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The Best Way to Cook a Thick Steak


Fat Guy
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Based on the photos, it looks nicely "charred" to me. And I mean that in a good way.  I don't get close to that in a high heat sear.

I think it comes down to the distinction between char and crust. What the Ducasse method accomplishes is a beautiful crust thanks to the Maillard reaction, without charring.

Also, based on the pics, the butter looks "burned" to me.

In my experience the process of butter burning is something that happens in phases. Along the way to burning, butter gets brown, and brown butter is a really delicious thing. At some point, the butter then breaks down to the point where it has a burnt taste. That's when it's time to ditch it and start with new butter.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Fat Guy's method cooks the steaks for 10 min per side on a 170F pan (jackal10 calculation), which i believe, should the steak have not been so marbled, will yield a area of "greyness".

To be clear, it is not "Fat Guy's method." This is the method, with minor variation, favored by Alain Ducasse, who I consider to be the world's preeminent chef. Another chef I respect greatly, Tom Colicchio, had this to say on the subject:

Tom Colicchio of Craftsteak in Las Vegas and the new Craftsteak in New York cooks his steaks on a flat griddle on medium heat, turning them frequently. He feels that this method produces the juiciest, most consistently cooked meat.

"I can get a crust this way," he says, "Without the rim of gray you often see just under the crust, which says to me that part of the meat has been overcooked . . . .

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m3190/is_/ai_n16497977

I have tried this method on lesser steaks. It works just as well. I apologize for creating a red herring by demonstrating on a Lobel's steak, however the results are excellent with a supermarket steak as well -- if you can find a nice thick one or get one cut to order.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Thickness seems to be critical to this method's success.

Is there a minimum thickness needed? Is it a full two inches? That's a pretty thick steak and I would think would need to be custom cut.

Coliccho's methods of multiple turns really bucks conventional wisdom, doesn't it? Maybe I should go to Craft Dallas and order a steak to check it out.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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Ducasse calls for 1.5 inches in his written recipe, linked to above. I wouldn't go much thinner than that, but you never know. You could get lucky.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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. . .

Coliccho's methods of multiple turns really bucks conventional wisdom, doesn't it?  Maybe I should go to Craft Dallas and order a steak to check it out.

At first I was quite horrified to see hubby start flipping our steaks on the outdoor grill but the results left no doubt that he knew something I didn't! :raz:

And he doesn't read food boards, cookbooks, or magazines so I have to assume he stumbled on to this method all on his own. He cooks some amazing steaks this way. Our steaks are thick enough that friends call them "Nielsen roasts".

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

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If the object is to bring the surface of the steaks to 170C, (the "ideal" temp for browning, any higher will cause burning), jackal10's calculations means your pan temp of 170C would do nicely.

A hotter pan will bring the surface up to temperature faster (i'm not sure if we have disagreements on this?...) which means the steaks will brown faster, which means less time for the heat to "cook" the sub surface.

Problem is the steak isn't perfectly flat so a higher temp pan won't necessarily brown the areas not directly touching the pan any faster, meanwhile the areas in direct contact will start to burn. The chef taking a look at the colouring will see patches of deep brown near black and other patches still grey so he decides to pan it a bit more. Thus causing a huge sub surface overcooked area.

Keeping the pan at 170C together with lots of butter allows the whole surface to be nicely browned without any bits being burnt. This is fabulous.

The disadvantage is the longer browning time which if the steak is lean will create a overcooked zone.

So, if steak is well marbled, pan at 170C to allow uniform deep browning while the fat content will prevent the sub surface from getting too cooked.

If steak is not well marbled, choose whether you want more browning (use 170C pan method) or for more "rare-ability" sear at high heat until just before any part begins to burn, some parts might be only slightly grey because it wasn't in direct contact with the pan but you have to remove it from the intense heat of the pan into a gentle heat of a slow oven to evenly cook the meat through....

Edited by Sher.eats (log)

~ Sher * =]

. . . . .I HEART FOOD. . . . .

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Whether the pan method as described here, a hot oven for browning and then resting or a charcoal grill using lump hardwood, the results all depend on a thick good piece of meat and resting to achieve a nice true rare, not bloody red raw, but just pink and uniform.

I would think a steak being sent to a food writer would be better than the average steak Lobel's sends out. Order one 'blind' next time. I have ordered from Lobels' before and while very good, not the best available in the US.

