How to cook steak

Here are 20 simple steps to cook a great steak.

  1. Buy good steak. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it must be good. You want to select a piece of meat that has as much marbling as possible. Marbling is formed by lines of fat inside the meat. This fat dissolves during the cooking process and makes it awesome. Aged steaks are great. You should read up about dry aging if you’re interested.
  2. Don’t freeze it. Unless you have a blast freezer you’re going to be damaging the steak when you freeze it. As the cells freeze the ice inside them expands and eventually breaks the cells open. When you cook the steak all that moisture disappears.
  3. If you must freeze steak then make sure you defrost it gently and completely. Ice crystals inside the steak will evaporate and you’ll be boiling your steak from the inside out. I’d advise at least 5 hours outside the fridge to completely defrost a steak.
  4. Get the steak out of the fridge an hour before you want to cook it. Take it out of whatever packaging it is in, dab it dry and then leave it on a plate exposed to the air.
  5. Turn on your hotplate and start getting your pan or griddle pan hot. A griddle pan is ideal for steak because it allows the moisture to evaporate with steaming the meat. You want it to be as hot as humanly possible. If you can’t smell hot metal then it isn’t hot enough. Even on gas I leave the griddle pan on the flame for at least 10 minutes.
  6. Once you’ve let it temper (reach room temperature), dry the steak with a kitchen towel again. This removes any moisture from the outside of the steak. 
  7. Oil your steak. This will require you to get your hands oily. Massage the oil into the meat. While olive oil is fine, it does have a lower smoke temperature than sunflower oil, so sunflower oil is usually best.
  8. While your hands are oily, sprinkle some salt and pepper on your steak. You want to do this at the very last minute otherwise the salt will start to leach the moisture out of the steak.
  9. Put your steaks in the pan, but don’t crowd them. If you crowd the pan you’ll notice an excess of liquid will build up around your steaks and you will now be boiling your steak. Not ideal.
  10. (At this point a small word of warning. If you’ve done this correctly you’ll now start to see a large amount of “smoke” come off the steak and start filling the kitchen with a hazy layer of “mist”. Open some windows  to evacuate the smoke. Similarly you’ll have covered your stove and surrounding surfaces with a splattering of tiny oil bubbles. Feel free to cover everything with newspaper to minimise cleanup)
  11. Leave your steaks exactly as you placed them in the pan. Do not touch them, do not flip them. Do not talk about “sealing in the juices” because that’s been proven rubbish.
  12. Watch the side of the steak. You’ll start to see the line of “cooked” steak start rising from the bottom.  Wait until the line of “cooked” is half way up the side of the steak. Depending on how hot your pan is and how thick your meat is, this could take up to 5 minutes. Probably closer to 2 and a half minutes.
  13. Once the “cooked” line reaches the middle, flip the steak. If everything is going according to plan your steak should not be stuck and you should notice that the cooked side of the steak is nicely browned (we’ll brown it some more later). The steak is magically not-stuck because the Maillard reaction has caramelized the sugars, leaving the it perfectly brown but also not stuck to the pan.
  14. Watch the new “cooked” line rise until the two meet in the middle. This will take slightly less time than the first side did.
  15. Remove your steak and cover it with your favourite basting sauce. This can be anything from a home-made concoction of tomato sauce and chutney to a store bought steak sauce. “Lappies” sauce is my basting of choice, look for it in the Spar (the ones in the Northern Suburbs tend to be better at stocking it). I usually have my basting sauce ready on a plate and then use a spoon to make sure I cover it completely.
  16. Lift your steak out of the sauce, let any excess sauce drip off, and place it back in the hot pan. You are now cooking your meat to get the final temperature (rare, medium rare etc) and colour correct. If you leave it in the pan too long the sauce will burn, which is why we added the sauce at the end.
  17. Getting the “temperature” right is the hardest part of cooking a steak and the best advice I can give you now is to poke the meat with your finger to feel it and possibly use a meat thermometer. If your steaks are thick enough a meat thermometer pushed into the middle of the steak should hit between 54 to 56 degrees Celsius for medium rare. Medium rare feels deceptively soft. I usually cook my steaks for a minute each side after basting.
  18. It’s always better to under-do your steaks than overdo them. You can always put them back in the pan.
  19. Once you’re happy that your steaks are cooked (probably after being in the pan for between 5 and 8 minutes), take them out of the pan and place them on a room temperature plate to rest for at least 3 minutes.
  20. Serve your steaks on warm plates and enjoy.

