Aug 27 2011
What a fantastic article about a good steak – and how to treat it. (I have re-published it without permission – sorry guys). Its from www.calfnews.com:-
Where’s the Exceptional Beef?
Largent Laws of Steak
Chris Dean Hansen, Contributing Editor
Lessons I learned from a grandpa I never met
I know that in writing this, I may be blowing the topic way out of proportion. However, you must understand this subject is in my blood, and not just as cholesterol. You see, my grandfather on my mother’s side was a cattle rancher in Oklahoma. While Grandpa Topper died in a plane crash before I was born, his respect for quality beef – and rules of how to treat it – stayed alive and well in his three daughters and wife. They, in turn, passed it to their children.
I feel that perhaps this ingrained family connection is responsible for my, some would say, “odd” passion for what is for most simply a meal: a piece of meat. For me, however, quality beef represents the back-breaking work of the ranchers and of course the ultimate sacrifice of a noble animal. These feelings lead to moments of disappointment when I see a beautiful steak over-cooked, poked or covered in sauce abused. So, I have decided to share the Largent Laws of Steak. Some of these are passed down from Topper, to my grandmother, mother and to me. Others are guidelines I have added from reading books and articles written by professional chefs.
1. Start with a quality product – you can’t polish a turd. Find a Prime steak with a good amount of thin, intramuscular fat. “Prime” is the name given by the government that denotes the highest of the eight levels of beef quality. Also, don’t be afraid of any brown spots you might see. That brown color means the meat has dry-aged. Aging reduces the water content of the steak, thus strengthening the beef flavor. It also allows natural enzymes to breakdown the proteins, making the beef more tender.
2. Filet is French for “big waste of money.” I know, I know – you were raised believing that filet is the superior cut. You are wrong. In the words of Anthony Bourdain, “Filet is the Paris Hilton of steaks: no fat and not much personality.” Yes, it is the most tender cut, but the flavor is the trade-off. Ribeye, in my opinion, is the best steak available. It has enough fat to impart a great, deep beef flavor and is still tender enough for most people.
3. Salt. Pepper. Done. Few things make me angrier than watching somebody take a beautiful, expensive rib-eye and start covering it in some “top-secret” seasoning blend before slapping it on their Webber. You are not barbequing a brisket. All you need – and I mean all you need – to add to a great steak is fresh-cracked, coarse pepper and kosher salt. Salt once a few hours before cooking, again right before cooking and then, finally, right before serving sprinkle on a small amount of good sea salt. Salting the steak before cooking will draw moisture to the top, which will help the meat attain a better sear. Also, if you want the full steakhouse experience, finish each steak with a small amount of butter. This is a little secret practice of most steak houses and let’s be honest: the only thing that can make a great steak even better is butter … and maybe bacon, but that’s a different article.
4. Leave Webber out of this. Now this is simply a matter of taste, but I personally believe steak is best cooked not on the outdoor grill like most people do, but in a pan (preferably cast-iron) or broiler at a very high temperature. This will sear the meat, caramelizing the meat’s natural sugars on the outside. This is part of what separates the o.k. steaks you grill at home from the amazing ones you get at a good steak house.
5. Give it five minutes. Most people (and unfortunately many restaurants) will take a steak off the heat and immediately serve it. This is wrong. When you think your steak is almost done, remove it from the heat, put it on a plate and walk the heck away. Don’t touch it. Don’t even look at it. While you let it rest for five minutes, it will continue to cook and do magical things that will please the beef Gods who will then surely smile upon you.
6. A1 steak sauce is the devil. A little warning to future dining partners: if at any point I see you in the process of applying this condiment of Satan to your beautiful, well-cooked steak…well, let’s just say my name will be on the news. I see it as an insult to the chef, the beef and the person who raised and processed it. I know you think I am over-reacting and maybe I am. I just believe steak sauce, while I enjoy it on many things that are not steak, has a bold flavor that gets in the way of the natural taste of the beef that people work so hard to obtain. Just my two cents. You are more than welcome to be wrong.
7. If you want it well-done, get the chicken. Let me be clear: a steak cooked above medium is a waste of the chef’s time and a waste of a good piece of meat. It will be tough and the flavor will be nowhere near as good. Put on your big-boy-pants and deal with the pink in the middle.
So, I hope this obnoxious diatribe was useful if only for a laugh. But I do want you to remember two things: First, that ribeye you’re eating means something. It represents generations of strong cattle ranchers and butchers. Your meal is the product of a work ethic that it seems is slowly disappearing as we move further from small ranches and more and more towards the giant companies that go for quantity over quality. The ones that do it the hard way, even when it means making less money, are showing attitudes and trades passed down through generations. Second, we must never forget the sacrifice of a beautiful and noble animal. I just think that if we are to partake in this, or any other food for that matter, we must show it the respect it deserves.