The perfect steak

Last updated 11:44 03/12/2012

Remember when my buddy Max told you about his omelette epiphany? The perfect coloured, perfectly seasoned, perfectly cooked, not over-complicated omelette. Well, you know what? I've hit the same point - with steak.

Yup, it's actually happened - the best steak I have ever cooked. Possibly even the best steak I have ever eaten (with honourable mentions to, and possible exceptions of, the steak at Crazy Horse and The Larder). It reinforced an age-old maxim - it all starts with the basic ingredients, and then taking care every step of the way, to do it properly.

Steak1My buddy Shaun Clouston, head chef of the esteemed Logan Brown, has a car park out the back of my work, at Slow Boat Records. For whatever reason, when sneaking through the store and taking a shortcut to his car park, he seems to have taken it upon himself to bestow me with a delicious protein in order to keep doing so. This is not something I complain about - in the past I have had a leg of goat, some excellent bacon, and some wagyu flank.

But last week he presented me with another of those familiarly wrapped packages - this time, a slab of First Light wagyu scotch fillet. It is about two inches thick, and has a generous edging of tough fat, as well as some of the quite magnificent marbling that is a characteristic of wagyu beef. It looks delicious. It will be delicious, just so long as I don't balls it up.

Room temperature - no point cooking a steak from icy cold. I need to make sure that the meat feels "relaxed" and supple as it goes into the scorchingly hot pan. And, believe me, this pan is searingly hot. It needs to be. I put the slab of meat in a bowl and give it a generous rub with olive oil and ground black pepper, and also salt  - some people don't like to salt steak before cooking, fearing the meat will dry out, but given that I am going to try and achieve a decently caramelised brown crust before finishing in the oven, I do salt it as well - I want the crust to be dry, and the middle to be pink and tender, cooked but still sumptuous and pink.

I hit the pan with the well-seasoned slab of meat, fat side down. The gas hob provides a fearsome heat and the range hood is working overtime dispersing the resultant smoke. I flip the steak and sear the other edge, before placing the surface side on to the hot pan, with a hugely satisfying sizzle.

Steak2The steak swiftly develops the rich, brown crust I have been aspiring to, and I flip it over and give the other side the same treatment, before pushing my finger into it to test its done-ness (using the time-honoured rule of thumb of comparing it to the firmness of your thumb to each finger, natch) whipping it into a medium-heat oven to finish cooking for just a few minutes.

Upon removing it from the oven, I cover the spectacular-looking slab in tinfoil to rest and set about deglazing the pan - a little balsamic vinegar, some mushroom stock and butter subjected to a little reduction back over the heat make a quick and delicious accompaniment to the meat.

I slice it across the grain and find the meat to be perfectly pink, tender and juicy, with a thick, richly caramelised crust. We eat it off warmed plates with peas, new potatoes and some of the mushroomy balsamic reduction.

It is an utterly delicious piece of meat. It is rich, and flavoursome - it tastes profoundly of itself. It tastes, well, beefy. Again, I am very pleased with myself for not spoiling such an awesome piece of protein by rushing things, or cutting corners - I made sure the meat was at room temperature, that it was well seasoned, that the fat was rendered, well seared, and finished in the oven, well rested, and with a pan reduction jus.

And that, I now see, is the key to cooking the perfect steak.

What/where was the best steak you ever ate? What is your technique - any tricks or tips? How do you rate wagyu?

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