A few pictures:

Amazingly marbled steak. Note the difference between the marbling and the sinew.
Beef Marbling Standards – Top left is bland, bottom right = Awesome
Kobe is 5-6, Japanese Wagyu is 9-10. I don’t think 12 is actually possible.
Steak “Temperatures” – Medium Rare is what most chefs believe is best.
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Odd murmurings about diet.

I’ve been on a pretty strict diet since last Monday and although the goal of the diet is simply to lose some weight I’ve noticed a few very interesting things during the week.

  • Mindset is King. I don’t know what flipped the switch in my head, but I feel ready to diet now. I think this is very much to the “can’t quit until you really want to quit” argument for drug addicts etc.
  • It’s not that hard. I’m not hungry. When I notice myself getting hungry it’s usually less than an hour away from lunch time etc so I just push through till then.
  • I feel better. It’s not that I used to feel bad, but I just generally feel better, less lethargic. I didn’t expect this.
  • Eating smaller portions is a habit you can get addicted to. I used to eat really big meals, now I’m trying to see how little I can eat while staying healthy.
  • It doesn’t take long for your body to adjust… by Thursday I was already feeling stuffed after eating a relatively small dinner.
  • It can be hard to make healthy food interesting but it also gives you the freedom to experiment a lot since you’re going to be having a chicken breast 3 times a week etc. My chef is doing a really good job of trying to keep dinners interesting.
  • I get cravings for massively unhealthy food (think deepfried everything). This is probably the result of my body not knowing what the hell is going on and trying to get me to eat some “normal” food. This will obviously pass.
  • At this point I’m very aware of the diet still, I’m sure that as I carry on it will become “normal” and I’ll stop thinking about it.
  • Saturdays are dietary “off days” and I had a chicken mushroom pie. My lord did it taste good 😉
  • Fruit is pretty good stuff.
  • I’m aiming at a loss of 1kg per week. I lost 2.5kg in the first week. I don’t expect that trend to necessarily carry on into the subsequent weeks, but who knows? I’ll keep you posted.

GeekDinner Stellenbosch

Last night was the first Stellenbosch GeekDinner and I thoroughly enjoyed it, mostly because of the venue.

Lovane Boutique Wine Estate was gorgeous and perfect. It’s on the Cape Town side of Stellenbosch so you can get out of the city after work and be sipping wine on the balcony overlooking the vineyards while the sun is still out.

Best of all was the food. A sirloin steak buffet with a mushroom sauce and tons of veggies and a green salad. Dessert was homemade ice cream with chocolate sauce. It was delectable in its simplicity. Something that the GeekDinners have been missing out on since we were at Mell’s Kitchen. The meal was perfectly paired with the bottle of wine had been generously placed on our table by Perdeberg.

Which brings me to a point about food. My partner is a chef. Her life is food and she’s incredibly fussy about getting food perfect… As a result I have eaten some pretty amazing meals ranging from the utterly sublime to french toast.

Perfection turns out to be very hard, even for the simple things. How do you fry a perfect egg? How is the perfect roast chicken prepared?

What any chef who truly knows their craft will tell you, if they’re being honest, is something that any good drummer will also tell you. To really impress, perfect the basics, keep it simple and introduce your own subtle flare to hook the person eating (or listening).

Complicated rhythms that mix 3 time signatures and require super human levels of coordination only impress drumming nerds. Also, making food too complicated before you’ve perfect the basics is like taking part in the 100m sprint before you’ve learnt to walk and too much complexity will just taste like noise to most people, even the “experts”.

Lovane got it right. They got the basics right and they had their own subtle touches which finished it all off nicely. The price was perfect, the venue was perfect. I just need to return to see if their wines are perfect!

If you’ve got a function and need a venue for around 55 people I can thouroughly reccommend Lovane.

CAKE!

I’m having the best birthday evar! Thanks to everyone who’s making it so awesome, but most of all to Lynnae for being the world’s best girlfriend!

Charly’s Bakery is quite surreal; when you walk in the door it feels a little like you just stepped onto a scene from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. I will keep you posted on how good the cake tasted.

Over and Out!

J.

Champagne, Paperwork and South East Asian Cuisine

So last night we finally signed and initialled all the bits of paper that basically say our combined asses belong to the bank until we pay off our newly incurred seven hundred and fifteen thousand rand, plus interest, debt. I’ve got to be honest, even though it’s hardly an expensive house, I did have those little voices in my head screaming something along the lines of “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?”.

