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The Best Way to Cook a Thick Steak


Fat Guy
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  • 4 months later...

There was some discussion earlier on this topic, with reference to the demonstration in post number one, about whether the efficacy of the Ducasse method was dependent on the quality of a steak. It isn't. This past weekend porterhouse steak was on sale for $4.99 (US) per pound and, even though the steaks in the meat case weren't thick enough, the store's butcher was happy to sell us thicker ones. These porterhouse steaks are 2.3 and 2.5 pounds.

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See post one for a full explanation of the method. This is just a photo recap to show how it works with less stellar meat.

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There was probably no good reason to sear the bone end, but it seemed more visually appealing -- even though the steak was to be served cut up off the bone.

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We reserved some of the poured-off fat but there really wasn't much to be done with it.

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Due to the preferences of the group, we cooked the steaks to an internal temperature of 140, which with a few degrees of carry-over meant medium rare. This worked out to about 12 minutes on a side, as opposed to the 10 minutes in post number one. There were probably other variables as well, as these were very different steaks. I would have preferred a little rarer. As it was, it was possible to get the center pieces from the thickest part of the strip portion of the larger of the two steaks, and those were fairly rare. So everyone was happy.

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As far as I can tell, the steaks were ungraded. If they were graded, they'd probably be USDA Choice. I don't know.

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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I have tried this approach many times, with great success - if you like a very well developed crust, it can't be beat.

Yesterday I tried a new approach which I think I might like even better - poaching the thick steaks in clarified butter, flavored with garlic, shallots, and herbs (adapted from this Michael Mina recipe for a whole rib roast in the Washington post). While you don't get as good of a crust, it is pretty easy to acheive a perfect level of sous-vide like doneness through the entire meat and a nicely seared outside. Flavor is tremendous also.

It's a bit of a hassle to clarify all the butter the first time, but it is reusable in future applications (or great in other savory dishes - I ladled some out for a mushroom accompaniment). It's not quick either (took about 40 minutes to get an inch thick steak up to temp), but it can be used on thinner steaks better than the Ducasse method (the amount of meat cooked by a quick sear in a hot cast iron pan was negligble). Once you get the butter temp figured out, it's also pretty much set and forget. I am just guessing on this point, but I wouldn't suspect there would be any additional fat content/butter absorbed in this process vs. the Ducasse ladling - the steaks certainly didn't seem oily or greasy.

I don't know if I would bother if I had a sous vide setup, but without one its a great way to get those beautifully cooked results (I wish I had a picture of perfectly medium rare steaks). Has anyone else used this approach?

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I had some fun with this last night, at a ritual steak night with a few friends. I bought a nice, dry aged prime t-bone from my butcher, about 2" thick ... he threw in the "trim" for free, which amounted to a second, 1" to 3/4" steak.

I cooked them sided by side; the thick one using the ducasse method, the thin one with a quick sear in a very hot pan, and a short cook over lower heat. I timed it so they'd come out of their pans at the same time, rested them on a hot plate, loosely tented, for 10 minutes.

It was interesting to contrast the two approaches. Both can give a perfectly cooked steak, with very little temperature gradient. The Ducasse (low, slow) method makes control and timing easier, allows you to get more butter flavor into the crust (assuming you want it), and won't smoke up your kitchen. The high heat method gets the meat on the table much faster.

Edited by paulraphael (log)

Notes from the underbelly

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I can't say this with scientific certainty but I think the low-and-slow Ducasse method may have a tenderizing effect.

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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It's possible. Warm temperatures up to 120 degrees accelerate the enzyme ativity that causes aging effects. There's some evidence of this working slow (many hour) braises. Seems a bit of a stretch that you'd notice it when cooking something for 20 minutes, but who knows.

Notes from the underbelly

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Like you, this is the method I use: a super-hot grill with the flames licking the steak. (In fact,I won't even cook a steak if it isn't on a grill (at least gas); I've always found steak in a pan to be inferior and I just prefer to do something else if I don't have a grill). I like the taste of char on the steak that this method produces. The only thing I put on it is Goya seasoning and ground pepper. This method is particularly good on the outer layer of fat on a NY strip, which becomes almost semi-liquid. Also, I pretty much only cook my steak rare, so I sear it with the flame but then take it off, let it rest and cut it - I don't like to use an oven effect. I'm glad to see there is someone else out there doing the same thing.

