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Fat Guy

The Best Way to Cook a Thick Steak

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I think it's something about the black residue left on the meat... some kind of bitter compounds.

I should study bio-chemistry one day!

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Soot. If you have actual flames, you're going to get soot.


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Soot.  If you have actual flames, you're going to get soot.

Soot?!?! Really? :rolleyes:

Try the method and get back to me on how much soot you detect in the flavor. Make sure you take a pic of the outside as well so we can tell if you did it correctly...

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Soot.  If you have actual flames, you're going to get soot.

Soot?!?! Really? :rolleyes:

Try the method and get back to me on how much soot you detect in the flavor. Make sure you take a pic of the outside as well so we can tell if you did it correctly...

I'd be afraid I'd get bitter tasting char rather than a delicious maillardized crust. How do you make sure you don't burn the outside of the meat with a technique like this? It seems to me there are ways to ensure this that allow for more control.


nunc est bibendum...

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The inside of your steak looks great but the outside looks a little (actually a lot :biggrin: ) burnt to me...

But I think with this kind of thing I think that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Anyway I tried the Ducasse method that the OP refrers to the other night but I ended up with a pretty tough piece meat. I think it was more likely to be the fault of the meat but I think I'll stick to the sous vide then flash grill method since that gives me consistently good results.

It's always good to experiment though.

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Soot.  If you have actual flames, you're going to get soot.

Soot?!?! Really? :rolleyes:

Try the method and get back to me on how much soot you detect in the flavor. Make sure you take a pic of the outside as well so we can tell if you did it correctly...

I'd be afraid I'd get bitter tasting char rather than a delicious maillardized crust. How do you make sure you don't burn the outside of the meat with a technique like this? It seems to me there are ways to ensure this that allow for more control.

It's not hard to lift up the steak and look at the underside....That's what those tongs are for...

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Soot.  If you have actual flames, you're going to get soot.

Soot?!?! Really? :rolleyes:

Try the method and get back to me on how much soot you detect in the flavor. Make sure you take a pic of the outside as well so we can tell if you did it correctly...

Yes!!!! Really! This is pretty easy to see, just by looking a the underside of a pan you have used over a dirty flame (as opposed to a clean flame like from a gas stove). And the effects of a dirty flame on flavor are well-understood, which is why good kitchens don't want their cooks flaming pans for more than a few seconds

Some people like that flavor, so whatever floats your boat. Burger King, for example, differentiates itself on the basis of putting a little soot on its burgers. I can't say that I mind it myself in every context, but it's not something I'd be likely to do with an expensive dry-aged prime steak. More to the point, you don't really need the flame to get the extra-high heat you want for searing. I'd much rather have the high heat from properly configured and tended coals instead. Although it does produce flame, it's not clear to me that dumping the vegetable oil is boosting heat all that much.


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it's not clear to me that dumping the vegetable oil is boosting heat all that much.

It's actually likely reducing it.

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Soot.  If you have actual flames, you're going to get soot.

Soot?!?! Really? :rolleyes:

Try the method and get back to me on how much soot you detect in the flavor. Make sure you take a pic of the outside as well so we can tell if you did it correctly...

I'd be afraid I'd get bitter tasting char rather than a delicious maillardized crust. How do you make sure you don't burn the outside of the meat with a technique like this? It seems to me there are ways to ensure this that allow for more control.

It's not hard to lift up the steak and look at the underside....That's what those tongs are for...

Indeed. My point was that once you get the tongs in there, you might be past the point of no return.


nunc est bibendum...

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Flames aside, I think the pictures of the interior or the steak produced by TheFanatic speak for themselves about the two zones method on a BBQ (which is similar to the pan to oven method). This technique is very popular for good reasons.

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Absolutely. And you do need very high heat for this technique to work that well. Extremely high heat will give you a nicely maillardized crust on the outside without very much penetration into the steak.


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how timely can things pop up on the computer! I just bought a rib roast that - in hindsight - is way too big for us, I'll most likely cut it in half and try this method! And if not today, then certainly next time I have a big fat steak in the house! Looks delicious.

