Want to know how to cook the perfect steak? It’s relatively simple but, like anything worth doing, it takes a little time.
That’s partly why steakhouses can charge upwards of 100 bucks to char-grill a piece of meat — while the cooking happens in minutes, the dry-ageing process can take months — and it’s worth every second.
But, there’s a secret to dry-ageing: with the help of your trusty smart fridge, you can do it at home yourself. Here’s how to cook the perfect steak.
1. It starts with the perfect cut of meat
One of the most important steps in cooking a steak happens long before you get anywhere near the pan, at your local butcher. While the scotch fillet and the porterhouse might be the priciest, cheaper cuts such as rump or flank are often more flavourful. There are plenty of cuts that’ll work well cooked on the pan or the barbecue, so having a word with your butcher will help identify which steak is to your taste. When you’re cooking at home, it’s better to choose a steak that’s about three centimetres thick to ensure it cooks evenly.
2. Then the most important step: dry-ageing in the fridge
Acclaimed chef Heston Blumenthal, a cook who’s happy to break the rules in favour of great taste loves to dry-age his steak in the fridge.
Firstly, pat down your steak with kitchen paper or a clean tea-towel, to make sure any moisture is absorbed and the meat is as dry as possible.
Then, sit the steak on a cake rack, uncovered, and place it in the bottom of the fridge. Steaks will take on a little of the aroma of other food in the fridge, so it’s best to keep the meat away from other produce. Let the steak sit uncovered for two days, allowing air to circulate around it.
3. Bring your meat to room temperature
One serious mistake many home cooks make is taking meat straight from the fridge and putting it in the pan while it’s cold. Because of the temperature differential between the meat and the pan surface, this can cause the meat to stick and cook unevenly, charring the outside without cooking the middle. Leave your steak on the counter for a couple of hours before cooking to allow it to come to room temperature, and pat it down again to remove any excess moisture.
4. The perfect pan is your thickest
A great steak needs some serious heat. Find your thickest pan or griddle — cast iron would be great — slather it in oil, and allow it to sit on the burner until the oil begins to smoke.
5. Don’t salt the meat, salt the pan
Most chefs tend to salt the surface of the meat, but by throwing a layer of salt onto the pan, you can create a barky crust and a great piece of steak. This is all part of the Maillard reaction, a chemical reaction between amino acids and sugars in the meat that enhances flavour and aroma.
6. Turn and turn your steak again
Try this controversial method that breaks the age-old adage about turning a steak only once and turn the meat every 15 seconds, for about two to three minutes. This way, by getting pulses of heat, the meat cooks evenly and remains tender on the inside. Controversial, but it works.
7. Rest your steak
Here’s where plenty of great steaks are ruined — by being served directly after cooking. In order for the juices to re-absorb back into the meat, it’s important to rest your steak for at least five minutes before serving. Use a metal cake rack, not a plate, to ensure there isn’t heat trapped under the steak.
8. Time to Eat!
Whether you like to slice your steak into wedges and serve over a spicy Thai salad, or simply dig in with a spoonful of hot English mustard – the rest is up to you.
Why try dry-ageing? Here’s the science
What is it about dry-ageing that makes beef so much tastier?
Well, like a fine wine, interesting things begin to happen once enzymes come into play. In wine, for instance, the fermentation process takes place when microbes convert the sugar in grapes into alcohol. Similarly, the dry-ageing process in beef allows enzymes to break down the cell walls of the proteins, converting them into acids and sugars, thus imparting a more complex, savoury and subtly sweet taste, as well as breaking down connective tissue to make the meat more tender. It also sees a piece of meat lose around five per cent of its water content, leading to a more intense concentration of flavours.
For most professional chefs, dry-ageing takes place in a temperature- and humidity-controlled cool room, where the process happens over many weeks. Dry-aged meat is expensive, because it takes time and crucial storage space to hang it for weeks at a time.
For the home chef, a good-quality refrigerator can deliver an excellent dry-aged steak in a fraction of the time.
#HisenseHack: Become friends with your butcher. They know more about meat than we ever will, and they’re happy to share it.
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