When Arfi Binsted of Homemades decided to host her Cook and Eat Meat event, I knew it was time to revisit steak. Last year, I went through many steak experiments until I finally got what I thought then was a perfect steak. My method involved a quick sear on the stove top, followed by a resting period, followed by roasting in the oven on very low. The inside was medium-rare throughout, but the outside crust was gone by the time the steak rested and finished roasting due to all the released juices. Well, that was definitely not perfect, but as Edna said, "I never look back." I have finally found a fix for the soggy crust issue. I wish I could take credit for the fabulous idea of flipping the roasting and the searing steps. But the credit goes to a fellow food blogger, Jaden from Steamy Kitchen and Cook's Illustrated writer Kenji Alt who gave me this idea. I followed Cook's Illustrated directions to the letter and what a steak! Evenly medium-rare inside AND crispy outside. I guess you can have your steak and eat it too :)
I have recently graduated from the cheapy hanger steak to my new favorite -- porterhouse. There is nothing wrong with hanger, but a porterhouse is simply incredible. I used to avoid it like the plague because I figured there is no way to cook both the tenderloin and the strip part of the porterhouse to the same doneness. But this slow roasting technique really works and these two steaks, that are not my favorite on their own, turn into something totally orgasmic when joined by a bone. The tenderloin does not only taste tender, but actually beefy, and the strip does not dry out and toughen up. When buying your porterhouse, make sure it's nice and thick (1.5-2 inches) and that it has a substantial tenderloin part. If the tenderloin is small, they might be trying to pass a T-bone steak as a porterhouse (a more desirable steak). In a porterhouse, the strip part is more tender and the tenderloin does not overcook since it's quite substantial.
The cuts and grades of beef are still a mystery to me. I have bought a grass-fed hanger in San-Francisco once and it was incredibly tender, even though grass-fed beef is supposed to be tougher. But lately, every time I buy hanger in Boston, it's on the chewy side. Even the porterhouse from the same butcher changes from time to time. Rib-eye is the biggest gamble -- one time it's tender and juicy, another time it's chewy. This is all using the same cooking method and being very methodical with testing for doneness, so I am not comparing medium-rare with medium-well steaks here. All these steaks were graded "Choice," which of course is not saying much since almost half of the beef in US is graded Choice.
I wonder if things would be different if I went to a butcher in New York or Chicago. It amazes me how I can get such consistently fabulous fish and such inconsistent meat in Boston. In the last few months I've been having the best luck with porterhouse, so that's what I am sticking with for now.
Slow-roast-then-sear method based on Cook's Illustrated May-June 2007 issue:
- a roasting pan with a rack
- a heavy skillet
- an instant read thermometer
- 1.5 - 2 inch thick steaks (plan on 6-8 oz of boneless steak per person or 1 porterhouse for 2 people)
- salt and pepper
- vegetable or olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 275F and adjust oven rack to middle position. Wrap the roasting pan with foil (to make clean up easy). Place a rack in the roasting pan.
- Trim the silver skin and extra fat off the outside of the steaks. Dry steaks well with paper towels and season very generously with salt and pepper on all sides. Set the steaks on the rack and place in the oven until instant read thermometer inserted sideways into the center of the steak registers 90 for rare, 95 for medium-rare, 100 for medium, and 110 for medium-well. If you are cooking a porterhouse, stick your thermometer into the wide part of the strip section so that the tip ends up about 1/2 to 1 inch from the bone. How long it takes to get to this temperature depends on the thickness and structure of the steak. A boneless, 8 oz, 1.5 inch thick steak takes about 20 minutes and a 2 pound porterhouse can take as long as 40 minutes. A thermometer is key!
- At this point your steak will look extremely unappetizing. Don't panic. Set a heavy skillet over high heat until very hot. Add the oil and wait until it's a little smoky. Add the steaks and cook until browned, 1.5-2 minutes, lifting the steaks after about a minute to redistribute the fat. Flip and brown on the other side. Don't they look better now? Then brown the steaks briefly on the sides and remove to a warm plate to rest loosely tented with foil for 7 minutes.
Serving suggestions: You can serve these steaks as simply or as dressed up as your heart desires. If you are in a saucy mood, deglaze the pan with stock and wine to make a pan sauce. Other options are topping your steak with garlic herb butter while it's resting or drizzling it with a little lemon juice and olive oil. Just let your imagination guide you.
Copyright information: the image of Edna is taken from The Incredibles Wikipedia page and is copyright by Walt Disney.