Cooking the Perfect Steak

April, 2020

with Forest Lodge Head Chef, Jesse Wells

“A good steak has the reputation of being tricky to do well at home, which means it remains a rare treat for most, but I’m going to be sharing my top tips for how to cook the perfect steak.

I don’t’ believe there’s such a thing as the ‘perfect’ cut, as this will differ depending on your preference. There’s the obvious cuts: sirloin, rump, ribeye and fillet. But the lesser-known underrated cuts; bavette, Denver, hanger and flat iron to name just a few are still bursting with flavour while almost half the price.

It’s also worth making sure you have a decent heavy based pan – cast iron is best as they hold heat incredibly well.

Here’s my top tips:

Tempering – It’s best to take your steaks from the fridge and leave out at room temperature for at least an hour before cooking (longer for larger cuts). This helps to bring the core of the steaks up to a room temperature and dries the steak as a wet steak will struggle to form a decent crust.

Seasoning – Season your steaks all over with just salt before cooking. Personally, I always use Dorset sea salt flakes – it’s a healthier alternative to table salt and is mineral rich. If you season with pepper before cooking, it’s more likely to burn.

Traceability – Don’t be afraid to ask your local butcher about the provenance of their beef. The journey from the farm to table should be an important consideration, especially how their livestock have been reared and fed. My personal favourite is 100% grass-fed beef from the UK; it’s full of nutrients, more sustainable and better for the environment. And the longer steak has been aged, the more tender it’s likely to be so this is consideration too.

Temperature – Many chefs cook by touch, but the best tip I can give you at home is to invest in a temperature probe – it’s the most accurate way to test the core temperature of your steaks. Bear in mind you want to stop cooking the steak before it hits the desired temperature as it will continue to cook once taken off the heat to rest, sometimes rising by 12oc on larger cuts. For smaller steaks, stop cooking around 6-8°C before desired temperature. I’d recommend; 50°C for rare, 55°C  for medium rare, 60°C for medium, 65°C for medium well or 70°C for well done.

I’ve never been obsessed with cooking steaks for a set number of minutes on each side. I find regular turning of the steak and moving to a different spot in the pan each time is best. Moving the steak around in a circular motion achieves an even colour and crust.

Resting – One of, if not the most important step is to always leave your steaks to rest for as long as it was cooked for, if not double. Leaving it to rest allows the steaks to cool and the juices to migrate back from the centre to be redistributed throughout the steak. If you cut straight after cooking, you’d see all of the juices coming spilling out over the plate.

Carving – When it comes to carving the steaks, how you cut the meat can determine how tender it is. First, find the direction of the grain (which way the muscle fibres are aligned), then slice across the grain rather than parallel with it. It’s more clearly defined in tougher cuts that it is in lean cuts.

Simple steak butters:

If you have some soft herbs around, a herb butter is quick and easy. Chop all your soft herbs roughly and mix together. Fold through some soft butter and season. Top the warm steak with a spoonful while resting.

For an onion or shallot butter, dice two onions or banana shallots and sweat down gently until nicely browned. Add a spoonful of vinegar or white wine, a spoonful of sugar, then cook until completely reduced. Cool the onion mix, then fold through with soft butter and season.”

Recipe by Forest Lodge Head Chef, Jesse Wells

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