The Beginners Guide to the ‘Perfect Steak’

There’s no doubt that walking through the Market on a Saturday or Sunday as the traders are winding up for the day can create a certain degree of excitement, especially when the butchers and fishmongers are touting their last-minute bargains.

I’m being generous and tongue-in-cheek when I use the word ‘touting’ though… shouting (and sometimes close to screaming) would be a more appropriate context.

Nevertheless, if you’re strong of will and your ears can bear it, there are indeed some hefty discounts to be had on that particular tray of scotch fillet you’ve had your eye on, maybe some sausages or a whole Snapper ready to barbecue that evening.

If you’re anything like me and like to take your time in slowly pondering and perusing the Meat and Seafood Hall in search of the best quality produce, the Queen Vic is definitely the place to do it.

In this edition of the BBQ Workshop monthly blog, I’ll be turning my attention to beef. Not just any old cuts of beef though, I’m only interested in the perfect cuts for grilling and magnificent joints for roasting.

So, let’s start with grilling on the barbecue.

It all comes down to a matter of preference obviously but I cannot go past a grass-fed (and finished) rib eye steak. We’re talking on-the-bone and 600-700g of beefy excellence. Dry aged? Even better!

Why grass-fed and dry aged you ask? Because the cattle are out in the fresh air munching on grass (just as they should be) and in combination with the dry aging process, the meat is strong in taste and mouth-meltingly tender.

As this is a beginners guide and while there are other beef cuts suitable for grilling, I’ll keep it simple and recommend only two other steaks that I feel rate a mention. First off the blocks is the humble porterhouse. Cooked on a scorching cast iron grill to medium-rare and served with a squeeze of lemon and perhaps a homemade peppercorn sauce along with mashed potatoes or salad, this is a dish that’s hard to beat.

Second in line but just as tasty is the often overlooked, good old-fashioned T-bone. Cut from just behind the rib eye towards the rear of the beast, I like to source good thick cuts of this steak and treat in the same way as I do with the rib eye. A strong dry rub constructed of fresh rosemary, ground black pepper, smoked salt and a hint of chilli will hit the spot every time. Just don’t forget the mandatory squeeze of lemon; it’s what brings out the true taste of beef every time.

 

Perfect Steak 1

 

Photo Credit: Andrew Richardson

Grilled Rib Eye (otherwise known as the ‘perfect steak’)

Serves 1-2.

Ingredients:
• 600-700g dry-aged grass-fed rib eye steak
• 1 lemon
• 30g Gewurzhaus Smoked Yakima Applewood Salt
• 1 tbs whole black pepper
• 2 -3 tbs fresh rosemary
• Sprinkle of dried chilli flakes
• Extra Virgin olive oil

Method:
Firstly ensure the rib eye has reached near room temperature before throwing on the grill. Depending on the weather, a steak of this weight can comfortably rest for around 2 hours outside of refrigeration before cooking. Place the meat on a wire rack (over a plate), making sure it’s protected from flies while out of the fridge, using netting or a loose covering of foil. I’ve chosen this particular salt as it adds a subtle level of smokiness to the rib eye, which is heightened with the squeeze of lemon applied just before serving.

For the rub:
Combine the salt, pepper, rosemary and chilli flakes in a mortar & pestle. Pound to a rough powder and set aside.
1. Pre-heat grill to approximately 250 degrees C.
2. Brush the steak with good quality EV olive oil and cover the entire surface with the rub from the mortar & pestle. Place steak on grill and cook for 7-8 minutes per side, depending on how rare you prefer your steaks.
3. If using a digital meat thermometer, the internal temperature should reach between 45-50 degrees C.
4. Remove from grill and rest under foil for about 6 minutes
5. Once rested, be generous with a squeeze of lemon and serve with a green salad.

 

Okay, let’s move on to roasting.

Be it poultry, red meats, fish or game, folk look forward to the traditional roast in the same way we anxiously await the Saturday game of footy.

