Steak is one of the most simple and tasty things to cook if you want to impress people. As long as you have a good piece of meat, and keep an eye on the time, its difficult to truly mess up beyond repair.
So, types of steak:Rump: This is from the rear of the cow and is a muscle that is used a lot. This means it is a little bit tougher than other steaks but also means it has a lot of tasty flavour. Good value for money. Buy in thick 1 inch steaks for lovely flavour.
Sirloin: A popular steak cut. Often has a good marbling of fat which makes it moist. From the loin of the animal so the muscle works less and this make it more tender. Can be bought thinly slice (about 1cm thick) which is good for sandwiches etc or in thicker slices for dinner.
Ribeye: taken from the rib part of the animal. Less commonly found in supermarkets. Has a good marble of fat for moistness.
Fillet: This is the most tender cut of steak. The muscle has done very little work so it is almost butter soft when cooked. This does mean it has less flavour though and it very lean in terms of fat.
Other types of steak available are t-bone, porterhouse, strip etc. All are available in restaurants but less so in your average UK supermarket. You can also buy minute steak which is cheap, thinly sliced steak designed to be cooked well-done for sandwiches. It takes a minute to cook (thirty seconds on each side). This is not suitable for dinner. Most common for cooking your average steak are rump or sirloin.
When buying any steak the meat should be dark and have a decent amount of fat on it as this keeps it moist and should be quite dry to the touch. Most cheap steak won't have been hung for a vast amount of time after slaughter and so will be more red in colour rather than dark and will also be slightly wet to the touch. This is what you are likely to buy in the supermarket and will do if this is what you can get hold of.
Before cooking Make sure you remove your steak from the fridge. Steak cooks best if it starts at room temperature. This is because if you place a fridge cold steak into a hot pan, all the heat goes on bringing the steak to room temperature and not on making the outside lovely and brown. So, take the steak out about an hour before you want to cook it to get to room temperature. Also before cooking, season with salt and pepper.
Cooking You can grill or fry steak. Grilling is fairly straight forward. You need a hot grill and need to give it a few minutes on each side. This is obviously healthier as any extra fat runs off but if you are having steak for dinner, you might as well have a bit of luxury.
The most luxurious way is to fry your steak: You need a large frying pan preferably non-stick. It needs to be big enough to fit your piece of steak comfortably. It is best to cook one piece (or two at a stretch) at a time otherwise the pan cannot stay hot enough. If you are cooking for more than 2 people you will need to keep you cooked steaks warm while you cook the others. This can be achieved by placing them in a very low oven (about 130c) or by popping them in the grill (not switched on) above a heated oven.
Pop in a splash of olive oil to your pan and put on a fairly high heat. When the pan is hot (hold your hand above for a few seconds) but not smoking wildly, place your steak in the pan. You want your steak to be brown on the outside as brown is equal to flavour. The amount of time you cook a steak depends on its thickness and also how you like you steak cooked.
The scale of cookedness goes from 'blue' to 'well-done' and each has its own cooking time.
'Blue': This is literally showing the steak to a pan. It is about 30 seconds on each side and the middle of the steak will be raw but warm. It will be very bloody and just coloured on the outside. Not to most peoples taste.
'Rare': This is about 2 minutes on each side of a 2cm steak. This gives you a lovely red centre.
'Medium-rare': Between rare and medium.
'Medium': Fairly popular choice. This means you get a little bit of well-done steak on the outside but a lovely pink (not red) centre. About 3mins on each side of a 2cm thick steak.
'Medium-well': between medium and well done'
'Well-done': The steak it completely cooked through and there will be no pink remaining. This requires between 5 and 6 minutes per side of a 2cm thick steak. This can make the meat tough but remains a popular choice.
One of the most important aspects of cooking a steak is the resting period afterwards. This allows all the juices to sink into the steak, making it moist, rather than escaping when you cut into it. It also allows the meat fibres to relax and this makes it tender. The steak should be removed from the pan and rested for at least 3 minutes but more won't harm it as long as it doesn't go cold. This can be the time it spends in a warm place while you cook other steaks. During this resting time the steak is liable to cook a little more from residual heat. It is therefore better to undercook your steak a little and have it become perfect while resting rather than have it become overcooked while resting.
In general it is always better to undercook and then you can always put in back in the pan to cook a little longer.
When you have turned over your steak, it is nice to put a nob of butter into the pan and baste the steak with the melted butter to give it a lovely flavour. This butter also takes on all the meat juices in the pan and can form a sauce for the steak. When you remove the steak from the pan you can add things to the remaining butter such as onions or mushrooms and cook these to serve alongside the steak. Adding single cream to the onions or mushrooms makes a simple and luxurious sauce/accompaniment depending on the amount of cream used. Alternatively, you can keep the remaining butter and simply spoon it over the steak when you serve it.
Common sauces with steak are:
These sauces can be bought ready-made from many supermarkets to take off some of the pressure.