I felt very happy walking out of that office though. It was like taking a big step towards being a grown up… like the first time a salary clears in your bank account, or the first time you tell your boss to shove it. Steps towards being a big person basically 😉

Then we went home and opened the bottle of champagne. Although this last step was purely an administrative process, the fact that we signed something like 100 sheets of paper made it feel champagne worthy.

Lynnae had made a South East Asian curry for a shoot that day which we promptly consumed… It was so good it had me grinning from ear to ear. I’m telling you guys, being a grown up is underrated.

Hearting life!

Observations from the weekend.

  • I made up an awesome pasta sauce based on “what we had around”:
    Put in a saucepan and mix:

    1. 1 can of tinned tomato and onion mix
    2. Two smoked chicken breasts cut into slices
    3. 1 can of tomato mix (Basically tomato and onion mix without the onion)
    4. One piquant pepper (thinly sliced)
    5. Handfull of chopped parsley
    6. Half a teaspoon of crushed garlic (More if you like)
    7. Half a teaspoon of chopped ginger
    8. A big handfull (or two) of a good quality grated mozzarella or gouda
    9. 25ml (table spoon) of Nandos Wild Herb Peri Peri (Double this if you like hot stuff)
    10. Salt and pepper to taste

    Serve with whichever pasta floats your boat and beer.

  • It is amazing how long you can forgo the need to eat when you are busy hacking electronics in a cold garage.
  • I saw two girls (12ish) in a bookshop, one was reading a book on Mayan Mythology and the other was reading an entire book about Zak Effron. This reminded me of a conversation I had with someone else about the hot girls from school who ended up nowhere in life.
  • I distinctly despise being told to do something by someone who can not give me a rational reason for the intstruction. A Cape Union Mart manager dude told me to leave the shop because they had previously had a power cut. The power was back on, but apparently the policy was to close the shop anyway. “But the power is back on” I said… “Yes, but it’s procedure” he replied,  “Why?” I asked. “Because it’s procedure”. His procedure hadn’t been relayed to the rest of his staff because as we walked out they were happily standing by the door as more people walked in.
  • Never watch a movie at Cape Gate. While the “common” people might be entertaining to watch as you walk around the mall, it is particularly NOT entertaining when you have to sit next to a kid who is loudly chewing on bubble gum with his mouth open the entire way through the movie, WITH his father sitting next to him doing absolutely nothing. Trailer trash.
  • I met a girl I’ve heard about for about 4 years but never met. She is every bit as wonderful as I had heard. It’s awesome to see someone in a relationship with someone they were enfatuated with 4 years ago.
  • It is very unawesome when one of your good friends starts to fall into the same stupid trap they’ve been in for the last 3 years… all over again. YES YOU! STOP IT!
  • We had home made bread and tinned soup for supper last night. I guess weekend cuisine can be in the shape of a tin after all.

Back to our regular programming.

I just have to say it, Python (and Django) are wonderful and I loved spending a small part of my weekend with them. Thanks Brad.

My weekend was as such:

Friday night we stayed in, drank Urbock (my new favourite beer) and watched Rocky V.

Saturday we had a nice little breakfast at home, then went wine tasting and lunching at Anura, then went to Kerry Anne & Paul’s for dinner. Then fell asleep because we had eaten too much.

Sunday morning’s breakfast was Avo on toast with grated cheese and lots of nandos garlic peri-peri sauce. Next we we went to Lynnae’s place and tasted her first batch of home-brewed beer… and then set up the fermenter for a second batch… (23 liters at a time baby!)

Then we popped in at my parentals because I love them. My dad hauled out his 1972 Scope Magazine so that Lynnae could read the story about *his* real near death experience at sea.

1972 Scope magazine is crazy! It’s full of ads for things that you can’t believe anyone would buy, like high-tech weight loss machines and anti-smoking pills… oh wait… Surprisingly enough there were only 2 ads for cigarettes and no boobies. Another thing I noticed is how so many of the ads mentioned how the product is being widely used in America as if to legitimise it. They had a “food section” which Lynnae was rather taken by. The “food styling” which, albeit in a dirty men’s magazine, was rather atrocious. I think I might borrow it and scan some of the more crazy stuff.

Then I spend the evening working on my new pet project (out soon) while Lynnae killed zombies on the xbox.

When in Rome homies… when in Rome!