And when I say sear, I really mean sear. I don't jerk around with searing. I get the coals flaming hot and then I pour on some sort of veggie oil and flame sear my steaks. ***Disclaimer - I do not recommend doing this near siding, a wood deck or anything else that could melt or catch on fire. Also avoid doing this in high wind. I almost learned that one the hard way.

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To give you some perspective in the day light. Here is a picture of me grilling steaks at my folks this last Summer. This is the flame searing process and thus the necessity for the disclaimer:

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Like you, this is the method I use: a super-hot grill with the flames licking the steak. (In fact,I won't even cook a steak if it isn't on a grill (at least gas); I've always found steak in a pan to be inferior and I just prefer to do something else if I don't have a grill). I like the taste of char on the steak that this method produces.

I love the taste of char too, but I don't want it on a first rate steak. Char is a powerful seasoning. If you've got a prime, many-week dry aged piece of beef, I find it a waste to overpower it with anything that strong.

I want accompanying seasonings to be subtle ... salt, pepper, a hint of butter, a nice browned crust. Any other sauce / compound butter I'll serve on the side, and they won't be overpowering. You can't get away from char.

Notes from the underbelly

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Steve,

I finally had the opportunity (thick Prime porterhouse) to try the Ducasse method. I was visiting my son and had to use a tri-ply skillet. It was wonderful, totally decadent and almost better than..., well almost if your really hungry. The stainless kept the butter pretty clean allowing for a luscious pan sauce.

It's even better than that reverse sear. Now, can we use this method for a standing rib?

Thank you.

Tim

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Like you, this is the method I use: a super-hot grill with the flames licking the steak. (In fact,I won't even cook a steak if it isn't on a grill (at least gas); I've always found steak in a pan to be inferior and I just prefer to do something else if I don't have a grill). I like the taste of char on the steak that this method produces.

I love the taste of char too, but I don't want it on a first rate steak. Char is a powerful seasoning. If you've got a prime, many-week dry aged piece of beef, I find it a waste to overpower it with anything that strong.

I want accompanying seasonings to be subtle ... salt, pepper, a hint of butter, a nice browned crust. Any other sauce / compound butter I'll serve on the side, and they won't be overpowering. You can't get away from char.

I have to, respectfully, disagree. I don't like anything on a really good cut of steak, other than salt and pepper (or Goya seasoning and pepper). I have never understood the butter approach to steak. A really good cut of beef, in my opinion, should never be done in butter the way the NY steakhouses do. It does make it very tender, but it also infuses it with a butter flavor that I don't think it needs. Char, on the other hand, has always gone hand and hand with beef, for me. For my money, a steak should be done at seriously high heat, extremely rare, on a grill, salt & pepper and, for God's sake, NO steak sauce!!!

Edited by demo5 (log)
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The difference is that butter is subtle; browned butter works in the background, especially with dry aged beef flavor, much as the salt does; char flavor is extremely powerful and walks all over every other flavor in its path. I love it on supermarket grade beef that needs help. But I'd never char a great piece of beef anymore than I'd slather it with A-1.

Butter doesn't tenderize. I associate butter-sautéed meat with France and with high end restaurants in general more than with New York.

Notes from the underbelly

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  • 2 months later...

On Friday, I was doing some grocery shopping on my way home from work at the local mega mart 2 blocks from home. I cruised through the meat department and noticed that one of the cases had steaks for sale. I looked in and spied a bone in New York strip that was about 1.5 to 2 inches thick. I picked it up. Saw the price. $4.27 a pound. Total price was $5.89. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to try the method detailed by Steven.

At home, I weighed it on my scale. 22 ounces. I don't think there was any grading noted on the package. I didn't take a picture of the completely raw steak, but you'll get a good enough idea about marbling in some of the pics I will post.

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Steak on the fat edge. As you can see, this steak is bone in. I am cooking this in my Calphalon Try-Ply stainless 3 qt saute pan. I really love this pan. It's great. I had my stove (electric coil) set to the medium setting. I wasn't exactly sure is the 10 minutes on the edge was 10 minutes for EACH edge or 10 minutes total for all edges. After about 6 minutes on the fat edge, I checked it. It was developing a nice brown. So, I started to cook the "ends" some, propping up on the side of the pan as needed. I even let the bone edge cook for some. In the end, it seemed 10 minutes total for ALL edges made sense.

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Onto the first flat surface. As suggested by Steven, I added some butter at this point. I left it melt. Swirled it around the pan. Lifted the meat up a bit to let some butter get under the meat. I left it on this side for 10 minutes

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After 10 minutes on the first side, I turned it over to cook the second side. This is what I got. Looking pretty good to me. Just before this picture was taking, I dumped the butter out and then added in more butter and did some basting.

