There are few things more life-affirming than a perfectly cooked steak. Silky tender, thirst-quenchingly juicy and oozing rich umami, chowing down on an expertly grilled slab of meat is one of life’s unadulterated pleasures.
As well as being the most fun you can have with your clothes on, devouring a steak also lets you reap the benefits of its appetite-sating, gains-making high-quality protein, not to mention all-important iron, B vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids.
It’s hardly surprising then, with so much to offer, steak is a culinary star that needs some extra-special attention in the kitchen. So to help steer you away from leathery toughness to delicious perfection, we’ve enlisted the help of Gaucho restaurants’ master griller Fernando Larroude.
Read on. Salivate. Cook the perfect steak.
Know Your Cuts
Beyond the obvious contenders – fillet, sirloin, rib-eye and rump – there are some backbench cuts of beef worth a try. “Rib-eye is a classic, all-round favourite as it’s full of flavour and body due to its marbling,” says Larroude. “But if you’d like something a little different, I’d recommend less conventional cuts like the flank or skirt.”
Flank skirt, thick skirt and thin skirt are all worth a punt, guaranteeing value for money and just as much flavour as their more sought-after counterparts. “The marbling on these cuts means they’ll be succulent and juicy, perfect for a summer barbecue.”
Get The Kit
Speaking of summer barbecues, Larroude’s much more of an outdoorsman when it comes to grilling up a mouthwatering steak.
“Honestly, for me you just can’t beat cooking on a grill over wood or charcoal to get that lovely, smoky flavour,” he says. “So it’s well worth investing in a proper barbecue because you just won’t get the same results otherwise.” (Try the Weber Original Kettle for a stylish and affordable starter model.)
Of course, it’s easy for an Argentine to suggest venturing outside to cook up a storm. But what about if you’re residing in stormy Britain?
“If you have to cook indoors, go for a good griddle pan and make sure it’s really hot before you put the steak in it.” (Getting your pan surface-of-the-sun hot helps caramelise the meat, crucial for developing a delicious crust.)
Before you put meat to pan, there’s one step you can’t miss if you want perfectly cooked, exceptionally tender steak.
“Take the meat out of the fridge an hour before you start grilling,” says Larroude. Doing so allows the steak to come to room temperature, which is essential if you want your meat to cook evenly (the closer the steak is to final eating temperature when you cook it, the more evenly it will cook).
While the pan is heating, prep the meat. Rub the steak all over with a generous drizzle of olive oil, some sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Then lay flat on the hot pan (or barbecue).
“Cooking times really depend on how you like your meat cooked and what kind of cut you have,” explains Larroude. “As a general rule though, I slowly cook bigger pieces of beef, relying on the juices that are released to know when it’s ready.”
Aim for a minute a side to cook a 2cm-thick steak to ‘blue’, or four minutes a side to cook it to medium. Any longer and it’s worth questioning why you bought a perfectly good piece of meat for the sole purpose of incinerating it…
“It will be between rare and medium rare when the juices first start coming to the surface of the meat. The darker the juices become, the more the meat is cooked,” says Larroude.
Once it’s done its time, remove the steak (a fork or two is your best bet in terms of hauling tools) to a plate and allow to rest in its juices for at least a couple, but as many as five, minutes.
A Bit On The Side
A perfectly cooked steak is an absolute treat as is. But to take it from lip-smackingly delicious to mind-blowing, add some sauce on the side.
“I have to recommend chimichurri,” says Larroude. “It’s an absolute classic in Argentina! You won’t find any home there without it. Plus, it goes with everything and is very easy to make.”
How To Make Chimichurri
“First you chop up some garlic, parsley, olive oil, vinegar and mix together. Then add some Aji Molido (a type of chilli flakes, to be added to taste).
“At Gaucho, we add some onion and red pepper as well. Then, just make sure everything is very finely chopped and mixed well and you’re ready to go.”
Don’t say we’re not good to you.