Cooking the perfect steak

Cook perfect steak | SA MEn

There's nothing that quite hits the spot like the most cherished of fast-cooked meats. Maybe you've walked around lately, eating your fill, but not satisfying a deep-seated appetite for a wholesome meal?  So make room in your freezer for some steak and don’t even let it stay there for too long.

First up is the question of whether to fry your steak with butter or oil. Do not play around here. There is a reason the old Boere added at least some food to their butter, and why those meals were often the most satisfying. Every other additive has is an afterthought. Butter is the Kingmaker here - you're not worrying about your health when one of the many prime cuts of bovine is about to grace your dinner table. You can obviously use oils as well, but nothing really brings out the flavour like real butter, so I recommend a butter-basted pan seared steak!

Also, season your steak with freshly ground salt and black pepper beforehand. You can always add some afterwards as well, but if you do this during frying it might rob the meat of moisture. On the topic of tenderizing meat there are dozens of way ways you can soften up your meat, and some people actually delve into the dark arts of using things like pineapple juice.

But I don't believe in doing too much chemistry here. The big secret really is to start off with a quality piece of meat. In fact you are halfway there if the meat you buy is guaranteed to let the evening's salads go ignored, instead of its top quality being able to reduce swelling on a black eye. Taste differs but I like a good fillet, rump or rib-eye steak.

While frying, heat exposure needs to be equal and consistent. To achieve this, I prefer a gas stove’s reliable flame under a thick base steak frying pan. There's no reason why you can't braai steak, but in this instance a more controlled environment might be warranted if you are weary of spacing out your meat over a fire that is burning hotter in some places than others, or, is burning itself out too quick.

If you want to test the meat while frying, cut neatly in the middle (that's the part that heats up the slowest) and take a peek under good lighting.  For a good rare steak the meat should just about turn a healthy pink, some people still like it bloody and with a pulse, but check with your guests if you have any, it’s easy to throw a rare steak back onto the fire so to speak.

From rare to medium you want to test how much juices are still flowing when you prod it. When the steak is still moist and pinkish in the middle you've hit medium. From there on you can judge the spectrum to well-done rather by the outside of the steak.  For all three categories time is key, and it is simple enough if you keep a close eye on your meat.  Medium-rare to medium is the safest and most chosen option. Like I mentioned earlier your investment in good quality meat will see you through especially if you keep things simple and you are happy to just fry your steak for a reasonable amount of time.

Doing a proper well-done steak is a bit of an art that takes nothing but practice and can be surprisingly satisfying if done perfectly. The ideal is to have the center full of flavor and kind of juicy while the outside borders are crispy for those of us who like those kind textures. Longer over-all frying time with regular rotation is a general guideline for achieving this.

When you're done, let the steak rest for a couple of minutes before you serve it. In that period the meat usually settles and takes its finest form in terms of taste.

Lastly, your potential side dishes or toppings are really endless. The beauty of a good steak is that there is nothing else that needs to be added as a minimum requirement, everything else is only to enhance the steak. Although I must admit, my day is usually made when steak joins forces with caramelized onions.