Steaks. User's Manual

Fri, 11/03/2016
Several years ago I first tried a steak, after which my life divided into "before" and "after." Gone are all the bbqs and other meat dishes. Since meat is an unhealthy product, I try to eat it about once a week, and in that case the meat has to be truly a "work of art".
In New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Florence, Monaco, Miami and other cities I immediately go to a steakhouse, so I have some broad geography experience in comparing them.
Since the steak culture in our country is relatively young, but actively growing, many people do not really understand what a "steak" is, how to cook it and what meat is best to choose.
I am not a chef and not an expert, so the article is based solely on my personal experience and knowledge gained through internet and books.

History

The history of steaks began back in ancient Rome, when on grates on open fire they roasted large pieces of bull's meat after the sacrificial ritual. In 1460 United Kingdom has learned about steaks and became the second home to this dish, and that's where the name «beefsteaks» came from.




In America the story of the steak started with Columbus, who brought from across the Atlantic a cattle of Longhron breed. The Americans quickly realized that they liked the dish and so the steak became an integral part of their culture, as well as almost the only contribution to the world's cuisine. Today America is one of the largest beef producers, along with Australia and Argentina. The most delicious steak I've ever eaten was in New York.

Whats is a steak? 

Steak is a fried piece of beef, cut across the fibres. Steak could also be made from pork, fish, etc. However, a real steak is beef only and not even any kind. Less than 10% of the carcass is suitable for steaks, mostly of elite breeds of young bulls - Hereford and Angus (Black Angus).



Steak dish has always been considered as "not for everyone" because of its high price. It's quite a pricey pleasure even today in comparison to other sorts of meat. In restaurants the price of a steak is often noted for 100 gr.

Meat

As I've already mentioned above, steaks are made of marbled beef of bulls' breeds such as Hereford and Angus. The most popular one in the world is the Black Angus.



A very important point is the livestock sagination, for which they usually use grain, corn or wheat, as a result the meat acquires layers of fat that melt when cooking and that allows the heat to pass through the fiber pores and warm up the meat faster. Meat with those fat layers looks like marble, hence the name "marbled beef." The more the layers, the more tender and juicy is the steak (and greasy!!))

Ageing

Fresh-killed beef is not used for steaks. Before becoming suitable for steaks meat must undergo a process of ageing, which is aimed at destroying the connective tissues in the meat, which making it more tender and richer in taste. There are two types of ageing:


Dry-aged beef - the meat is hung up in a chamber with a temperature of 1-3°C for 15-28 days. You might have a seen that (hanging pieces of meat) in some meat restaurants. So it's not just for decoration purposes or to scare guests.

Wet-aged beef - the meat at the temperature of 0°C is placed in a vacuum package and is held for a few days or up to a week. It is the most common method, as it is the easiest, cheapest and fastest. Besides, the meat saves its weight, unlike the dry-aged that loses around 1/3 of its weight.

The difference between those types of ageing is that the dry way makes the meat richer in flavor while the wet way keeps it juicier.
Dry-aged is more valuable, of course.
 

Types of steaks

I will review the most popular ones, the ones that can be found here.

Rib-eye - my favorite and most popular steak. Rib - where the meat is taken from and the eye - because its shape apparently reminds some people the shape of the eye. Usually there are many thin layers of fat and one big one. Rib-eye is the most tender, juicy, greasy and easy to cook.



Strip-loin is the thin edge of the loin. This is probably the second most popular steak. It is less greasy than the rib-eye, and has a more expressive meat flavor, and it's almost twice as cheap. It's great for those who aren't fond of greasy meat. It is also called the "New York Strip"




Filet-mignon is a muscle cut out that is not involved in the movement and is considered to be the most tender meat. This steak is one of the most expensive ones and is mostly popular among women due to its tenderness and lack of excess fat. "I'm on a diet, so fillet mignon, please." Steak-skyscraper. The height is up to 6-8 cm, but they're not wide at the base.




T-bone - the name of this steak comes from the "T-shaped" bone that divides the steak into 2 parts. On one side is the striploin (thin edge), and on the other - the tender meat of the undercut. 2 in 1.
The T-bone steak is very similar to "Porterhouse", I do not see a big difference, but the Porterhouse has more of the undercut. Porterhouse is sometimes called the "royal steak", it is also considered to be the most filling.

Although on the picture the steaks look more like Porterhouse   

There are other types too: Strip, Sirloin, Châteaubriand, Skirt, Tournedos and others.
My favorite is still the rib-eye, it's like "Caesar" salad - never fails.

Beef Marbling Score

There are three main degress of marbling that you can find in a store:
Prime, Choice, Select


Most marbled and rich with fat streaks steak is Prime, and the most "low-fat" is Select. Most often you can find Choice and Select in stores, but much more expensive and it is clear by the packaging alone is the Prime.
There are also types of meat with an even smaller degree of marbling, such as Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter

How to choose?

I would suggest to start with Rib-eye or Striploin, of course. Those are the most easy, comprehensible and unpretentious steaks to ccok, they are hard to mess up.


On the left is a one big piece of Rib-eye, on the right are seperate packages. (As you can see, one has a lot of fat, while the others have a lot less) Do pay attention to that when buying a steak.  

Around the meat showcase I spend more time than anyone else, examining every single package. A lot could be said about the steak judging by its "pattern". There are no two same steaks even if they're in one pack. One has less fat, the other has more, different thicknesses and different fibers, thus the taste will be different too. I choose a darker meat with lots of "marbling".


On the left is a Striploin Prime chunk, and on the right are two seperate Striploins of equal marbling. 