Last Sunday I did a dry aged 3# Rib in the oven ala Pepin. Works great and everyone was happy. Certainly one method is not better than the other but different. Personally all methods can achieve a great result but only with care and the right piece of meat.

Usually I prefer grilling over lump and then resting for the flavor.-Dick

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I have mail-ordered (once; I even had the steaks shipped to another person's house in another state) and purchased "blind" from the Lobel's store (several times -- I happen to live just a few blocks away from the store) and believe strongly that it is the best butcher shop in the world, or at least the best I've ever been to or tasted meat from. Not the best value (as I've mentioned, I think DeBragga provides great steak at a reasonable price), but the best. It's the only butcher shop that I think consistently delivers steak that's as good or better than what's served at the very best steakhouses.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Quicker = higher heat. At some point you cross the line into charring, which is not the desired result. You also burn the butter. So you can speed it up a bit but not a ton.

When I sear steaks on very high heat I never char them. However, I haven't cooked steaks that are as thick as yours. I'm guessing that someone calculating the heat conductivity of meat would find the ducasse method used on a fat steak to basically be an adjustment of the high heat method used on a thin one.

For the medium steaks that I usually cook (1 to 1-1/4", my method is a bit of a hybrid. I sear the first side on very high heat, flip to the second side, and after a minute or two, turn the heat very low. Then I pour out excess cooking oil, and finish with butter, which browns slowly as the meat heats through.

The disadvantage is that the first side isn't actually cooked in the butter (but gets basted). I'll have to see if a variation of the ducasse method might work on medium thickness steaks (forget about rendering fat on the edge; cook a bit hotter than medium for maybe 7 minutes per side, etc.).

Notes from the underbelly

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What no meat thermometer?

I find thermometers tricky to use on steaks. Maybe a steak this thick would make it easier, but typically it's hard to know exactly what point of thickness is being measured. And for a steak that's even 1-1/2" thick, even if i'm sticking the probe in at an angle, the temperature gradient can be steep enough to throw me off.

My guess is the centre is lower, more like 135F

That's my guess too.

Personally I prefer to cook my steak, especially wing rib, sous vide at 55C for 24 hours to let the colalgen dissolve, searing before and after.

Well I like to cook for about 120 hours, at 41C (the temperature of a steer who's running a strong fever). And I find it best to sear before, after, and (with a handheld torch, leaning over my guest's shoulders) several times during the meal.

Edited by paulraphael (log)

Notes from the underbelly

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Well I like to cook for about 120 hours, at 41C (the temperature of a steer who's running a strong fever). And I find it best to sear before, after, and (with a handheld torch, leaning over my guest's shoulders) several times during the meal.

oh man almost died laughing there

beautiful stake op

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when I went to grab my one remaining garlic bulb, which had been sitting around for many moons, I found that all the cloves had dried out and shriveled up within the bulb. To the naked eye the bulb looked great, but as soon as I grabbed it I realized it was a gutted shell of its former self.

I can’t imagine garlic shriveling at our house. We go through several heads in a typical week. How would you have used garlic if it had been available?

The steak looks great, and I look forward to trying the method. Thanks for taking the time to document.

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What does everyone think about cooking the steak on all sides in the pan and then letting it cook through in an oven?

I think it is just a fine idea!

What I want to know is, does everybody eat all of the bone-in steak (except for the bone of couse!), or do people eat around the gristly chewy chunks at the one end? Especially with porterhouse and T-bone steaks, I refuse to eat that section next to the "T" part of the bone. And I won't eat the fat strip down the one side either like on NY Steaks. Yet my mother used to take that entire strip of fat and let slide down her throat in one gulp. I used to almost lose it when she'd do that.

One guy I knew would eat everything too. Apparently his grandma raised him and just said, "Its something to chew on for a while!".

How do others eat their steak?

Its because of my feelings about this, that I prefer tenderloin. There's almost never anything that isn't tender and easily eaten, and no bones to pay for and then throw away (they get freezer burned by the time I would save enough of the bones to make stock making worth while).

No dogs at home either.

doc

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Am I the only one who adjusts the heat of the pan depending on the thickness of the steak so that the crust and middle finish at the same time? It always seemed kind of pointless to me to give a steak an intense blast of heat only to have it languish in the oven with no further browning. For a steak that's 2 inches thick, it's 10 minutes a side. For one that's 1 inch, I do about 4 minutes a side with slightly higher heat. For steaks thinner than that, I'll actually cook it directly from the fridge to give a bit more time for the crust to develop.

