Steaks high in trans-Tasman beef battle

Can this chef tell the difference?

JENNA LYNCH AND ELTON SMALLMAN
Last updated 00:11 26/10/2013
Waikato

Without knowing the origin of the meat, the Waikato Times asked chef Toby Elliottyson to cook up one piece of Australian export rump steak alongside a slab of New Zealand beef and judge which was best.

Steak
PETER DRURY/Fairfax NZ
MYSTERY MEAT? Smith and McKenzie Chophouse chef and owner Toby Elliottyson with what is either Kiwi or Aussie beef.

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The Kiwi and Aussie battle is heating up again, but there's no sport in sight. This time it's a battle of the beef.

Australian red meat is making its way across ditch and filling a gap in our supermarkets, as Kiwi beef farmers recover from last summer's drought.

But how does the Aussie beef compare to a good homegrown Kiwi steak?

Well there's only one way to find out: A blind taste test.

The Waikato Times enlisted Smith and McKenzie Chophouse owner and chef Toby Elliottyson to cook and taste two cuts of rump steak. One was grown in New Zealand, the other in Australia.

After seasoning, searing and settling the steaks, tensions were high. Could the Kiwi beef take it out?

Mr Elliottyson was asked which steak he preferred.

"Definitely the left one. There's more flavour," he said.

He was then asked the steak's country of origin.

"If I was to guess I would have to say the left steak is Kiwi beef," he answered.

It wasn't. The flavoursome cut of rump was raised in Australia.

Mr Elliottyson's face dropped. "That's crazy."

He reasoned that the New Zealand slice was an end cut of rump - what he referred to as a "grandma's knickers" cut. Eventually he conceded. Aussie beef had won on the day.

"I had a nice slice of Australian beef to work with whereas it was quite a ratty sinewy piece of New Zealand beef," he said.

"But I'd still take locally raised New Zealand beef any day, over imported Australian beef. I think the quality in general is far superior. I'm a big supporter of buy-local, use the produce around you."

The Aussie steak also won the price war coming in a whopping $10 cheaper than it's New Zealand counterpart. Australian rump steak bought from New World Te Rapa was $10.99/kg, while New Zealand rump steak bought down the road at Countdown Te Rapa was $20.99/kg.

Beef and Lamb NZ chief executive officer Rod Slater said the Aussie invasion was not a permanent fixture, there were always "ebbs and flows" in the Trans-Tasman meat market and it was simply a matter of filling demand.

"The reality is that retailers much prefer to buy New Zealand. That's their first choice," he said. "Particularly at this time of year they can't get enough supply to meet that demand so they've got no option but to bring it in from Australia."

Mr Slater said farmers were still recovering from last summer's brutal drought so prime beef supply was low, but he'd seek out Kiwi beef wherever he could.

"I'm biased of course and I think NZ Beef is far superior but having said that I've been to Australia and eaten some pretty nice steak at times," he said.

"I wouldn't be totally honest if I said that Australian beef was rubbish because it's not."

Countdown spokeswoman Kate Porter said Countdown's first preference was to source New Zealand beef, but when demand outweighed supply they looked elsewhere.

"Last year 98 per cent of the beef sold in our stores came from New Zealand, with 2 per cent from Australia which is clearly labelled for our customers," she said.

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Foodstuffs beef met the highest food safety standards here and across the pond and retail general manager Rob Chemaly said customers happily salivated over the imported cuts.

"We get very positive feedback from customers about the taste and texture of Australian beef which, like New Zealand beef, is renowned internationally for being tender and tasty. The large volumes we sell of Australian beef speaks for itself."

TOBY'S TIPS

Get the right steak

Always choose a nice cut of meat. Toby thinks a good scotch fillet is perfect for the barbecue, but make sure it has a nice fatty marble because this enhances the flavour. If you're unsure on how to pick your meat, ask your local butcher.

Let the juices flow

Pull your steak from the refrigerator 15-20 minutes before cooking to bring it to room temperature. This allows the blood to spread evenly inside the cut and will give you a nice evenly cooked steak.

Season well

Salt and Pepper on both sides just before you pop it on the barbie.

Heat it up

Make sure your barbecue is hot. Get it as hot as you can because you can always turn it down. Sear it on the grill.

Hand's off, tongs down

Don't muck around with it too much. Leave it to sear and you will get a nice char-grilled flavour

Even Stevens

Whatever you do to one side do it to the other. If you cook one side for one minute then cook the other side for one minute. It doesn't matter how many times you flip it, just make sure things are even.

Rest it.

Let the juices spread out again before serving. They've been racing around in the heat so let them chill out for three or four minutes before cutting or serving your steak. Keep them warm with a bit of tinfoil in the meantime.

Tuck in

Enjoy. You deserve it.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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