All store steaks are sold in vacuum packs with one or two pieces inside or one thick chunk of approximately 2 good steaks. While experimenting I figured that the ribeye and striploin in large pieces, that need to be cut into seperate steaks, somehow turn out tastier + the thickness is more than the standard. 


On the left - two pieces of Rib-eye, on the right - T-bone and Club steak

Of course, everyone wants to save, but remember that a good steak has to be expensive, to me it is better to eat meat less often than trying to make steaks out of parts that are not intended for this purpose.

Cooking

Good meat is very difficult to mess up, but it's very hard to make a good steak out of bad meat, whether you're James Oliver or Oliver Stone.
Steak is probably one of the simplest and fastest meals to prepare. Before writing this article I bought 2 Rib-eye steaks - one Australian and one Russian produced (the photo below). The sticker  on the package covered most of the Russian steak, so I wasn't very lucky with marbling. Australian competitor looks richer, but that's not always the case (for a steak to be delicious, it should look more like the one on the left.)




You will need:

- meat
- salt
- pepper
- olive oil
- A pan with a thick bottom! (Preferably grill)

To taste:
- rosemary
- steaks seasoning

Next, everything is very simple.

1) Open the package, wash the meat and dry it with kitchen towels. Many people recommend to leave the meat for an hour or two to "breathe" and become room temperature. Sensible advice, but I ususally cook when I'm very hungry so there's no time for all the foreplay.
If the steak you bought is a large piece, then you can separate it into 2 steaks. At first glance the pieces seem too thick, but when you press them down with your hand they'll become thinner and wider in size. If the steak is too thin, then you should cook it very fast, not to overcook.


Here's the right thickness of a Rib-eye and Striploin

2) Put olive oil on both sides. I personally season the meat very little, so that I could use the crystallized salt later during the meal. 


The Australian steak to the left, the Russian (Miratorg) to the right. The first looks richer, but that isn't always the case. 

3) Preheat your grill pan with a thick bottom without any oil (!) to the maximum possible degree. I usually watch until the little smoke starts.
A thick bottom is an important point! Once my friends decided to cook steaks and their pan had a thin bottom (doesn't keep the heat!). Nothing good turned out in the end. 

4) Put the meat on a hot pan and cook it on one side first for 2-4 minutes depending on the degree of doneness and the thickness of the steak, then turn over for another 2-4 minutes (one turn over in total). I usually cook it for about 3 minutes per side. You need to keep an eye on it and touch the meat to see if it's done (if it's very soft - it's probably rare, then it gradually hardens up). It is important not to overcook the steak, it has to be pink inside, juice, possibly with blood (some love raw meat inside), but most certainly not completely cooked. Do not forget that we are talking exclusively about beef that can be eaten raw, as opposed to pork for example.
When you've turned the meat over, you can put some rosemary on top of it, it gives off a great smell even .


Sorry for the quality, didn't have enough time for the camera

5) It is better to warm up the plate (or board) for the steak, because after cooking, it quickly loses heat (especially with a little degree of doneness), and the steaks should be eaten hot.

6) I add pepper after it's ready to bring more flavor, not to burn it. Before I also often used a special seasoning that is in the picture - «American Steakhouse Seasoning». A very cool thing, one of the best of its kind!

Sometimes steaks can be put in a stove so that they warm up and evenly soak in juices.


This is how my steaks look after they're done. The Australian is to the left and the Russian is to the right. This time the score is 1:0


There's a second, more traditional way of cooking steaks. 

It's cooked on a hot pan on both sides, then it's put into a preheated oven to 200°C for 2-3, 5-7 minutes, depending on the desired degree of doneness (many videos on YouTube).
It seems to me that perfection in this task only comes with practice.
Since I rarely use the oven, I will not even insist on it.
Cooking steaks on a grill - is a pleasure on its own. A completely different flavor and pleasure degree.


Degree of doneness:

When ordering a burger or a steak in a restaurant, they will ask you how do you want it to be cooked.


Extra rare or Blue rare - quickly fried steak on both sides. Basically, raw meat, but warm.
Rare - steak with blood (red juice)
Medium Rare - poorly cooked. Steak with a pink juice. My favorite and probably the most common type of doneness. I think the steaks was created for this.
Medium - medium doneness with light-pink juice.
Medium Well - cooked meat, almost no juice.
Well Done - fully cooked meat.
Overcooked - cooked meat at temperature above 100°C with no juices. This type is sometimes called  "shoe sole".



My steak was just as planned - Medium rare


Where to try best steaks?

Most popluar meat places in Moscow:

Воронеж (Voronezh)
Рыбы нет (Ryby net)
Шеф (Chef)
Гудман (Goodman)
Бизон (Bison)

P.S.

- Before cooking meat, it is desirable to turn on the hood on max and cover the pan with a speacial net lid to prevent from oil sprinkles. 
- This activity is quite smoky and "aromatic". I grilled the steaks, which you have seen in the photos above, about 3 hours ago, and you can still smell them in the house.
- I strongly advise everyone to read the book "The China Study" about the link between nutrition and health. You might consider excluding meat from your diet or at least reduce its amount.
- I'm trying to reduce meat consumption to a minimum, and I believe that it is better to eat meat rarely, but in a way that it would feel like a holiday or an event.
- In my opinion, if you eat meat, you do not need to add potatoes, bread, pasta and other foods. Meat is hard enough to digest, don't complicate the problem.

Sorry about so many letters. I wanted to write a short and clear article, but I guess I can't write short. At least, I've tried to combine in one article everything together: from the history of steaks to cooking them.
Bon Appetit!
Evgeny Fist for RunwayDay.com 

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