Simon Gault's guide to the perfect steak
If there's one question I get asked more often than any other, it's 'How do I cook the perfect steak?' Follow this method and you can't go wrong.
• 250g Scotch fillet or rump steak per person
• ½ tbsp sunflower oil
• Flake salt to taste
• Freshly ground black pepper to taste
• 1 tbsp buffalo butter (available here) or your favourite butter
Buy good-quality, fresh steak and aim for at least 200g-250g per person. Aged steak is really important because the hanging process tenderises and develops the flavour. Your cut should be firm to the touch, cherry-red in colour and have good, even marbling. You don't want to see big clumps of fat.
Pat the steak with a paper towel to dry it so the steak sears in the pan rather than stews. Bring the meat to room temperature before cooking.
Liberally coat the steak on both sides with oil and season with flake salt and ground black pepper 5 minutes before cooking.
Preheat the oven to 190°C, then heat a cast-iron pan on the stovetop to a high heat. Test the heat by placing a drop of water in the pan; the water should bounce around before evaporating.
Place the steak in the pan and sear on all sides until the Maillard reaction occurs (this is often referred to as caramelising but it's the browning of the meat). If cooking multiple pieces of steak, leave space between them so they're not crowded in the pan. This ensures the steak cooks evenly and also prevents the meat from steaming and stewing instead of searing. Don't prod the steak while searing; steak needs a few minutes of uninterrupted contact with the pan before it can properly sear and the Maillard reaction can occur. Depending on the thickness of the steak, this takes roughly 1 minute each side. If the steak can move and doesn't feel stuck, it's ready to be turned over.
Once you've turned the steak, add the butter to the pan and, when melted, spoon the butter over the steak.
Take the pan off the heat once the steak is seared and place in the oven to pan-roast. Using a good meat thermometer, check the internal temperature of the steak. For the perfect medium rare steak, remove it from the oven once it has reached 60°C or as soon as the juices appear. The steak should feel soft when pressed. If you prefer medium or well done, continue to cook. At medium your steak should feel bouncy and red juices will start to seep from the steak. At well done, the steak will feel firm and the juice will be pooled on the surface.
Place the steak on a rack, cover loosely with tinfoil and place on a bench for 5-10 minutes to rest before serving so the meat relaxes and reabsorbs its juices, ensuring it's juicy and tender. The thicker the steak, the longer it should rest.
Serve with homemade chips, green salad and Béarnaise sauce (see recipe below). If you serve your steak sliced, use a sharp knife and cut across the grain.
A Béarnaise sauce is a really great recipe to have under your belt because it is both delicious and versatile. You can dip French fries into it, or serve it with steak or over a poached egg for breakfast. Rich, creamy heaven in a bowl.
• 225g unsalted butter
• 4 egg yolks
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves
• 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh chervil
• 3 green or black peppercorns, crushed
• 1 shallot, finely chopped
• 5 tbsp malt vinegar
• 5 tbsp white wine
• 1 small bunch fresh tarragon (or pinch of dried tarragon)
For the reduction, place all the ingredients in a small saucepan over a medium-high heat and reduce by two-thirds. Allow it to cool, then strain the reduction, discarding the peppercorns, shallot and tarragon, and place in a heatproof bowl.
Place the butter in a small saucepan and melt over low heat without stirring. As soon as the butter has melted, remove from the heat and set aside to cool for 5 minutes. Optimum temperature is 55-58°C.
Whisk the egg yolks into the reduction, then place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (ensure the water is not boiling and the base of the bowl does not touch the water) and, whisking continuously, slowly start pouring in a quarter of the hot butter. Continue whisking in the butter until the mixture begins to thicken, then take the bowl off the heat, place on a wet cloth on a work surface and continue adding the melted butter in a very slow, steady stream, whisking continuously and being careful to add only the butter and not the milk solids at the bottom of the saucepan (discard these). The sauce will thicken as the hot butter is added. Season with salt and black pepper, and add the tarragon and chervil.
• Reproduced with permission from SIMON GAULT MODERN CLASSICS by Simon Gault. Published by Penguin Group NZ.$60. Copyright © text, Simon Gault, 2014. Copyright © photographs, Kieran Scott, 2014