how a medium rare steak should feel. It helps to close your eyes! The closer to the wrist you move, and the firmer it feels, the closer your steak would be to being well done.
- For well done steaks, or thicker cuts, once well coloured on all sides finish off the cook in a per-heated oven at 200C, 180C fan, gas mark 6.
- Don’t waste the juices in the pan. De-glaze with a little brandy, add a dash of double cream, a generous knob of butter, and some coarsely ground pepper for a quick and delicious pepper sauce.
- A reverse sear is basically a home adaptation of professional cooking technique known as sous vide, which gently cooks the steak at just the right temperature before an external sear to give the look and caramlised flavours we expect.
- The traditional idea that searing locks in juices is known to be false, but searing creates flavour by caramelising the surface proteins, plus it gives that incredible look that we love.
- A reverse sear starts off by cooking the meat in the low temperature oven, slowly transferring energy to the meat and ensuring a super even cook. The result is an exact cook, that’s super juicy, tender, and with beautifully rendered fat.
- Arrange the meat on a wire rack over a rimmed baking tray or sheet. Preheat the oven to 120C, fan 110C, gas mark 1/2.
- To get the desired cook with this method really requires the use of a good meat thermometer. Check the temperature after about 10 minutes in the oven, and thereafter every 5 minutes, until it reaches about 5 degrees centigrade under the target internal temperature. It will continue to cook through the sear and rest.
- Remove from oven, rub with a little more olive oil, and pan sear to finish. As with a pan cook, add additional flavours at this stage, and baste with a couple of knobs of butter. Don’t forget to use the juices.
- Ensure that you sear the sides, and the fat, to get it render.
Target Internal Temperatures
Estimated Pan Cooking Times
|Fillet, Rump and Flank||Rare||3-4 minutes|
|Medium Rare||3.5-4.5 minutes|
|Sirloin, Ribeye, T-Bone||Rare||4-6 minutes|
|Medium Rare||5-7 minutes|
These are very approximate guides, as it all depends on the thickness of the steak, starting temperature, pan heat etc. See using hand and arm as a reference under guidelines, or use a meat thermometer for best results.