Perfect for me might not be perfect for you but it is quite universally agreed that the best beef fillet steak is cooked medium rare. Cast iron pan will help but any heavy frying pan will do if you get it smoking hot. And my secret? Flip it!
A beef steak is good for me if it’s just been thrown into a pan for a few seconds, not even necessarily on both sides. I’m happy with my beef cooked just so it doesn’t run away from my plate.
Cooked (can we even call it ‘cooked’??) like that, however, a/ it will be cold and b/ it won’t smell as gorgeous as one cooked for a tiny bit longer. Also, I do feed other people apart from myself, who do not necessarily feel great affinity with the caveman before the discovery of fire, with blood dripping from their gobs, eating meat warm – because it’s STILL warm.
Crime against good beef
Mind you, anything up from medium rare is crime against good beef. I enjoyed very much reading Anthony Bourdain’s tip never to order a well-charcoaled steak in a restaurant, as it’s bound to be less fresh than the one for medium-rare customers and even less than for the bleu aficionados. And I don’t think he meant aging, which is crucial for good beef, but just sitting around in the fridge getting manky.
How to buy good steaks?
Look out for marbling, or nice white fat lines woven into the meat. People who like to buy ‘a nice lean piece of meat’, the leaner the better, are WRONG. Fat marbling makes meat cook quicker as the fat heats up to higher temperatures than lean meat. And it’s the source of flavour.
Now there are several steaking techniques, one being ‘don’t move the steak while it’s sitting in the pan, 3 minutes on each side, don’t even breathe on it, only flip it once’. I employed that technique for years and it’s good enough.
Specifically: Throw your steak in a smoking hot pan and, depending on the thickness, 3 minutes on one side will usually work to the medium-rare effect for fillet, rib-eyes and rumps alike.
But a while ago I had an epiphany reading the chef Heston Blumenthal and his steak guidance.
A smoking hot pan is still essential, no question, but to ensure the meat is cooked evenly through even with thickish cuts, and even at cuisson bleu, you need to flip the meat EVERY 15 SECONDS*. I kid you not.
It’s stressful, and you need a timer (but don’t you anyway?) with visible seconds countdown, and to look at it constantly, and forget about checking potatoes while the steak is frying – but the result is astonishing. I now flip. And flip. And flip.
*if you can’t manage 15, try at least every 30 seconds