I usually do the sear and low oven thing, looking forward to a different way. The butter should add a real nice flavor too! Thanks for all the pictures too, nice little tutorial.


"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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As Alain Ducasse noted in the New York Times in 2002 (article here, discussed here), the standard American method of preparing steak involves high heat. I'd say that 99% of steaks I've had at steakhouses and in people's homes have been cooked either on a grill, under a broiler or in a very hot skillet. Yet, some of the best steaks I've ever had have been served at Ducasse's restaurants (and at other restaurants that use similar methods, such as Tom Colicchio's Craft places), where the steaks are prepared using relatively low heat.

Demonstrating this method -- which I think is perhaps the best way to make a steak and has the advantage of being easy to do in the home kitchen with no special equipment -- is something I've been meaning to do for the past six years, ever since that article came out. The other day, though, inspired by the arrival of a USDA Prime 28-ounce dry-aged bone-in rib steak product sample from Lobel's, I decided to do it. Lobel's is arguably the world's preeminent butcher, and Ducasse the world's preeminent chef, so I thought it would be fitting to introduce the method to this fine piece of meat.

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One of the points Ducasse makes is that when you have a piece of meat this good, it's a shame to burn it. He prefers, as do I, to get a good crust on the steak with no charring. Once you char a steak, you're substituting the carbonized flavor of burnt flesh and fat for the, in my opinion, more delicious "roasty" flavor of the Maillard reaction and the beef itself.

Okay, so here's the Ducasse method of making a rib steak, as interpreted by me. This is a 45-minute process, assuming you start with a steak that has been allowed to come up to room temperature or that at least has been out of the refrigerator long enough to take the chill off it. The method starts with a skillet -- in my case cast-iron but any good skillet works fine as does a pot like a rondeau -- heated to a medium heat. The steak is started on its edge. The reason for this is twofold: first, it renders the fat so you're able to cook the steak in beef fat (this echoes Ducasse's principles of flavor reinforcement, which are nearly universal in his cooking); second, it creates an appetizing appearance on the edges.

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Note that there was no salt or anything added to the steak before cooking, and that the pan is dry -- no oil etc. You're just putting the steak in the skillet on its edge. If you have a big fat steak (a lot of restaurants would call this a cote de boeuf) then at first it will stand on its edge without help. But eventually you'll have to get creative with the geometry by leaning and propping the steak against the sides of the skillet in order to keep it upright while exposing as many parts of the edge as possible to the heat. If you're willing to stand there with tongs and secure the meat in various positions for 10 minutes you'll get an even more uniform and beautiful crust. Here's how this process unfolds during the first 10 or so minutes of cooking:

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Now it's time to cook the steak on its flat faces, 10 minutes on a side. The way I prefer to do this, which is not exactly the same as how Ducasse recommends in the Times but is something I've seen done in restaurant kitchens, is to dump out enough of the beef fat so that there's a thin coating of it left in the pan, plop the steak on its flat face, and add a couple of tablespoons of butter.

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A lot of people recoil at the notion of using butter as a cooking fat with steak, but I've found that butter has two excellent properties: 1- butter, more than most any other fat I know of, is a huge aid to the Maillard reaction, and 2- the combination of butter and beef fat makes a tastier cooking medium for steak than oil.

Now, after about 10 minutes the butter has browned to the point where, if we don't do something, it's going to start imparting burnt flavors to the steak.

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In the first stages of browning, butter has desirable flavors. But eventually, even with medium heat, it breaks down. So it's time to renew the butter by dumping the cooking fat and adding another couple of tablespoons. I believe Ducasse recommends only adding the butter towards the end of cooking, but I think the steak comes out a little better when you use butter all the way through to coax a little more of the Maillard reaction from the steak.

So we are at the 20-minute mark. We've browned our edges and cooked one side of the steak in a mixture of beef fat and butter for 10 minutes over medium heat. We've dumped the fat and flipped the steak. Witness the crust:

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Once I saw that crust -- beautifully browned but not at all charred -- for the first time I became a believer in the Ducasse method. But it gets better. Now you add some more butter, let it melt, and spoon it over the crust (aka basting). This is also when I sprinkle the steak liberally with coarse salt. I know this is much, much later in the cooking process than anybody will tell you to salt a steak, but I find that it yields good results.

