Had enough of the turkey? Is there anything else you can do with ham? Too much sauce (of every kind!)? A sweet or box too many? Not to worry I think the perfect antidote is a simple but perfectly cooked steak.
If there is a quicker or simpler dish then I’m not sure what it is. Now it is considered a little more expensive but there is also value to be taken into account and when taste, ease of cooking and overall satisfaction are looked at the price is quite good. I love a good steak, perfectly cooked and left left naked but for a knob of butter when served.
It’s funny how such a simple meal has caused such debate and fear when cooking with many people very nervous about getting it right. Maybe this is because there are several taste variations in the way people like it cooked. Perhaps it’s because some countries have different names for the different cuts and so while animals are pretty much the same the world over, the humans have, as usual, complicated the story. Maybe it’s because it is considered an expensive cut of meat and so people are afraid to experiment for fear of making a costly dinner mistake instead of a superb steak dinner!
Steak is naturally tender and it cooks in just minutes. The trick with steak, (and any meat really) is to buy it from a trusted supplier – not all animals or meat purveyors are equal. Many factors that will impact on the taste and texture of meat; how the animal is reared, what they were fed and how they were slaughtered will all impact. My only advice for the perfect steak experience is to find the best meat. At James Whelan Butchers we rear and slaughter all our own beef so we stand over that journey from farm to fork without budging. We also pride ourselves on our variety especially our Japanese influenced Waygu beef which, if you haven’t tried, is a revelation.
When it comes to the steak cuts my personal favourite is a T-bone steak – this has the sirloin on one side of the bone and the smaller fillet on the other side. I have been told on many occasions that T-bone is a ‘man’s steak’ but I think that’s gender nonsense. Many a young lady in my company has cleaned her plate as well as any man I know. From personal observations I do find that women are more discerning about the accompaniments and often opt for a lighter salad as a side rather than the more traditional potato or chips, but really there are no rules. The footballers choice seems to be steak and chips but make sure the chips are good.
The other terminology around steak is in how it is cooked. Blue (which means very rare), rare, medium rare, medium or well done. Like everything in life the extremes are probably easier to get right, while the ones in the middle are considered trickier. I have one friend who loves to order steak in a restaurant and when asked how she would like it cooked will exclaim, “Blue- just take the horns off, wipe its ass and put it on the plate!” It never ceases to raise a smile but I have to say it has terrified many serving staff.
Here is a quick guide to the terminology.
Blue or very rare — Cooked very quickly; the outside is seared, but the inside is usually cool and barely cooked. The steak will be red on the inside and barely warmed.
Rare — (52 °C/125 °F core temperature.) The outside has turned a grey brown from red and the middle of the steak is red and slightly warm.
Medium rare — (55 °C /130 °F core temperature) This steak will have a fully red, warm centre. This is pretty much the standard in most good steak restaurants.
Medium — (60 °C/140 °F core temperature) The middle of the steak is hot and red with pink surrounding the centre. The outside is grey-brown.
Well done — (71 °C/160 °F and above core temperature) The meat is grey-brown throughout and slightly charred.
When cooking steak make sure the pan is really hot with the oil or fat just about to reach its smoking point. Only turn the meat once and do it with a tongs rather than a knife as stabbing the flesh will allow some of the flavour to escape. With regards to the amount of minutes required on the hot pan, this is not an exact science given the difference in thickness of steaks, different stove tops and the quality of the pan. For this reason internal temperature is a much more accurate gauge, however here’s my rule of thumb:
Blue or very Rare – 1 to 2 minutes on each side.
Rare – 3 minutes on each side
Medium Rare – 3 ½ minutes on each side
Medium – 4 minutes on each side
Well done – 5-6 minutes on each side.
And once out of the pan or off the grill always leave a steak to rest for about 5 minutes before serving. If you need any further guidance don’t forget we are steak experts at James Whelan Butchers and will be happy to help you with any of your queries. You can drop into our store at Oakville Shopping Centre or contact us through our website online.
We hope you enjoyed reading this post by Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers. Pat is a 5th generation butcher, cook book author and the director of James Whelan Butchers with shops in Clonmel, the Avoca Handweavers Rathcoole and Kilmacanogue, Dunnes Stores Cornelscourt, Rathmines and Swords in Dublin. Sign up to our newsletter for more updates from James Whelan Butchers