We all know and love the familiar tastes and flavours of your favourite steak house. From walking in through the doors, being shown to your table, and having that amazing cut of perfectly cooked meat placed down in front of you. The experience of eating in a great steakhouse is an experience that’s hard to match.
How do they cook that steak so perfectly? How is their seat so even and crispy? There are a few tips and tricks that the home gamer probably won’t be privy to that restaurants use to make their food, not just steak, taste incredible and why it’s so hard to match that flavour when you’re back at home.
The first thing to point out is how fundamentally different a professional kitchen is to your home kitchen. A professional cook in a well-equipped kitchen will have access to equipment that the homer gamer may not.
I’m not suggesting they have a “Steak Maker 5000” tucked next to the walk-in but they’ll have industrial-grade gas hobs that can reach higher pan temperatures, professional convection ovens that give the perfect reverse sear, they may even have a sous vide that can be used for the extra special cuts.
Couple this advanced kit with years of cooking experience and you can see why restaurant-quality steak demands the price it does.
This is all fine and well. Of course a professional cook in a professional kitchen is going to make a better steak than someone who works a 9-5 and fancies a steak dinner on a Friday night, nobody would really begin to question this. However, we’re here to discuss the tips and tricks that you CAN use to get that restaurant edge to your steak.
Let's consider the “trifecta of flavour”, the building blocks of any dish that you want to tantalise your taste buds with. These 3 staples are the foundations of your flavour and accurately balancing them is absolutely critical. I'm talking about salt, acid, and fat of course. We’ve talked about the importance of salt in previous articles but the reverence of this ingredient is only magnified in a restaurants engine room.
If you were to take a peek into a professional kitchen I’m sure you’d see a lot of fantastic things and plenty of excitement. What you may be a shade more surprised to see though is just how much of the flaky white stuff is being used to prepare your dinner. You’re probably used to a light dusting of salt as your cooking is coming to its climax, a sprinkle to finish off the steak and veg once they’re on the plate is perfectly normal in home cooking.
When you shift the focus to professional cooking though, it’s rare to have even any ingredient make it to the kitchen pass without a couple of aggressive showerings of salt.
This is because any professional cook worth their salt…know the importance of salt in building up flavours in not just steak but almost everything from a hearty stock to a gently seared scallop. In the land of the cook, salt really is king.
In the courts of flavour, if salt is our king then fat would be our regal queen right alongside. You will most likely already have a good amount of fat in your steak in the form of marbling or the fat rind itself. A professional cook would be able to expertly render these fats to produce the most amazing flavours but what can be done to boost our flavour profile even more? How about another great big dollop of fat in the pan, usually in the form of butter.
Another thing that may shock you about professional cooking is how much butter is used. From glazing the veggies to basting the steaks, butter is absolutely everywhere, there is almost no escaping it. You would probably be used to throwing a small cube of butter into the pan while you’re cooking but chefs can’t seem to get enough of the stuff and would think nothing of using almost half a block in a pan as an intense flavour booster and ideal steak baster.
Perhaps not ideal if you’re watching your waistline but, if you’re out for an amazing eating experience, you’re going to encounter a good amount of creamy indulgent butter.
Lastly, one of the most important yet most overlooked factors is the presentation. Now before you start with the comments, just hear me out. You must have heard of the expression “you eat with your eyes first”? It’s entirely true and is a critical part of the restaurant experience.
There's a reason why world-class chefs are paid world class salaries to stand at the pass with a pair of tweezers, perfectly arranging dishes before they go out (Disclaimer: We are fully aware that overseeing and finishing dishes is but a small part of an actual chefs day but its critically important nevertheless).
Before you slap your steak onto a bare plate, just take a moment to add a little garnish, perhaps arrange your sides a little neater than just dolloping your veg on the side. This extra step in preparation goes a long way to the enjoyment of the meal and will definitely make a difference to the taste.
So there are a few tips and tricks you can do to make your at-home steak more like a restaurant but, let's face it, unless you’ve got the years of experience, extensive equipment, and the backup of a full team, you’re really going to struggle to recreate that authentic steakhouse taste.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. If anything it just makes your restaurant dinner nights that much more special. Not to mention the lack of dishes to wash up after.