Cooking My First “Real” Steak
In today's world of Deliveroo, Just Eat, Uber Eats, and the increasingly absurd amount of services out there that promise to deliver a hot meal to you in minutes, being able to cook is becoming a rarer and rarer skill.
I don’t just mean slopping microwaved beans on some pallid toast or mixing tomatoes and mince with some overcooked pasta and calling it the shudder-inducing “spag bol”. I mean really getting hands-on with your food, putting care and effort into it, and creating something delicious that you can enjoy by yourself or with loved ones.
I'm no stranger to cooking. I can whip up a béchamel with the best of them and am usually the designated cooker of dinners in my house (I won't mention the embroidered chefs jacket in my wardrobe which was a gift I swear). Gordon Ramsay is by no means looking over his shoulder but I like to think I’m one of the better home cooks.
When I got my hands on my first “proper” steak though, that confidence took a temporary dip.
This is a Txuleta steak. It is produced by mature cows that have been reared in the northern regions of Spain. Grazing in the fields, these sometimes retired dairy cows are left to mature until the ripe old age of up to 18 years old. This produces a profoundly intense beef flavour.
If you’d like to learn more about the Txuleta, check out our other article that goes more in-depth here: https://www.thesteakshop.co.uk/post/the-greatest-steak-you-ve-never-heard-of
Now we’ve all cooked steak before. Usually the little cuts you can grab from the supermarket for under a fiver. You may even have ventured into a local butcher shop to secure something a bit more upmarket for a special occasion but this was the first time I could say that I’ve had a proper Flintstone-esque steak to try and wrangle.;
I thought the best way to approach this would be to employ the K.I.S.S principle or Keep It Simple, Stupid. I wanted to taste and experience the steak for what it was so minimalism was the name of the game.
Letting the steak come up to room temperature is an important step, if you try to cook from chilled then the outside will cook a lot quicker than the centre and it becomes a lot harder to control. After the steak was at room temp, I applied a liberal flaking of salt and a healthy crack of fresh black pepper would do just the trick.
The next step was to finally put meat to pan.
Using a customary cast iron pan, I let it get up to just about smoking temperature and added a little drizzle of oil. Gently lowering the steak into the pan produced a sizzling sound which I’m sure gave goosebumps to every steak lover within 5 miles.
In following with the K.I.S.S principle, I made sure that every possible flat portion of that side of steak was in the pan and then I left it well alone so It could produce that coveted brown sear.
After the first flip, I could see the sear was coming along beautifully and became emboldened with the success. Once the steak had been safely laid to rest in the pan and full contact was made, I added a few cubes of butter around the steak. The butter quickly melted in the high heat and, using a small teaspoon, I basted the mix of butter, oil, and flavour-filled steak juice back over the meat to ensure its succulence.
The Txuleta steaks usually come as quite thick cuts between 8-10cm so had to keep a close eye on it to make sure it was cooked perfectly and not overcooked, this meant a lot of watching, a lot of feeling, and more flipping than I’m used to. The whole process took about 15-20 minutes before I was happy enough with the firmness of the steak.
Of course, the only way to guarantee your steak is cooked perfectly is to use an internal heat probe but, if you’re a bit old school like me, you can generally tell how a steak looks on the inside by the feel of it. Once I felt the firmness I was looking for, it was time to start winding down the process.
Fat on a steak is where the flavour is, that is just a simple truth. The Txuleta features a prominent fat edge that requires special attention. I held the steak gently with tongs and allowed the fat to sear and render down in the pan until it formed the crunchy and carbonised texture that promised mind-meltingly smooth flavour.
One of the most important yet most often overlooked part of steak cooking is the resting phase. Imagine if you had just been thrown in a screaming hot pan, flipped, and basted? Id imagine you’d be pretty tense and its no different for the steak. The muscle fibres need a bit of time to relax and suck in those juices after going through the trauma of high temperature cooking. As a general rule of thumb, I try to rest steak for about 3 quarters of the time it took to cook so I left my Txuleta on the side for about 15 minutes to relax.
Don’t worry, this isn’t enough time for your steak to go cold. The thick meat is able to retain so much heat that the cooking process will actually continue somewhat as it is left on the side. If you like your steak to be medium well then it pays to be aware of this as medium well can quickly turn into well done without you even knowing.
It was finally time, the big reveal.
I had done everything properly (i thought). The steak was firm enough, the fat had been rendered beautifully, the sear was crispy, and the rest was long.
In this world, you can do everything right and still fail. It's one of the sad realities.
Fortunately, on this occasion, I didn’t fail.
It was even better than I could have imagined. Cooked a little on the rare side which was perfect for my taste and with a thick crust of flavour. The first mouthful was almost a divine experience as I tasted not only the quality Txuleta steak but it was almost as though I tasted the cow that produced it, its experiences, the happy life it had grazing in Spain, and the profound respect I had for that creature that had given itself for my consumption.
I let myself be taken by the intense flavours of the steak and the the crispy explosions of flavour that came with crunching into the rendered fat rind. Before I knew it, the experience was complete with every moment savoured. It's safe to say that I’m a firm Txuleta convert now and, while it is still slowly gaining its popularity in the UK, I am very much looking forward to seeing it on a lot more menus.
For now though, while we’re all at home, I’m pleased to say that cooking an incredible Txuleta is not as intimidating as it may appear and you can do it with a sprinkling of patience, a crack of control, and a basting of self-belief.