With Valentine’s Day around the corner and thoughts turning to the most romantic dinner of the year, it might sound a cliché to cook steak – but let’s face it, nothing else quite hits the spot!
A hearty steak that’s tender, juicy and delicious pulls at the heart strings, especially when it’s accompanied by a good bottle of wine, a crisp salad bursting with flavour and some naughty pomme frites. 70% of top page results for “Valentine’s Day Recipes” on Google suggest cooking a steak. It helps that it’s naturally rich in nutrients, providing protein, iron, zinc and vitamin B. Steak is also regarded as an aphrodisiac, boosting the level of reward hormone dopamine and norepinephrine, which in turn increases heart rate. You can introduce a simple side dish of asparagus and grated parmesan to take the sex appeal up a notch further.
Cooking the perfect steak is easy when you know how, especially with a Thermapen to hand. The Thermapen digital thermometer featuring a reduced tip probe for easy measurement simply needs to be inserted into the thickest part of your steak. In just three seconds you will have an accurate internal temperature. For example, if you like your steak rare, then its internal temperature should be 52°C. For medium rare, it’s 56°C and for well-done it’s 71°C. This means no under-cooking or over-cooking to spoil the occasion!
With a Thermapen you’re taking the guesswork out of cooking a steak, so it’s perfect every time. Remember, steak continues to cook whilst resting, so temperature accuracy is really important.
Choosing the perfect steak
Rump, sirloin and rib eye are the three most popular cuts of steak, and each one is delicious. Sirloin is an excellent choice due to its tasty, melt-in-the-mouth succulence. Good sirloin has the perfect amount of fat and marbling. Rump steak is slightly cheaper, but remains a great steak for frying or griddling. Rib-eye is a favourite for those looking for an especially large, fatty and tender cut.
Good beef should be a deep red colour with some marbling. The marbling melts when heated, helping the steak to baste itself from within as it cooks. The age of the steak is important as the hanging process develops the flavour and tenderises the meat, so it’s worth asking how long the beef has been hung for if you’re buying from a butcher. As a rule, 21 days as a minimum and 35 days as a maximum is a good range to go for.
Marinating steak is a matter of preference, although most chefs would say that all a good steak needs is a little olive oil, salt and pepper. If you prefer a more Mediterranean vibe, then you can marinade your steak for a few hours in olive oil, garlic, oregano and a splash of red wine. This works especially well with rump steak, which tends to be a slightly chewier cut.
Take your steak out of the fridge for an hour before cooking and let it come to room temperature.
1. Heat the griddle or frying pan over a high heat, until smoking hot.
2. Lightly brush the steak with olive oil and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
3. Don’t griddle more than two steaks at a time and keep them well apart in the pan. If you attempt to cook more than two steaks at once, the temperature will drop and the steak will stew rather than fry.
4. Don’t turn the steaks until sear marks are achieved. Once seared, turn the steaks over and cook the other side.
5. Take the pan off the heat. Using a Thermapen test the temperature by inserting the probe into the thickest point. If you like your steak rare, then the temperature should read 52°C, for Medium Rare, it should read 56°C and for well-done it’s 71°C.
6. Leave the steak to rest for a third of the cooking time before serving. This will allow the juices that have drawn to the surface to relax back into the meat.
For a super simple romantic meal, a steak with a crunchy salad and a stick of fresh bread served with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar couldn’t be easier. To go the extra mile, you can always try this peppercorn sauce suggestion from the Edinburgh New Town Cookery School:
This is a simple sauce to serve with steak. A mix of black, green and pink peppercorns is nice to use. If you are frying the steak, either prepare the sauce in advance and then once the steaks are ready pour off any fat from the pan and pour the peppercorn sauce into the frying pan to release any meat juices. Alternatively, wrap the steaks up in foil to rest and make the sauce in the frying pan with the meat juices.
To complete this sauce, which serves 2, you will need:
1 tablespoon mixed peppercorns, 30g butter, ½ shallot, finely chopped, 1 tblsp brandy, 50ml white wine, 50ml beef stock, 3 tblsp double cream, salt to taste.
- Crush the peppercorns slightly using either a rolling pin or a mortar and pestle if you have one.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the shallots. Cook gently until soft but not brown. Add the brandy and wine and bring to the boil and reduce by half. Add beef stock and peppercorns and boil again to reduce until approximately 50mls (3 – 4 tblsp) of sauce remains.
- Add the cream and bring back to the boil. Simmer for about 1 minute or until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Season with salt and serve with some grilled or fried tomatoes.