Here we are about to baste.

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And the crust gets even better after basting.

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Continue to cook for about another 10 minutes, basting occasionally if you like (though you've derived most of the basting benefit from the first baste).

Now we are almost at the 30-minute mark, so the last thing to do is flip the steak and baste (and salt) the other side.

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Now the steak will have to rest for 15 minutes in a warm place (the Ducasse rule of thumb is to rest meat for half as long as you cooked it) before being carved. I use a warm plate near the stove. A 150-degree oven is also an option, and if you use on oven you can rest even longer without worrying about the steak getting too cool to be appetizing.

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After 15 minutes our home fries are done and our steak is well rested.

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There are fancier ways to carve a rib steak than the way I do it, but this is really simple. You just cut out the bone with a paring knife, then slice the steak. Note that here I use a santoku knife but that's not an expression of personal preference. I don't really like santoku knives. It's just that this happens to be the most recently sharpened knife in my kitchen.

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If you look at the Times piece, there are some slight variants between the instructions there and the way I do it. In part that's because I'm not good at following instructions and in part it's because I've seen some variation in actual Ducasse restaurant kitchens where I've spent time watching the line cooks cook steaks. Most of all the method affords a lot of flexibility, so a little more or less flipping, turning and time won't have a huge impact the way it might on a super-hot charcoal grill or under a Jade upright broiler.

A good variant of this method is the one Dave Scantland chronicles in the Daily Gullet in "The Chronicles of Chuck."

I saw this thread revived, read the original post, could not remember ever having seen this thread before (though I'm sure I must have) and thought to myself, "That's EXACTLY how I cook a big steak!", though my one variation is that while the steaks are cooking (one to a pan), I heat up some small, round, "cake-cooling" racks in the oven, so that when it's just a couple of minutes before the steak has to come off and rest, I lift the steak with something hot, slide the hot cake-cooling rack under it, and replace the steak on the rack - so it's lifted above the pan (if there's so much fat that the steak is touching fat, I remove it). At this point the steak finishes cooking from being 1/2 inch above the hot pan, and as the pan cools, the steak rests - it works out great:

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You should only know that I don't know what I did wrong - this steak was waaay overcooked. I don't know where I bungled it. I like 'em dripping red inside, even rarer than the one in the original post, and except for this time, I always get 'em that way. Oh, well.


Edited by markk (log)

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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Not surprising if an approach that works well on $20/lb meat and $60/lb meat isn't ideal on $6/lb meat. I've paid more than that for cat food!

I never pay more than $1 a kg (about 15c US a pound).

It is good to be a farmer.

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I have done the Blumenthal method-pretty awesome although you need some planning and 2 days.

I have also done the aforementioned 275 oven then sear and sous vide versions.

The blumenthal method was best, but took 17 hours in the oven (had a whole rib). 2nd best and still basically my favourite way to cook a steak is the oven first method. The argument they make is that aside from bringing the center of the steak up in temp so you can simply sear then serve without too much brown (grey) meat- it also is like a quick dry age. I have cooked steaks from the same piece of meat different ways (Sous vide-pan then oven, oven then pan-pan alone) and the oven first does create better flavour. Obviously a hot grill after is also good.

I would post a pic but can't figure out how


Edited by howsmatt (log)

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Hi,

There are significant advantages to the low roast/skillet sear method for thick steaks, chops and other cuts. The method is vastly superior to sous vide.

The process is:

1. Place cold seasoned meat on a rack in a 275 degree oven. A remote probe with alarm makes this foolproof. With experience, you may merely time the roast.

2. Cook the meat to within 20 degrees of your final temperature. This works with beef and pork.

3. Sear all sides of the meat in a hot skillet. This takes about 90 seconds per side.

The advantages include unintended cooking time and control:

1. You have about 20-35 minutes to prepare other dishes during the roast.

2. You can easily control temperatures, from rare to well. In a restaurant, with consistent cuts, it would be easy to use a timer. Use of a remote probe makes it a never-fail situation at home.