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This is the first side after it had been basted in some butter. I continued to let the second side cook. Again, for another 10 minutes. After that time was up, I flipped the steak back over onto the first side and basted the second side. That didn't take very long. I didn't snap a picture of the second side. From there, the steak went onto a small rack that was set into a quarter sheet pan. That went into my oven that was set on warm. There it sat for about 15 minutes.

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After resting, the steak went onto my cutting board. I removed the bone, then sliced this up. About half of it went onto a warm plate along with a generous serving of cauliflower puree I had made before I started to cook the steak. Paired it up with a red blend from Australia. (2005 Hare's Chase Red Blend, to be exact)

Verdict? This method works. What was really great about it is it addressed the issue I had raised a while back. Smoke. Due to the low heat, there really wasn't a bunch of smoke. Nothing at all like I see when I do a high heat sear method. Not even when I was browning the side that was essentially all fat.

How did it taste? It was good. I think it would have tasted a lot better if the quality of the steak was better. This wasn't the greatest supermarket steak I have had. In the future, I will buy a higher quality thick cut steak. This method is certainly getting stashed away into my bag of tricks.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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Last week I picked up a three and a half pound, two rib USDA choice, store brand roast from a local ShopRite. Let it sit in the fridge for a week. Split it in half. Saved one steak. Rinsed the other and warmed it up some out of the fridge for a couple of hours. Preheated the salamander. Threw it onto the salamander, full fire, lowest rack position. Maybe 10 minutes on the first side, 6 or 7 on the other. It was one of the best steaks ever.

There was a bit of char, but as I think I posted up-thread, I like the flavor that a slight char adds to a rib steak.

With supermarket beef, it is always a roll of the dice. Marbling wasn't all that impressive, but for $6.99 a pound, bone in, I lucked out with a magnificent specimen.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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I'll be ordering some steaks from my local butcher next week and am very intrigued to try out this method. It looks absolutely incredible. I think that a similar method could be done on the grill as far as browning the edges as long as the temperature was well controlled. This would help impart the smoke flavor into the meat and yet still give a great crust on the outside.

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  • 10 months later...

I think it's time to sing the praises of the Ducasse-Fat Guy method again! (If Ducasse is a French cooking god, does that make Shaw his prophet?)

Whenever it gets too cold/wet/windy/snowy/British to chargrill outside I turn to this method to cook my thick steaks. I've been doing this ever since I first read this thread, maybe seven or eight times and it has never failed to deliver. Forget about the char taste, the crust using this method is another beast altogether. The complex brown buttery flavours are awesome and has a natural affinity with beef. The method is so controllable and produces evenly pink tender meat throughout. Though I do like to start my meat straight from he fridge to make sure is on the rarer side.

I had a Dexter forerib yesterday that i trimmed down (can't wait to make burgers with th trimmings). It was a fantastic piece of meat, nice marbling for grass-fed UK meat and it cooked up perfectly. Easily the best steak I've ever eaten in this country. I ate a porterhouse at Peter Luger's in Brooklyn last month so the memory of steak perfection is still fresh in my mind and on my tastebuds. But hand on heart, this steak compared favourably to that memory.

There's been a bit of to-and-froing on the Hawksmoor thread and about high-end British steakhouses in general. I can see both sides of the argument but here's a nail in the coffin for one side...

Meat £10.70, butter 30p, time 40 minutes:

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All hail Ducasse and his messenger Shaw :smile:

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I nearly shed a tear looking at those pictures...

Ha! I was just browsing backwards and realized that was the second time in this thread in one year that I referenced crying.

Am I overly sentimental? Or is beef just that beautiful?

Now I'm positively facing an existential dilemma...

PastaMeshugana

"The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd."

"What's hunger got to do with anything?" - My Father

My eG Food Blog (2011)

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You're silly, I like that! Go with your gut reaction always.

On a connected point, has anyone tried to recreate Peter Luger's special steak sauce? I remember it being quite nice, not overpowering the steak at all. It'll be good to add to the sauce options.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Got here from a link in the Dinner thread, I'll share a couple pictures from the last steak I cooked. It seems to me that after cooking sous vide the protein browns much faster and evenly. Is this because of the natural sugars being drawn out during the long low temp cooking?

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Edited by ScottyBoy (log)

Sleep, bike, cook, feed, repeat...

Chef Facebook HQ Menlo Park, CA

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  • 3 months later...

