Ultimate Steak

The idea of cooking meat (for most) lies in the juiciness and or the tenderness. The topic of what is the “ultimate steak” is a good challenge for any chef, or amateur chef. A chewy fatty cap, a nice tender center is often what leaves a lasting smile, though not for all. Much depends on what you consider to be your favorite part or cut, cooking style and taste preference.

The bigger question about cooking meat is the steak’s consistency and preparation methods. The loss of juices, red colored juices lost, remaining on the plate seems to trouble many steak aficionados, but worries me less. Simply put, the blood isn’t just blood, it’s mostly H2O that escapes from the meat’s core as it expands and the meat contracts. This phenomenon is normal and expected and shouldn’t worry a chef. As fluids heat and expand, they become more buoyant; as they cool, their densities increase so they tend to sink – hence red juices.

Cooking beef is easy, especially if you use sous vides. The greater challenge is the searing of the meat to avoid any grey edges. The question arises each time, whether or not to start with a steak at room temperature, or directly from the fridge – I prefer fridge directly for various reasons.

One time in Tokyo I was cooking with a friend, a Michelin chef from Italy. I was preparing meat at home and after I reached mid-forties, he shrugged his shoulders and smiled. I knew it was time to take it off the grill and he was right but I went a little too far.

It’s confusing because the cooking temperatures vary from meat to meat and from chef to chef. Most books talk about food safety and are shy to challenge the regulatory authorities in temperature ranges – too low can result in getting sick to very sick.

I did some training with Bruno Goussault a pioneer in sous vides and low temperature safety. Bruno who used to give two options when cooking; searing before vacuuming, or after the water bath. Bruno was involved in the development of sous vides and the function of pre-preparing foods for commercial purposes, he deploys his experience which is simply put immense.

When cooking meat its a matter of experimenting and finding about what works best for your kitchen. Of course there is a general rule of thumb and most chefs use their own ideas to obtain what they consider perfection.

Recently I had a visiting chef that was a BBQ expert and he used the grill his way. I was impressed but not convinced: http://mesubim.com/2014/07/23/meaty-things-grill

I sometimes skewer meat (with Japanese inox skewers) and by doing so, I transfer heat more into the core during the cooking: http://mesubim.com/2014/03/18/cooking-meat-gyu

For that reason, it’s a good idea to understand how the geometry of food affects the conduction of heat, the rate of heat flow in a solid food depends not only on the size of the food but also on its shape. It is important to understand how and what kind of heat you use: http://mesubim.com/2014/03/27/kiku-sumi-bincho

Generally, when cooking steaks you apply heat only directly to the surface of the food as the heat conducts inward slowly, so the outside warms faster and sooner than the inside. Meat consists of an elaborate assemblage of different substances with different heat-transfer properties. The heat moves differently in muscle, bone, and fat and each piece of food has its own unique patterning of components. That’s why cooking wagyu is so very different in technique when compared with a T-bone: http://mesubim.com/2013/04/28/t-bone-troia

The general rule for estimating cooking times for flat steak cuts only is that the time required increases by the square of the increase in thickness. Two times thicker means four times longer; three times thicker means nine times longer.

Cooking steaks is not only science, but is about experimenting and finding out what best works for your own taste. I almost always sear with the intention of coloring the meat on the surface, and so the meat must be cold so the transfer of heat is controlled and doesn’t affect the meat internally.

I still experiment to achieve the ultimate cooking process and the ultimate tasting steak and the battle goes on.