The Perfect Steak

steak

The Perfect Steak

It’s hard to go past a good steak dinner. One of the most satisfying meals I had on a recent trip to Paris was a very rare steak with bernaise sauce. It’s good to remember that the classic dishes are classics for a reason – they usually taste great.

enough for 2
takes: 15 minutes

2 steaks, about 2cm (3/4in) thick
1 lemon, optional
handful thyme leaves, optional

1. Remove your steaks from the fridge at least an hour before you want to cook them.

2. Heat a frying pan (skillet) just large enough to hold the steaks on a very high heat. For at least 5 minutes.

3. Scatter a very fine layer of salt over the bottom of the pan and add the steaks.

4. Cook for 2 minutes each side for medium rare (or 3 minutes for medium) or until cooked to your liking. Add the lemon halves, cut side down after you turn the steaks.

5. Remove steaks and place on 2 warm plates. Drizzle over a little hot lemon juice, (if using) and a generous glug of olive oil. Rest for at least 5 minutes, preferably 10.

6. Scatter with thyme, (if using) and season with pepper before serving.

Variations for Serving Sizes

I tend to only cook steak on the stove top for a maximum of 4 people. Any more than that and it’s up to the BBQ king.

Leftover Potential

OK. But steak tends to dry out when reheated. I’d slice and use the steak cold in a salad or on a sandwich.

Variations

vegetarian / vegan – try cooking large field mushrooms on a salt crust using this method. You’ll need to be very generous with the olive oil at the end. Or try these Mushroom steaks.

fun – try different cuts of steak to see which is your favourite. I love a good scotch fillet (also known as rib eye without the bone). It’s also great to explore differences such as trying a grass fed vs a grain fed steak of the same cut.

pescetarian – cook tuna or swordfish steaks.

BBQ – forget the salt crust method. Just rub the steak with a little oil and season before cooking on a very hot BBQ. Times will be similar to the recipe.

rosemary steaks – sometimes rosemary makes a nice alternative to the thyme. But a little goes a long way.

carb lovers / more substantial – serve with home made fries or Hasselback Spuds.

more veg – serve parmesan peas on the side.

Waste Avoidance Strategy

steaks – best to freeze them.

lemon, thyme – will keep for months in a plastic bag in the fridge.

Problem Solving Guide

too bland – season with extra salt & pepper. Next time try a different butcher or a different cut.

too salty – cooking on a salt crust like this only needs a very fine amount of salt to give you the lovely salty crust and stop your steak from sticking to the pan. Next time use less salt but for now, try rubbing off any excess salt.

steak burning – if your pan is too large, fat and juices that drip into the pan can easily burn (see smoke alarm below). Next time use a smaller pan. The other problem is if you’re trying to cook the steak to well done it can start to get very charred on the outside. I’d really encourage you to try learning to love a medium steak. But if you’re like my Dad and get freaked out at the thought of pink meat, cook the steak on a very high heat at first and then turn the heat down to medium after the first few minutes.

smoke alarm problems – if you pan isn’t super clean before you start or the pan is too large for your steaks, the parts that aren’t being covered by the steak can smoke. Next time clean your pan first and use a smaller pan (or cook more steaks). For now, get someone to wave a tea towel in front of your smoke detector, or do as my Dad does and set a fan up pointing at the smoke detector while you’re cooking. Remember to turn it off after.

steak too rare
– just pop it back in the pan for a minute or so each side. When you’re learning its a good idea to cut into one of the steaks to check for doneness before you rest them. Also it’s really important to make sure your steak is at room temperature before you start cooking, otherwise it will take much longer.

steak overdone – if your steak isn’t as thick as the recipe (2cm / 3/4in) it won’t take as long to cook. Not much you can do now apart from being generous with the lemon and olive oil.

steak too tough / chewy – if you steak is lovely and pink but tough and chewy its time to blame the steak! Next time try a different producer or a different cut. Generally the more expensive cuts tend to be the most tender.

too lemony – cooking the lemons like this makes them really lovely and juicy. It can be easy to overdo the lemon and overpower your steak so don’t be too generous. You can always add more lemon later.

Serving Suggestions

Great with a green salad or some steamed green veg. For a more decadent option serve with potato chips or cheats ‘frites’. The lemon and olive oil make a wonderful sauce but experiment with other sauces such as bernaise. Mustard is also a winner.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Libby January 2, 2016

Hi Jules,
I’ve always been skeptical yet curious, and hopefully open-minded about letting a steak rest after cooking. Can you please explain the logic behind it for me?
What seems inevitable to me is that either the steak will get cold or, if I attempt to keep it warm for several minutes then it will continue to cook and become overdone for my rare to medium rare preference.
Thanks,
Libby

Reply

jules January 8, 2016

Great question Libby!

The theory is when you cook steak and expose the muscle to heat, it causes the proteins to change form and contract, suqeezing out the juices within the muscle. If you cut into the cooked steak and eat right away the juices run onto your plate which means they don’t end up in your mouth so the meat tastes dry.

By allowing some time to ‘rest’ the muscle has a chance to relax after exposure to the heat so the juices aren’t squeezed out and when you cut into it they stay in the meat (and make it into your mouth) so the steak tastes more moist.

I’ve experimented and it does make a difference. But if we’re super hungry, I still sometimes just serve the steak and we eat it asap… and just soak up the juices as we eat. So it’s not the end of the world.

Mostly, however I put the cooked steak on warm plates and just let it rest a few minutes before serving (usually while getting the rest of the meal on the table). With the warm plate the steak stays warm enough without overcooking.

Hope that helps!
Jx

ps. And the less you’re cookign your steak to begin with (the rarer) the less contraction you get anyway so less benefits from resting.

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