I have always favored dual zone charcoal grilling for thick steaks. Now that I live in NYC without a grill, I've tried various methods with pan and oven with mixed results. I came across this thread and decided to try the Ducasse/Shaw method.

I used prime dry aged porterhouse and shell steaks from Ottomanelli's on Bleecker Street. I have tried a number of the top butchers in the city, but for a combination of quality, selection, value and service I dont think you can beat Ottomanelli's. If I am going to cook a steak, I make the trip to Bleecker.

The steaks were 2" thick and I followed the Ducasse method outlined in the NY times using the butter and garlic at the end of the cooking process. The crust and flavor were just amazing! I'd say these steaks were as good if not better than anything I've had at Lugers, Sparks, Keens, etc. However, I found that using the 10 minute per side suggestion they were a bit overcooked for my taste - really more medium than medium rare. One problem may be that I am cooking with electric (one of those Gaggenau ceramic top jobbies) and not the gas range I grew up cooking on. I have had problems overcooking on this electric range. I used two pans, one copper and one cast iron and set the burners to 4.5 (the setting range is 1-9). The cast iron skillet got too hot even at that setting and I had to back it off to about 3.5 The copper pan seemed to hold a more even heat, and was easier to control.

The other factor that may have affected my results was the fact I had let the meat sit out for well over an hour, so it was probably pretty close to true room temperature.

So here's my question, what's the best way to control temperature in a pan on an electric range like this? Other than feel, is there a thermometer than can be used to set the perfect pan temperature? I don't always have great luck using a meat thermometer on steaks and I don't like to have to pierce the steak anyway. When grilling or using the oven I find that just using the old fashioned touch "thumb" method gives me my temp. However, steaks this thick and with the sort of crust produced with the Ducasse method aren't so easy for me to judge by touch. I suppose if I just experiment enough I'll get this down, but these experiments can be expensive on dry aged prime steak! Any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Edited by Felonius (log)
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I use an infra red thermometer, you point it at what you want to test,push the button and it gives you the temp,,works from as far as 3 or 4 feet, you can go around your house and shoot the walls ceiling etc and see where it colder than other places

Bud

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if it's a thick steak I put in a wired bbq thermometer and it stays in there, no need to poke holes again. Get the pan very hot, you can use an infra red thermometer, I have one and it's a great tool. If you buy one, make sure it goes to high temp, mine goes to over 900 degree I think. Many don't go that high. I've never used it on my pan, I use it to see if my bbq is above 600 degree for steak. I don't know what the "perfect pan temperature" would be, if I cook steak on the stove the temp is "very hot" in a cast iron skillet and I turn the steak often (otherwise I'd get charcoal as crust) with a wired bbq thermometer stuck in from the side. I trust that more than my poking pinching or probing, and with an expensive steak I don't like to gamble.

I also have the steak at room temp.

I did not read back here what the Ducasse method is, I just find that high heat and flipping often works for me, very little gray and nice med-rare meat all through.

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

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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For me lately it's been cooking the steak under (not on top of) a chimney starter.... I've yet to find a better method that produces as much intense heat, including all the various methods in this thread that I've tried over the years.

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if it's a thick steak I put in a wired bbq thermometer and it stays in there, no need to poke holes again. Get the pan very hot, you can use an infra red thermometer, I have one and it's a great tool. If you buy one, make sure it goes to high temp, mine goes to over 900 degree I think. Many don't go that high. I've never used it on my pan, I use it to see if my bbq is above 600 degree for steak. I don't know what the "perfect pan temperature" would be, if I cook steak on the stove the temp is "very hot" in a cast iron skillet and I turn the steak often (otherwise I'd get charcoal as crust) with a wired bbq thermometer stuck in from the side. I trust that more than my poking pinching or probing, and with an expensive steak I don't like to gamble.

I also have the steak at room temp.

I did not read back here what the Ducasse method is, I just find that high heat and flipping often works for me, very little gray and nice med-rare meat all through.

Thanks for the tip. I've never seen an infra red thermometer but will have to try one. Assuming I can now measure my pan temperature, this begs the question of what would be the ideal temp for the Ducasse/Shaw cooking method? I think I remember reading somewhere that the Maillard reaction in beef starts at or above 310F, so I'm guessing this would be the low limit for the slow cook in the pan method. Someone earlier in the thread did some sort of calculation to come up with an estimated temp of 170C (or 340F) in Fat Guy's pan. Has anyone using this method actually checked their pan temp?

Edited by Felonius (log)
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