Grub n Pub

ID #5395

Cook Steak Perfectly over an Open Fire, Alan McIver, South Africa.

Cooking chicken, lamb chops or boerewors on a braai is a relatively simple matter. The fire does not need to be perfect, one can fiddle with the meat as much as you like without making it as tough as old boot leather and so on. But cooking steak -- that is an entirely different matter. Frankly I have been disappointed with my attempts to cook steak. It is only in the past few years that I have been able to cook something better than barely edible. You too can do it provided you are willing to adopt a disciplined approach to the subject. But let me warn you – you will be greeted with knowing smiles and seen to be slightly eccentric if you follow such rules. However don’t let that bother you -- such attitudes change immediately after the meal has been served.

I suggest that the following steps be closely observed:

•    Choice of Meat: Most importantly, choose a decent cut of meat with which to start. I prefer sirloin, rump or rib eye that is slightly marbled. Marbling makes the finished product juicier. Woolworths sells steaks that have been soaked in marinade for several weeks that are superb.
•    Thickness of Cut: Insist that the butcher supply you with steak that is at least 25mm thick. If thinner I cannot guarantee the results so just forgedaboudit.
•    Storage: Never take steak out of a freezer and place it directly onto the fire. If it is frozen, always allow it to thaw before placing it on the fire. If necessary, remove the steak from the freezer a day or two beforehand and allow it to thaw at temperatures above 0 degrees C in the fridge. Alternatively, remove the frozen steak from the freezer several hours before the braai and allow it to thaw at room temperature. Never try to thaw it in a microwave.
•    Utensils and ingredients: You will need a sharp carving knife, a wooden carving board, salt and pepper, green Jalapeno Tabasco, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, a fork used for carving, a serving plate and a wall clock with a second hand that is visible from a distance.
•    Salad: Make a simple uncomplicated salad containing several greens (lettuce, rocket and spinach if possible), cherry tomatoes sliced in half and a few slices of cucumber. Also a few slices of red peppers and onion for crunchiness and variety. Only the freshest ingredients will do. Keep the prepared ingredients cool in a fridge until a few minutes before serving. Do not add the olive oil, balsamic vinegar or seasonings (salt and pepper) beforehand.
•    Fire: Make a fire that is as hot as possible and do not scrimp on the charcoal, which is pennywise and pound foolish. Place the grate over the fire as close to the coals as possible and do not wait for the flames to die down. If you are using charcoal, make a pyramid of charcoal when lighting the fire and only open it up a few seconds before placing the meat on the grate.
•    Cooking: If the steaks are large, place one of them on the fire and make a mental note of the position of the second hand on the clock. Do not fiddle with the steaks once on the fire, even if flames appear to be burning the meat. You may rotate the steak but never turn it over. And never douse the flames with water. When the second hand reaches 4 minutes (and I mean 4 minutes exactly), turn the steak over. After another 4 minutes, remove the steak, place it on a cutting board and slice it into thin (10 mm thick) strips. Season with a little salt and pepper as well as green Tabasco to taste. If the steak is underdone, place it in a microwave for a few seconds (15-30 seconds at most).  After serving the first steak in this manner, repeat the process for subsequent steaks in order. If the first steak was a little underdone, you may consider increasing the cooking time on either side by up to 10 seconds but no more than that.
•    Serving: Place salad onto serving plates, season with salt and pepper to taste and add a little olive oil and vinegar. Place the strips of steak onto the plates without further ado and serve piping hot. Do not wait for the steak to rest as some would have you believe.

Then enjoy the juiciest, tastiest, most tender steak you have ever eaten, bar none.  Alternatively store it in a fridge to eat later at your leisure after heating it up in a microwave.  

You may notice that I have not included any carbohydrate with this meal. That is deliberate. It has recently been discovered that the more protein you eat, the less hungry you feel, the result being that you end up eating less.  So eat carbohydrates if you will but only after you have finished eating the steak and salad. In which case you will avoid the uncomfortable feeling that arises when you have eaten more than your fill.

Lastly, if unwilling (or unable because you are too plastered) to stick to the above rules, then either (a) go to a dentist and have your teeth sharpened to enable you to chew anything, including old boots and rubber tyres, or (b) ask for someone else’s advice on how to cook steak next time.  

Alan McIver, Doha, Qatar January 2013

PS here’s another useful tip: If you want to make the meal both memorable as well as delicious, delay serving it until your guests are so hungry they begin to chew the varnish off the furniture simply because the hungrier you are the better the food tastes.

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Last update: 2014-05-25 22:07
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.11

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