3. The oven roast works very nicely with fresh or dry aged steaks. My dry aged strip took half the time to come to 105 degrees as a fresh strip.

4. The depth of sear is easy to control & very fast because you begin with a very dry piece of meat.

5. The finished product is very reliable and consistent.

I have now cooked various cuts using this method with no problems. It does and incredibly nice job on pork tenderloins.

There is also the promise of smoking the meat at that low temperature with a final sear. I am guessing the cold meat would absorb enough smoke to retain during the searing period.

Tim

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I tried it on 1-1/2" thick pork chops. Since I was going for medium, I used lower heat, and cooked for about 14 minutes on a side.

They were great, but not noticeably different from my usual method, which is to brown on high heat and then allow to finish cooking on very low while covered, basting in butter (similar to how I do steak, but the final cooking is lower, slower, and usually covered).

The one significant advantage to this method was being able to brown in butter on both sides. The minor advantage was being able to use rendered fat for the initial cooking, instead of oil.

I'll be trying this method out on thick pork chops soon, the freezer is full of the stuff.

And so I did.

Below is a very thick pork chop edge-seared in butter, then both sides browned and made firm, then roasted in a convection oven at 325F until just cooked through.

The big bonus here was a skillet with the delicious beginnings of a pan sauce. I softened a small diced onion, sprinkled in some flour, added apple juice and cranberries, and finished it with vinegar, salt and a jalapeno. Sprinkle cracked black pepper and garnish with yellow slices of dried apple.

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Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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Think I figured out the pics-but it's pretty slow to do.

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Don't try this at home

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After a day in the oven at 160

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After a smokin' hot sear

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Edited by howsmatt (log)

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After a smokin' hot sear

gallery_62980_6474_50506.jpg

That's a thing of beauty, howsmatt. Can you describe the sear process for your drooling readers?


Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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Howsmatt's method is similar to what I oulined in this thread, with a ten week dry aged prime rib. Although I did most of my final searing in a very hot oven and only used the torch for some touch ups.

I just used the Ducasse method the other night on some thick (1-3/4" or so) pork chops. Overdid it, in spite of using a thermometer. The temp climbed several degrees higher than I'd anticipated during rest. I took them off the fire at around 133°, but after fifteen minutes rest they were medium-well all the way through. Kinda disappointing. Good news is that even though these were pedestrian pork chops, without a whole lot of marbling, they did not dry out. Even at this degree of doneness they were tender and juicy ... a benefit of the slow cook. In general I find pork loin much less tolerant of quick cooking than beef.


Notes from the underbelly

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Thanks. 1st in reference to searing in a hot oven-I think having a last step in a pan or with a torch guarantees you protect your investment (can't overcook the middle in 1-2 minutes)

For the sear I cranked my stove to the max. Then you must tell the people who say "do you know you have the stove on too high?" to go away. I use a nut oil-groundnut or peanut or something with a high smoking point-a pan that doesn't need much oil is best, never teflon at this temp. If you use olive or vegetable oil, you will have a fire at this point. Place your steak CAREFULLY in the pan. I flip every 30-45 seconds 3 times. I then let it rest on a rack, as in pic.

Matt

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Thanks.  1st in reference to searing in a hot oven-I think having a last step in a pan or with a torch guarantees you protect your investment (can't overcook the middle in 1-2 minutes)

And you cut yours into steaks, which are much better seared in a pan ... the surface area makes it easy to do in a pan, while the thinness makes makes it too easy to overdo in the oven. Likewise a whole roast is easier in the oven.


Notes from the underbelly

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I once again conclude that the basting in butter method is the best way to cook a steak:

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PS: I am a guy.

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Hi,

I bought 2 big rib eye steaks that are at least 2" thick. I've never cooked anything that thick before. I know I should probably sear it and then cook it in the oven the rest of the way but how long should I cook it if I want a medium rare? I DON'T want it well done, that would be a waste of money.

Any suggestions will be great!

Thanks,

Rena

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