This post isn’t going to have some silly story to start it off with. The purpose of this post is to prevent something that happens all of the time from happening again…killing dead meat. I’m sure I will catch some flak from some vegans out there, but if you like a good steak, you will read on.
The first and foremost problem is heat control. The whole process of bringing something from the temperature of your refrigerator to an edible and safe temperature can be a daunting task I know, but we’ll get through this together. These steps apply to just about any cut of meat that doesn’t take 4 hours of roasting to tenderize. Filet mignon, ribeye, New York strip, flank, etc… It should also be noted that these rules cover thick cut pork chops too, just cook them to at least 145 degrees (the FDA just lowered the safe temp on pork).
Step 1: Buy good steaks. Ask the butcher to cut what you want, since what he cut yesterday and is already in the case isn’t quite thick/thin enough. Sure, they will cost some good coin, but it will still be half the cost of an fancy place that sounds like Roofs Christ, which is essentially overpriced meat with a stick of butter.
Step 2: Bring the meat to room temperature. Let it sit out of the fridge for at least 30 minutes (turn a bowl over on it if you’re worried about bugs or whatever getting to it). This will prevent having a raw center and a well done outer layer of the steak. You should be able to get medium-rare the whole way through.
Step 3: Dry off the meat with paper towels and season just before cooking. This helps make a good sear. When seasoning, take the thickness of the cut into account. The thicker the cut, the more salt/seasoning it needs. Seasoning is a personal preference, however I do stay away from the pre-mixed spice concoctions as a steak should taste like meat.
Step 4: Use a fat or oil with a high smoke point (no olive oil). I use bacon grease or canola oil.
Step 5: For thick cuts (over an inch thick) I sear over high heat and then oven roast in a cold pan at 300 degrees until I achieve the correct doneness. Putting the steak in a cold pan before the oven prevents overcooking one side of the steak. For thinner cuts, I use medium pan heat and only turn it over once, no oven.
Step 6: After you have made this long journey to greatness, let the steak take a break before you eat it (5-10 minutes). This will prevent the juiciness from running all over you plate. Besides, it was killed, cut, burned and is about to be eaten… Let it have a rested farewell.
DO NOT poke the steak with anything other than a thermometer while cooking, only use a thermometer if you don’t know how to test doneness by touching the steak. There is a way to compare the firmness of your palm to the steak to tell doneness. I recommend using a thermometer first, and practicing the “firmness test” to get it right.
DO NOT smash the steak down with a spatula, brick or anything for that matter. Just let the thing cook would ya?
DO NOT cook a filet well-done, I will personally tell your butcher to stop wasting good meat on you.
DO NOT do this in a non-stick pan. The high heat you need is too high for Teflon and it will turn into a gas that will make you sick. Use either stainless, anodized, or cast iron cookware. These types of pans also encourage the development of “fond”. Fond is the French term for the browned bits you get in the pan by searing a steak, which help add a lot of flavor to sauces.
The recipe for this post is one of my favorites and is my usual go-to for having people over. It is spicy, but the port sauce adds a sweetness to it that keeps everybody eating. Have plenty of red wine to wash it all down. The only downside to the recipe is that it creates a hell of a lot of smoke while you are essentially burning peppercorns, so if you don’t have a good exhaust fan, open some windows- stat.
Drum roll please…. Recipe for: Pepper Crusted Filet Mignon with a Port Cream reduction (for 4 lucky people).
4 Filet Mignon steaks around 8-10 ounces each or about 2 inches thick
1 Tbls bacon fat
1 Tbls whole black peppercorns lightly crushed in a bag with a rolling pin or buzzed in a coffee mill
Salt/Onion Powder/Garlic Powder
1 Cup Port Wine (I use Fonseca Bin 27)
1/4 Cup heavy cream
Pre-heat oven to 300. You should have taken the steaks out of the fridge already, like half an hour ago, did you!? If the steaks are wrapped in bacon, remove the bacon and cook it over medium heat to render out the fat in a stainless skillet large enough to fit all of your meat. Leave the fat in the pan and eat the bacon when nobody is looking.
Season the steaks liberally with salt, onion powder and garlic. Put the crushed peppercorns on a small plate and shake the plate to make an even layer. Press the steaks gently into the peppercorns so they stick to the meat. Heat the skillet with the bacon fat to high heat until it is just barely smoking.
Turn on your fans, place the steaks in the hot pan and sear for two minutes per side (do this in two batches if your skillet isn’t big enough). Remove steaks and put them in another cold, oven safe pan. Pour off any excess grease from the skillet, but leave any burnt bits or peppercorns in there, then return the skillet to medium heat. If you have a splatter screen, now is the time to use it… Pour in the Port, it will steam, hiss and scare the pets, this is ok. If you have gas burners you may want to turn off the flame to avoid it igniting and melting the door of your microwave off. Once it calms down, using a whisk, break up all of the browned bits from the bottom of the pan and bring it to a light boil to reduce.
Place the steaks in the oven and bake until an internal temperature of 125 degrees is reached; it should be about 10 minutes, but use your thermometer. While the steaks are in the oven keep an eye on your sauce, making sure you maintain a high simmer whisking occasionally, as the liquid reduces, you will need less heat and it will burn easily. Once the wine has reduced by half, you will see the bubbles start stacking up on each other; when you whisk it, you will start seeing the bottom of your pan. Turn the heat down to low and whisk in the cream. Taste it. Does it need salt? Is it too runny and it needs to reduce more? Is it too thick and you need to add more wine? Figure it out. Keep it on low heat until the steaks are done (which this takes about 10 minutes, oddly about the same time it takes to bake the steaks).
Once you have reached 125 degrees, remove steaks from oven and wrap in foil and DO NOT touch them for 10 minutes. The temperature will coast up to a perfect medium rare and I will not tell you how to cook filet to any other temperature, sorry.
Pour your sauce onto four plates, unwrap steaks and set them in your little puddle of sauce. Any juices accumulated in the foil can be poured over the top of the steaks or sopped up with a dinner roll. Cut into your steak, show your friends and bask in glory. If you have any unfortunate souls with you that want their steak cooked more, show them how to
use the microwave ruin the steak and don’t have them over ever again.