Choosing your cut: Fillet, striploin, rib-eye, whatever you decide there are a couple of things to consider. Price is certainly one, flavour is the other. T-bone combines both the striploin and the fillet with a central bone but there are also some lesser known and cheaper cuts such as flat iron and bavette. Fillet is certainly the most tender but striploin and indeed perhaps more so rib-eye with a nice marbling of fat running through it has to be the tastiest cut for fast frying steaks. Look for thin marbling of fat running throughout the steak. This will provide flavour to the finished steak and help keep it juicy and succulent. The different cuts of steak is probably a post in and of itself so suffice to say whatever cut you choose make sure to follow the advice below.
Room Temperature: It is vital, ok everything I’m telling you here is vital, but this is one common mistake that I feel many make when it comes to cooking steak in particular. Putting a refrigerator cold piece of meat is like going from the freezing cold sea straight into a hot shower. The muscles in your body would tighten and constrict under the unfamiliar heat. The same can be said for your steak. Remove from the fridge, and whatever packaging it may have, at least one hour before cooking.
Remove excess moisture: A hot pan is fundamental to perfectly searing a steak and any other liquid will only affect the outcome. Wrap the beef in a few pieces of kitchen towel while bringing it to room temperature to remove any excess blood or moisture. Repeat the process once or twice to make sure that your steak is as dry as possible.
Oil the meat not the pan: There are different schools of thought when it comes to oiling the meat or your pan. Personally I sit on the “oil the meat” side of the fence, as I feel that oiling the pan creates too much smoke in a hot pan and oiling the meat creates a nice seal enabling that crusty sear that you’re looking for. As for oil, you want one with little flavour and yet a decent burning temperature. Some recommend a flavourless oil such as vegetable or groundnut, whereas I reckon that a mild olive oil ticks the boxes in the “best of both worlds” category.
Season generously: For good quality beef I believe that simplicity is best so I recommend sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper. The only other advice applicable here is to err on the side of what you might consider too much. Plenty of salt and pepper will add tonnes of flavour so don’t be afraid to go for it, trust me. As salt draws moisture from meat, season just before it goes into the pan for best results.
Hot pan: As already mentioned a hot pan really helps in creating that sear that is discussed further below. A good quality, heavy based, non stick frying pan is key to ensuring that this works as effectively as possible for you. Whatever heat source you’re using make sure that your pan is at near smoking point before your steak hits it for that perfect sear.
Remember that colour is flavour: When it comes to searing meat it is cooking 101 that browning meat, or the Maillard reaction as it’s known in scientific terms, is paramount in creating flavour. I won’t bother nor perhaps bore you with the details of the science but let’s just say this one is also pretty important. When your steak goes into the hot pan leave for AT LEAST 2 minutes without moving.
Rest the meat: Another really important and often missed part of the perfect steak process is resting the meat. Resting allows the juices and the fibres of the meat to relax and result in a more flavourful and succulent piece of meat. In general advice, aim to rest any meat that you cook for at least half of the overall cooking time.
How to cook your steak: I really want to say that all steak should be cooked medium rare pointing more on the rare side because that’s how I like mine cooked and I think that it produces a better flavoured and more juicy steak. However, as with all food, I also believe that it should be about how YOU enjoy it most, regardless of what I or anyone else says. We should also be adventurous in trying new things with food but if you’ve tried medium rare and still don’t like it, nobody has a place to judge (Just me. And I’m only judging a little bit)
Cooking a steak is so subjective and depends on many variables such as thickness of the steak, heat of the pan etc. and this is a very general guide but here goes: (This advice is based on approx. 1inch steak)
Rare: Approx. 2 ½ minutes on each side
Medium Rare: Approx. 3-4 minutes on each side
Medium: Approx. 4 minutes on each side
Well done: Approx. 6 minutes on each side
*Another possibility to consider is to preheat and oven to 180°C Fan, 400°F, Gas Mark 6. For medium rare, try 2 minutes a side and 2 minutes in the oven.