Learn from the experts in Le Cordon Bleu London in this month's column as they teach us the methods to a perfect steak.
Le Cordon Bleu is the leading global network of culinary arts and hospitality management institutes, dedicated to providing the highest level of world-class programmes. Le Cordon Bleu’s place in the industry plays an integral part in the success of its thousands of students who graduate each year. Aside from the teaching chefs, wine experts and lecturers, who have all been recruited from the best 5* hotels and Michelin-starred kitchens around the world, students also have the opportunity to watch esteemed chefs from the industry during exclusive live demonstrations at the school. Le Cordon Bleu’s world-renowned reputation has built fantastic relationships with hotels and restaurants who are keen to employ Le Cordon Bleu graduates.
Graduating from Le Cordon Bleu can lead to a number of amazing career opportunities including a business owner, head chef, food journalist, food stylist or sommelier. Across the globe, Le Cordon Bleu has had many notable alumni such as Julia Child, Mary Berry, Peggy Porschen and Yotam Ottolenghi. Other more recent alumni to note have included Adria Wu, Rachel Khoo, Tess Ward and John Whaite.
How to choose your meat.
The best cut will be lustrous and crimson coloured, firm to the touch, and have a slight fragrance. The tenderest meat will have streaks of white fat, referred to as marbling, and will have been aged for at least 21 days. The basic sections from which steak and other subdivisions of meat are cut are called primal cuts. The toughest cuts of beef are usually the leg and neck because these areas are the most muscular. The further you go from “hoof and horn” the more tender the meat will be.
What is the best part of the cow?
The hindquarters provide cuts that can be cooked rather quickly, whereas the forequarters provide cuts that require slow-cooking or boiling methods. Although cooking preferences vary, the general consensus is that beef is best cooked until medium rare—pink on the interior and slightly browned on the exterior.
Ways to cook a steak
Pan frying a steak is not dissimilar to grilling, except it doesn't require you go outside. Just like the grill, you want to make sure your pan is hot. A cast-iron pan or a similar heavy-bottomed skillet works best because they hold more heat.
Traditionalists will say leave the steak alone. However, seasoning is popular. One way is to simply salt and pepper the steak at the last minute – because salt can cure and dry the meat so best not to season before – then drop a lump of butter in a hot pan, and immediately cover it with the steak. A general guide to timing is 3-5 minutes on each side, but it all depends on how you want it done.
Every bodies taste will differ on how they want to steak cooked, but here is a guide to how to get it how you would like it:
- Blue: Should still be a dark colour, almost purple, and just warm. It will feel spongy with no resistance.
- Rare: Dark red in colour with some red juice flowing. It will feel soft and spongy with slight resistance.
- Medium-rare: Pink in colour with some juice. It will be a bit soft and spongy and slightly springy.
- Medium: Pale pink in the middle with hardly any juice. It will feel firm and springy.
- Well-done: Only a trace of pink colour but not dry. It will feel spongy and soft and slightly springy.
Whichever way the steak is cooked, make sure you rest it before you cut it. The best way it to do it in an oven pre-heated at just over 60°C for five minutes. The meat will relax and let some juice flow. This is definitely the secret to a more tender meat. Something quite common to do in France is to sprinkle some very finely chopped shallots on the steak before you put it in the oven, the flavour will intermingle perfectly and the juice will become shallots flavoured.
The perfect match
In this case (above with shallots), it will be a full flavoured Rosé wine based on the Pinot Noir grape, a Spanish Rosé based on the Garnacha grape or Côtes du Rhône Rosé.
Meat is usually the easiest ingredient to match with most types of wine. It has fat and protein and none of the sugar, bitterness or acidity that can potentially clash with the acidity, the tannins and the alcohol in the wine. The type of wine will essentially depend on what you do with it. If the steak is grilled, the burnt flavour will marry perfectly with the toasty flavours of a barrel fermented or oak-aged white wine or a full-bodied and oaky Malbec, Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon. If the meat is just pan fried, anything goes. Salt will neutralise tannins and acidity in the wine; Black pepper will enhance the perception of alcohol in the wine and will itself appear fierier.
Once the interaction between the steak and the wine is taken into consideration, the choice is actually yours to make. Life is to short to drink something you don’t enjoy. You can also tweak the meat flavour by squeezing a lemon wedge in the hot pan before removing it. The acidity of the lemon will disappear and be replaced by sweetness and would be the perfect match for a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling from Australia or Germany.
A little trick like this will mean that you don’t have to worry too much in advance about the pairing. Instead ask your guest in advance what style of wine they usually, have it ready for them and play with the steak seasoning to make it work with the wine.
Try the recipe
This Venison Steaks with a Redcurrant Sauce recipe is a delicious way of cooking and enjoying an amazing meat, it is simple but you'll relish every mouthful.
Venison is a high-protein meat, lower in fat and cholesterol than beef and even skinless chicken. This is a dinner party dish, which is quite rich in flavour. Serve it with plain seasonal vegetables.