Butter and rendered beef fat always.

PS: I am a guy.

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Am I the only one who adjusts the heat of the pan depending on the thickness of the steak so that the crust and middle finish at the same time?

Well, you and Ducasse. And a few others :)

I think finishing in the oven is a convenient technique for restaurants. The oven is the fastest way to do the slow cooking of the center ... if that makes any sense. The heat can be low, but it's hitting the meat on all sides. And more importantly, it frees up a burner on the stove for the next round of food.

If you don't face a restaurants time and stove space constraints, I think finishing on the stove is a better option, if for no reason other than it gives you more control.

Notes from the underbelly

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Good discussion. My question is how would you do a tenderloin?

A very good friend just brought me a tenderloin about a foot long straight from Washington DC. (Now you know why he's a very food friend). We don't normally get tenderloin much here in France.

So, I'm with the butter & fat, relatively low heat to do a crust, all sides yes. Now then how about timings? We like our beef rare. How long in the pan? And how long in the oven at what temperature if, that is, a tenderloin should go into the oven at all.

All help except in te eating appreciated.

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. . . .

I have tried this method on lesser steaks. It works just as well. I apologize for creating a red herring by demonstrating on a Lobel's steak, however the results are excellent with a supermarket steak as well -- if you can find a nice thick one or get one cut to order.

Just to emphasize this point, here's a 60 mm ribeye cut from a Costco roast, cooked per the Ducasse/Shaw method:

gallery_6393_149_34523.jpg

gallery_6393_149_42456.jpg

Dave Scantland
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How do others eat their steak?

Its because of my feelings about this, that I prefer tenderloin.  There's almost never anything that isn't tender and easily eaten, and no bones to pay for and then throw away (they get freezer burned by the time I would save enough of the bones to make stock making worth while).

No dogs at home either.

doc

I love to gnaw on the bone and love the taste of the fat strips but then I also try to avoid it for health reasons.

But to get back to the main point, I also wonder how this method would work for tenderloin. I always felt tenderloin were so lean that cooking in the oven was a must.

Edited by Magictofu (log)
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I'm reading all this and thinking, "Yes, yes, it makes sense and it looks and I'm sure tastes fantastic." But...

My inner caveman still craves a tinge of the charcoal flavor I can get from grilling on my trusty Weber or broiling in my salamander. Not a heavy char - just a bit. The charcoal flavor, the rare to medium rare rib eye and the soppable beef juices on the plate - steak utopia for those strands of my DNA that date back to the Stone Age. But...

If I ever get my hands on a steak as perfect as the one Steven shows above - I'll take mine with the deckle though - I will likely be searching out this thread and Steven's tutorial.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

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Not to point out what has already been mentioned as "critical" but yes, the thickness of the steak is paramount.

Since I only had a 1in grass-finished rib-eye on hand, that's what I went with. And while the method did produce a very nice crust (and lovely potatoes to boot), alas, it did cost me the interior. I tried to compensate for the thickness of the steak by going straight from the fridge...but that was not enough. Perhaps I should've gone with lower heat on the stove? Next time I'll shoot a thermometer at it to quantify "medium" heat.

Thanks for the thought-provoking method though...I've definitely learned a bit more, even in failure.

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I made a similar mistake tonight. My steaks were slightly thicker than an inch but not by much. Ended up with a medium-well-done steak with way too much "gray". :sad:

I wonder if the usual sear/oven method help achieve more consistent results with different kinds of steak.

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I wonder if the usual sear/oven method help achieve more consistent results with different kinds of steak.

I think you just have to adapt time and temperature to different thicknesses. 10 minutes per side on medium heat seems to be the right treatment for a 1-1/2 to 2 inch steak. A 1 inch steak will need less time (to avoid overcooking the center) and more heat (to brown the surface in that shorter time).

I don't know if there's an advantage to cooking steaks at a single temperature all the way through. My habit has been to sear them on high heat, and then (still in the pan) let them continue to cook on very low heat. I feel this make the timing a little easier, since you're taking care of the browning and cooking the center in mostly discreet steps. But I'd be surprised if the results would be substantially different from the consistent temperature method. It would be interesting to compare both side by side.

Notes from the underbelly

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