It's no wonder steaks are irresistible to Australians: you can cook one at any time of the year for a satisfying umami hit.
There are a few steps you can take to really make your steak juicy, and the first one doesn't even involve cooking. All you need to do is let your cut rest at room temperature. Why does this matter? If it jumps straight from the fridge into a ripping-hot pan, there's a good chance it won't cook evenly.
Luke Powell, chef and owner of LP's Quality Meats restaurant in Sydney, tells SBS Food: "It is important to temper the meat to let it cook evenly."
Cook and co-owner of Sydney's Avenue 22 BBQ, Rex Deliarte, says that thin cuts that are cooked for a cast-iron skillet, should sit at room temperature for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. For medium to thick cuts, let them rest for at least an hour or more. "It makes a significant difference," he says.
Whether you choose a rib eye, sirloin or T-bone cut, or whether its rich, fatty or lean, you need to season your steak well and against the grain. The first thing you need to do, is season with a generous amount of salt. This adds flavour and allows the meat to absorb more seasoning. You can follow with black pepper. The salt and pepper should coat the steak's surface.
"I melt a block of butter for a minute on medium heat and cook the steak in it for extra flavour and crunch."
Deliarte explains, "I always add equal parts of coarse ground pepper and kosher salt right before I pan-fry or smoke a cut. When I cook with thin to medium cuts of steak on a cast-iron skillet, I melt a block of butter for a minute on medium heat and cook the steak in it for extra flavour and crunch." However, Deliarte warns that pepper can easily burn.
Once he's cooking his steak on medium to high heat, he flips it every minute. "By doing this, it cooks evenly and perfectly on both sides and I would cook this for a total of six to eight minutes."
He also bastes the steak. "I tilt the pan afterwards to get hold of the melted butter and drizzle it all over the steak." He adds rosemary and garlic cloves to the melted butter to enhance the flavour even more.
Powell likes to begin by pan frying his steak with olive oil instead of butter. Towards the end of frying, he adds cultured butter for a rich flavour. "You can also use unsalted butter if you'd like to control the level of salt as you go," Powell says.
When it comes to temperature, you shouldn't fear a hot, heavy-bottomed pan. A bit of smoke isn't a worry either. However, the steak can get too hot. For thick cuts of steak, keep the heat on medium for a rosy interior with a charred golden crust, and don't be afraid to measure the temperature.
"There's two things that are handy." says Powell. "One is a meat thermometer to see what the temperature is actually like."
His second tip is unconventional but tried and tested. "A lot of restaurants and chefs have also worked out [you can use] a cake tester, where you can put it into the steak and rest the tester on your lip or hand and feel the metal heat up."
If you want a medium-rare to rare steak, the temperature should reach no more than 52 to 55°C. "I pull out the steak once I see around 46 to 47°C on the thermometer and it will carry on cooking," Powell says.
However, if you want an easy way to guarantee your meat cooks to your liking, try sous-vide cooking.
To sous vide, completely submerge a vacuum-sealed, seasoned cut in a pot of warm water and set the temperature at around 55°C. Heat for 2 ½ hours. You'll end up with a steak that's perfectly tender and medium rare throughout. Adjust the temperature 5°C more or less, depending on how well you like your meat cooked.
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After that, remove it from the water and allow it to rest in its sealed bag for 15 minutes so that it can further absorb juices. Then, open the bag and pat the meat dry with a paper towel. Season with salt and pepper then sear the steak on a high heat for a minute on each side for a crispy, caramelised exterior.
Once you've got a smoky flavour and crust, allow the juices to redistribute by letting the steak rest on a cutting board.
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