The cooking of a steak divides people like the new Band Aid single.
It is, on the face of it, the simplest of all things to make – meat meets grill or pan – but it causes more confusion than trigonometry.
Discussing all things meaty last week, a colleague began to spell out his own routine for cooking steak. He explained that you must never season your steak with salt, because “it draws the moisture out”.
Someone else chipped in saying that, in fact, the trick to was to give the meat lots of oil to sizzle in.
Both were a bit off target, I knew, but nonetheless it shook my sense of steaky confidence.
Maybe I didn’t know my mignon from my mignardises.
So I sought advice from a man who does: Ron Rosselli, the executive chef at New York’s Standard Grill, the modish hotel restaurant that has taken the charring of a hunk of beef to almost unknown levels of perfection.
He gave me the lowdown. First of all, the buying.
If you want the best, he advises, go for Black Angus beef. “It is known for its flavour and it has marbling of the meat that you can’t find in other types of cattle.”
But if you don’t fancy the air miles involved in flying your meat from America, Aberdeen Angus is a good alternative.
And whatever you choose, there are general tips that will ensure your meat is tip-top.
The uncooked stuff should look moist, never dry, and be pinkish throughout. If it’s sticky or has any smell, have nothing to do with it. If you have some money to spend, it’s worth considering whether it is wet- or dry-aged, say Rosselli.
“Ageing the steak is a process that allows the natural enzymes in the meat to break down the muscle, making it tenderer. Wet-aged meat is done in a vacuum-sealed bag, whereas dry aging is done in a temperature- and humidity-controlled rooms,” says Rosselli. Wet-aged stuff is what you usually get in supermarkets. Dry-aged, which tends to taste juicier, is more likely to be found in your butchers.
The really important thing, though; the thing that takes an inexpensive piece of meat into the upper realms of toothsomeness, is the prepping.
Allow the meat to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes – this will help it cook through evenly – and then, season with lots of salt and pepper, and, if you fancy, some thyme and rosemary.
What of the cooking, though? At the Standard Grill, they use a charcoal grill, which heats to something approaching 500 degrees.
If, like me, you don’t quite have a set-up that allows for that, heat a pan with a tiny amount of oil until it starts to smoke. That’s important because the char is what accounts for a lot of the flavour. When it’s cooked to your liking, defy the urge to gobble it up straight away and let it rest for 4-5 minutes, which allows the juices, which have retreated to the centre of the meat, to redistribute throughout – meaning you get an even, tasty flavour.
So, spurn the collegiate advice; follow Roselli’s Rules and you will have a steak born of Heaven.Reuse content