Saturday, July 02, 2005

Recipe: Pan-Roasted Steak

Everyone who's anyone has a steak recipe. In fact, probably not just one, but a few to suit the occasion, so I feel like I'm missing out or something. Besides, I'm running kind of low on recipes to fill up the 'Main Dishes' section.

Now, a steak is something quite remarkable. It's not just a slab of meat - that's what a steak starts out as. It needs to be treated with love and care before it turns into something magical. There is something tremendously visceral about biting into a chunk of beef, knowing that millenia ago, someone very much like you, though with more hair and less intelligence, was doing exactly the same thing.

Now steak can be done in many different ways; it can be grilled, pan-fried, braised, etc. I'm partial to pan-roasting, which is searing it on the stove just to give it a nice crust, and then chucking it into the oven to let it finish cooking there. I find this tends to make for a juicier steak, as very little moisture escapes during cooking. It also allows you to cook many steaks at the same time, rather than having to serve them one at a time for want of cooking space. The drawback, though, is that not much flavour is developed, so you have to make up for it with herbs and spices.

Pardon the disorganisation, but I was in a bit of a rush, as my friends were due and there was much left to do.

Basically I marinated the steaks with red wine, worcestershire sauce, garlic, thyme and cummin seeds overnight. If you ever use cummin, remember that it is an extremely strong spice, so use sparingly. And remember to turn your steaks some point during the marinating process (marination?)

Marinated steak

There is no mise en place because, firstly, I didn't have time, and secondly, the marinade can be anything you want. Well, almost anything, obviously arsenic doesn't count.


Of course you don't throw away your marinade - you pour it into a sauce pan to reduce, reuse and recycle it as part of the accompanying steak sauce! Don't reduce it by too much, as long as it's reduced by half or a quarter, that's more than sufficient.

Drying the Steaks

I've been told that you should always dry your meat after marinating it, otherwise, you'd merely be steaming it rather than searing it. And there's nothing more insulting to meat than being steamed. It needs to be treated with love and care, remember?


After which, commence sizzling! Make sure the pan is nice and hot, and the steak nice and dry, then proceed to sear the life out of it on one side. Typically this takes my stove about 30 - 45 seconds or so. Different stoves and different pans may heat up faster or slower, so experiment.


Once one side is done, flip the steaks over. Ideally they should be very slightly charred, but since my stove isn't all that hot, I'd rather it not be charred than risk overcooking the steaks. Love and care!

The second side should take roughly the same amount of time, or perhaps even a little less as the pan is a lot hotter now.


After you've finished searing the steak on all sides (even the edges, if you can manage it), chuck it in a preheated oven to cook to medium or medium-rare. Anything else is a travesty that should not be allowed. My steaks take about 6 minutes in a 180ºC oven to reach medium-rare. The problem with cooking by time is that it's very imprecise - the timing could change depending on whether you marinate the steaks, how large your steaks are, whether you took a shower the day before, all kinds of things. If you have a handy-dandy meat thermometer, that'll tell you what temperature the meat should be, and if you don't, tough luck.

While the meat is roasting, deglaze the pan you used to sear the steaks with your reduced marinade, stirring up all the good bits. Steak goes well with carrots and potatoes, so I pre-cooked a few and chopped them up into bite-sized chunks, cooking them together with the sauce to warm them up.

Finished Steak

Once your steaks are cooked, take them out of the oven and place them on plates, dividing up the carrots and potatoes and spooning the sauce over. It is exceedingly important to let your steaks rest for a minute or two on the plates, as this helps redistribute the internal juices to make them tender and succulent.

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