One of the best dishes going is Steak and chips. It is a treat we eat very occasionally, one of my favourites and something I am very passionate about. It breaks my heart to see people sawing away at meat, chewing to the point they wear their teeth down. Hearing comments about steak being tough or tasteless. It should never be that way. Sadly we buy steak (from the supermarket?) over and over again and put up with this. People don’t realise what we are missing out on. As part of my quest to only eat the best quality meats I decided to try to find out why good steak was so hard to find.
So what’s the difference? Well as far as I have gleaned there are two main issues;
- Not all beef is from cattle breed to produce quality meat. A lot of beef is a byproduct of the dairy industry (either young male dairy calves or culled ex service dairy cows), breeds that have been developed for high milk yields but not for their meat quality.
- As with a lot of modern farming the faster and bigger they can grow it the cheaper they can make it whilst keeping the profit. Farmers are under pressure to fatten cattle and get them to slaughter as quickly as possible. Meaning the cattle are taken off pasture, keep in barns, feed grain and slaughter before the meat is mature. As young as 9 mths but typically 12 mths (http://www.fwi.co.uk/livestock/slaughtering-beef-animals-at-12-months-is-most-profitable.htm)
The best meat comes from cattle that is a specific meat breed e.g. Angus, English Longhorn, Dexter, Sussex Red, has been naturally raised and slow grown. Pasture feed, ideally organic and allowed to mature at a natural rate. I understand this to be around 2+ years but I’ve eaten 8 yrs old beef and it was truly amazing.
The next element that is essential is how long the meat is hung for. Even good meat that is not well hung can loose quality. But hanging meat costs money, the meat loses weight as it drys, extra storage costs and time passes. It is ironic that the industry boasts ’21 days hung’ as a selling feature, when that is the industry standard and in my view inadequate. Look for 30+ days hung, you will notice the difference.
And finally the cooking. Cook an average piece of meat correctly and it might pass as a meal, cook a great piece of steak correctly and you make an exceptional meal. How to cook great steak – First I ensure the meat is at room temperature (take it out of the fridge hours in advance – make sure the dog can’t reach it!), then oil the meat and season with salt. Great the pan really hot, I used a cast iron skillet, then add the steak, (don’t over fill the pan otherwise you will loose temperature, get moisture and there is a risk of stewing the meat.) Let the meat do it’s thing and get well browned (known as sealing) before you turn it over. There is a great tick I use to determine how well cooked the meat is without cutting into it, especially important for thick steaks. On the same hand touch a finger to your thumb (just so the tips touch) don’t squeeze, just connect. The fat part of your thumb (even thin people have them) is the same consistency as the different types of cooked steak. First finger = rare, second = mid rare, third = medium, and forth = well. Gently press your thumb and then press the meat (with a knife or fork) you’ll see what I mean. I always cook meat a like less than I want it then take it off the heat and let if rest in the pan e.g. 10 mins. It will carry on cooking which is why I undercook it slightly. I slice the meat and serve in the middle to people to pick/fight over – crispy fries, creamed spinach, mushrooms, onions, salad (if you want green), horseradish or creamy Bernaise – Yummy!
So I know you are all desperate to talk about cost. It sounds so expensive, how can organic meat raised for 2+yrs, hung for 5 weeks be affordable. Why here’s is the great news, because it is a great steak you don’t need sirloin or fillet, you can go for rump, skirt, feather steak it is all good. Also there is no waste as there is not gristle to cut off. We go for rump every time as it is better than any shop bought fillet, sirloin, ribeye I have tested. We buy directly from the farmer which also means we get maximum value. Also with reduced meat consumption the concept is you buy less but better quality meat. See https://www.longhornbeef.co.uk/our-beef as an example, the meat is the same price as supermarket finest meat, but this really is the finest!