So many cuts and joints to choose from, whether it be the whole beast or part thereof, slow roasting over charcoal or in the oven surrounded by vegetables is highly valued in our vast food culture.

Once again, when we’re talking beef, an on-the-bone standing rib eye roast reigns supreme in my humble opinion. Exactly the same rules apply in choosing the meat; it must be grass-fed and finished, preferably dry aged and ethically raised. Butchers are generally very happy to talk about where they’ve sourced their animals from so don’t be shy when it comes to asking questions.

Other succulent notables in the wide world of roasting include the sirloin (cut from the middle) and the rump (cut from the hindquarter).

There is a huge variety of dry rubs and marinades that will suit roasting purposes, I’ve been known to add freshly ground Brazilian blends of coffee into my dry rubs as it compliments beef beautifully, but that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. (Ha! Shocking pun)
For the recipe testing purposes, I’ve chosen to go with one of the herb and spice blends produced by Gewurzhaus, who are situated in the Dairy Hall of the Queen Vic Market. Once you’ve purchased your cut of beef for grilling or roasting, it’s definitely worth the effort to make the 1 minute walk to their shop as their staff are very knowledgeable when it comes to all things cooking.

 

Perfect Steak 2

Photo Credit: Sharne Perrett

Standing Rib Eye Roast

Serves approximately 12 hungry people.

Ingredients:
• One 6-point standing rib eye rack (ask your butcher to remove the chine bone and keep the fat cap intact.
• 2-3 lemons.
• Extra Virgin olive oil
• Gewurzhaus French Lavender Salt
• Gewurzhaus Goddess of Hunting

Method:
1. Pre-heat barbecue to blistering (approximately 250 degrees C).
2. If using the recommended kettle style charcoal/briquette fueled barbecue, place a large foil tray on the bottom rack (in between the burning fuel) and fill to half with water. When ready to cook, the meat will sit on the top stainless steel rack directly above the water tray.
3. Using the same technique applied to pork, score with a clean sharp blade, then rub olive oil and the French Lavender Salt into the fat cap. This method allows the outside to form a crispy crust and the fat to render through the meat while it’s on its slow roasting journey.
4. Rub olive oil all over the meat of the rack excluding the already salted skin.

Apply the Goddess of Hunting blend to the meat, covering as much of the surface as possible. The applied olive oil will help it stick nicely.
Note: Although this particular blend would traditionally be used with game meats, it adds a whole new flavour profile to the beef, especially when combined with the French Lavender Salt that’s been massaged into the fat cap on the outside.

5. Once all the fuel is fully lit and burning, place meat on the top rack of the barbecue, directly above the tray of water.
6. Use a reliable digital meat thermometer to test cooking temperature along the way. The beef is ready to be removed when the temp reads anywhere between 45-50 degrees C.
7. Place the meat on a wire rack preferably in or on top of a baking tray, cover loosely with aluminium foil and rest for approximately half the cooking time.
8. Once again, a liberal squeeze of lemon is the order of the day.

A final note on charcoal/briquette fueled barbecues. Kettle style barbecues (Weber are my brand of choice) are designed to circulate the heat around the food so by completely opening up the top and bottom vents during the cooking process, this in turn creates very high temperatures that will crisp up the fat cap beautifully in the first 15-20 minutes. At the same time the water filled tray steams the meat and prevents it from burning or drying out. After that initial blast of heat, the natural decrease in temperature as the barbecue stabilises allows the perfect conditions for slow roasting. Try to avoid lifting the lid to peek at your masterpiece for the first hour or so if you can help it as continued blasts of cooler air can affect the end result.

 

To wrap up, please join Andrew Richardson from BBQ Workshop and Karma Rennie from Queen Vic Market on Friday at 7pm and Sunday at 4pm as they demonstrate grilling of the ‘Perfect Steak’ in all its glory during the Queen Vic River Trail Market (link).

This Melbourne Food and Wine Festival event will be held at Arts Centre Melbourne Forecourt on March 4th – 6th and is completely free!