Most years, restaurants are full on Valentine’s Day, but of course, 2021 is different because of the pandemic.
While you might be used to enjoying a meal at a fancy restaurant with your partner to celebrate, this year you have to make it yourself.
If you fancy cooking up a steak for the occasion, you need to treat it properly.
We asked some chefs to give their top tips so you can make the most of the meat and impress your date.
While you might not have the budget for the premium cuts, buy the best you can afford. It might be worth having a slightly smaller steak if it means you can get a better cut.
Ioannis Grammenos, executive chef at Heliot Steak House explains: ‘It’s better to have steak less often and get the good stuff as a treat when you do.
‘Always try and shop at a butchers, not only because the quality is likely to be superior, but because they can help you choose what works best for you – if you tell them how you plan to cook it, they can provide a recommendation.
‘When picking a steak, remember that the darker the colour, the longer the steak has been aged and and will likely have a stronger flavour. Look for high and even marbling throughout the cut, as this will make for a softer and more flavoursome steak.’
Sven Hanson Britt, a chef at Homestead, explains you should focus on the quality of the meat, rather than the cut.
He says: ‘The best, most sustainable and delicious beef available doesn’t have to be expensive. It still will have rump steaks, or bavettes, onglet, flank etc. It doesn’t have to just be about expensive rib-eye or fillet.
‘Buy meat that is direct from farmer, know the provenance, understand the traceability and its journey, appreciate a single breed for its unique characteristics, grass fed = more flavour and better for the animal.’
Ben Tish, Culinary Director of The Stafford Collection, recommends a bavette cut to get the most flavour on a budget.
He says: ‘I would go for ribeye for flavour but it can be fatty. A bavette is great value, lean and very tasty. A little toothsome, but the flavour makes up for it.’
How should you season it?
The steak itself might be tasty but seasoning and oil is what will really make it sing.
Before seasoning, take your steak out of the fridge for a while – it’s a key step to keep it tender.
Aktar Islam, Chef Proprietor of Pulperia, Birmingham says: ‘I always bring my steak to room temperature, then I rub it with a neutral oil, then I use fine salt to season the steak evenly all over on both sides – put some cracked pepper on at this point too.
‘The trick is to get a smoking hot pan so you can build a crust on your steak, thats where the real magic happens, I sear evenly on all sides, then baste in the pan with brown butter, garlic and herbs, Allow the steak to rest until its warm to touch and relaxed before you carve and finish with smoked malden sea salt.’
Simon Maynard, head butcher at Macknade and ex-Michelin Chef adds that it’s better to oil the steak rather than the pan.
He says: ‘The oil can prevent the pan getting hot enough. Butter is also a good addition to make your steak extra luxurious.’
Tom Robinson, head chef of Libertine Burger, explains that butter and herbs are a great addition towards the end of the process – but you do need to keep an eye on it.
He says: ‘Adding butter during the cooking of your steaks and basting the steak with the juices helps to enhance the flavour. Adding garlic, fresh rosemary and thyme will only help this, but be careful not to burn it as it will taste bitter!’
What type of pan is best?
The pan you use is also important to make the most of your steak.
Zac Whittle and Freddie Sheen from Rogues say: ‘It’s important you cook your steak in the correct sized pan. Not too snug, definitely not too spacious. Too snug and you can’t baste it with the butter, too much space, and the butter burns before it can work its magic.’
If you want to invest in some new kitchenware, most chefs recommend a cast iron pan for steak.
Ben Tish explains: ‘A cast iron griddle pan for constant heat is the best for cooking a steak. It gives good caramelisation and colour to the meat and delicious flavour.
Ashley Tinoco, head chef at Sam’s Riverside Restaurant adds it can make it look a bit more visually spectaular too: ‘A cast iron pan with a griddle on it will be nice to give those grill marks to the steak.’
How long should you cook a steak?
Get your pan as hot as possible before you start to create a crust, then set your seasoned steak in.
The cooking time will depend on the size and type of your steak, and of course, on your own preference.
Simon Maynard says: ‘Depending on the thickness, I would recommend two to three minutes per side for medium-rare; although it does come down to the feel. A perfectly cooked medium-rare steak will show a certain amount of resistance, but not too much, bouncing back when you touch it.’
Tom Robinson adds: ‘Always consider the size and weight of your steak before calculating your cooking time. Asking your butcher when buying the steak is a good place to start.
‘Generally, for a rare steak that is around 3.5cm in depth you should look to cook for a minimum of two minutes per side, up to four and a half minutes for medium.’
Tommy Heaney of Heaneys Cardiff recommends keeping the steak moving – and remember it continues to cook even when you take it off the heat.
He says: ‘Flip your steak multiple times for the best result, at Heaneys we always rotate ours every 30 seconds to ensure an evenly cooked interior.’
‘I always undercook my steak, if I want it medium/rare I will then cook it so it’s rare and then leave it to rest. You want to rest the steak for the same amount of time as you cooked it, it will continue to cook and allows the juices to release and redistribute towards the edges of the meat. Mouth-watering stuff!’
A good tip is to use your hand as a guide to the texture of the meat.
Let it rest
Once you’ve finished cooking, don’t just dive in. Resting is just as important.
Chef Liam Dillon from The Boat Inn says: ‘Rest for as long as the roasting time. This will ensure the meat is relaxed meaning it will be more tender to eat and retain more meat juices. If the steak cools down too much in the resting process it can be flashed through the oven briefly to bring it back up to temperature.’
Ben Tish recommends adding a little butter at this stage too. He says: ‘It helps relax the meat at a more constant temp and creates a quick buttery meat sauce to dress the steak with.’
Simon Maynard adds that you should avoid covering it with foil as this can make it too hot, making it cook for longer.
Serve with a sauce
The sauce is up to you but it can make the dish extra special.
Liam Dillon says: ‘I do like a rich sauce with my steak so either a blue cheese or a peppercorn.
‘Here is how we make our peppercorn sauce at the restaurant: Finely dine two shallots, two cloves of garlic, half a red chilli (deseeded) and half a teaspoon of finely grated ginger.
‘Sweat on a medium heat until onions become translucent. Grind a mixture of pink, green and white peppercorns (teaspoon of each) using a pestle and mortar or food processor.
‘Add ground peppercorns to the pan along with a nob of butter and cook out for two minutes. Add 300ml of a quality beef stock and some resting juices and reduce by half.
‘Then finish with a splash of double cream. If you like your sauce smooth, pass through a fine sieve just before serving.’
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