Steaks are fun. Like women they give you back what you invest in them.
Invest love and care and maybe you’ll get to something very tasty, flavorful, sinfully raw and unbelievably juicy in return. Handle them recklessly and you’ll be chewing on a piece of dry, rubbery substance – guaranteed
Another fact to ponder upon – steaks, unlike your sex partner, will not give you a second chance to get it right.
And finally, very similar to watching porn – remember – the instructional videos have not made anyone a great practician. I was 19 when I read Kamasutra several times end to end. It made me horny but did not make me a good lover. Theory helps but practice often.
If you are as serious about cooking steaks make an effort to get to know the meat in your hands. Touch and feel it, smell it, establish connection with the cut. Make peace with the fact that fuck ups will happen before you learn from the real mistakes, develop own style and make your first perfect steak.
While on my quest to discover the secrets of steak cooking I’ve learned to make quite good ones on a grill, baked them in the oven, used cast iron skillets, etc. I also played with combining some of these methods to get to that perfect, tender medium rare, juicy level of doneness and wasn’t thrilled with the end results for a variety of reasons covered below, taste being one of them.
When it comes to steak’s taste, a lot depends on the quality of the meat. I am not going to spend a lot of time on this here because people wrote books on the subject. My suggestion is to talk to your butcher about the meat you want and take it from there. Luckily, with modern tools we get more control over taste than was previously available but they can equally impose irreparable damage.
In addition to the tools, there are various techniques that give steak unique flavor and taste profile. I experimented with dry aging, tried lots of different marinates, researched and tested salting and spicing techniques. I must say, people are very creative when it comes to infusing meat with flavor. I’ve learned a lot and made my own conclusions which are reflected in the sample recipes below.
Speaking of recipes. Instead of writing another boring article which you can find plenty on this site, I will share my 3 favorite steak cuts along with recipes, accompanying sides, condiments and alcohol suggestions that worked for me. It is not the ultimate list. I am not saying that other cuts are bad or less important. These 3 just stuck with me and my family.
My first choice of steak when I have one:
A grass-fed ribeye 2 ½ – 3 inch thick.
- With a bone attached if possible. The longer the bone – the sexier.
- Salted with good quality, large grain salt.
- Peppered with freshly grated black peppercorns.
- Fat is key to a great ribeye. I love to get one with good amount of it but not overly fatty.
- Vacuum sealed with rosemary, few garlic cloves cut and aerated and few rings of shallots added. I also add a table spoon of olive oil or a piece of foie gras to the mix
- Cooked sous vide for 3 ½ hours at 129 F.
- Crusted by a blowtorch or on a super-hot cast iron skillet.
- Optionally basted with good quality butter
- Asparagus cooked sous vide in butter under iSi N2O infused Hollandaise sauce
- Cabernet or Malbec to accompany it.
My second and third preferences may surprise you.
If you ever read a book on meat from say 1970s I highly doubt these cuts would be mentioned there. For instance, I was lucky to get a hold of the “Meat” by The Lobel Brothers, 1971 edition and they have not listed these cut there. However, their contemporary website has them.
These cuts are extremely flavorful – hanger steak in particular may be “a love or hate” situation for many as it is cut from the diaphragm area (called plate) close to the organs and as a result some said has a gamey flavor which I absolutely love.
Few decades back the public didn’t consider these cuts sexy or prestigious to serve. The butchers and farmers kept them for own consumption unable to do anything else with them. If you ask me – they got the best deal for themselves but this is no longer true because these steaks are in demand now.
We developed as carnivores and warmed up to the taste and flavor of the meat. It became less about the status and more about the taste now. Quality over status. We eat what we want, not what the society prescribes.
One large rib eye steak used to be a statement, reinforcement of a social status, a centerpiece for the guests to admire and slowly eat and appreciate one or two slices. Now we serve whole steak per person and use Wagu, Kobe or for real connoisseurs Matsusaka beef to impress our guests. Kobe is produced from males or castrated males. Matsusaka is virgin females only and apparently considered to be the top steak in Japan.
Speaking of steaks to impress. If you ever want to serve the best steak in the world, don’t do Kobe or anything Japanese. Based on my research the best steak comes from Spain by a farmer named Jose Gordon. He raises his kettle to 10+ years old and the experts say his Rubia Gallega kettle produces the best steak in the world. The price point is much more reasonable than Kobe, btw.
But back to the reasons that made hanger and skirt steaks popular. My theory is that as country girls started leaving home and either married into or became big shots in the corporate world– the perception of these cuts had changed. You can take a girl out of a village but you can’t take the village out the girl. These God-fearing women, to their credit, valued the true taste in food and similar to their contributions in the swingers world, I think they played key role in making these cuts popular as well. The restaurant industry quickly picked on that and supplies quickly dwindled. I tried both cuts from various places and only one – my local butcher – has them the way I like. Interestingly enough, at the moment of writing the hanger steak is way more cheaper than the skirt steak at my butcher.
Ok to cut the story short – my second choice:
Sous Vide Hanger Steak.
Sous vide can bring flavors out of a piece of dry wood if kept cooking long enough. It makes incredible hanger steaks. I can’t stress how much I love the end result of this recipe.
- Vacuum sealed without any salt, pepper, or other additives.
I did try to rub it with cumin, cilantro and chili powder as well. It comes out nice but loses the natural flavor that I absolutely love.
- Cooked at 130F for 6-8 hours in own juices.
- Served under reduced red wine sweet sauce.
- Goes well with sweet potato fries either baked in the oven and then crusted on a cast iron skillet or just fried on it from the get go with hearty homemade ketchup.
- Malbec or Cabernet.
My final choice. Probably the fastest steak to cook but it packs flavor and taste and is kids’ favorite.
Marinated Skirt Steak
- Marinated in soy sauce and apple cider vinegar with some cut grapefruit added.
- Cooked on a very hot flat surface – be it a grill or hibachi type flat iron stove
- 2 minutes each side, rest for 5 minutes and grill again for another 30 secs each side.
- Served with either asparagus or fries described above
- Red wine or moonshine or tequila.
Fuck daily, exercise and eat well.