There are as many different cuts of steak as there are bottles of wine in a well-stocked cellar. Likewise, some cuts are perfect for everyday eating without breaking the bank while other cuts are more geared toward a sophisticated evening where the steak plays first chair in an orchestra of flavour. Much in the same way as there will be a few bottles of the house red alongside the dusty and patina’d vintage.
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to make the house red taste like a back of the cellar special but what about the steak? Thankfully, there is plenty you can do to help your everyday steak develop the flavour of a much higher graded (and priced) premium cut.
Call for some backup
Unless you’re going to be sat at the table with a plain china plate and your hunk of meat slapped on top then a surefire way to raise the profile of your entire meal is to put some real care and attention into your side dishes.
Imagine your steak as the star striker of Wednesday Dinner FC. Your lone staple can’t be expected to make blistering runs and bring the title home all by itself, it will need the help of the entire time.
DIY steak fries are a quick and easy side dish that can be customised to suit every taste from adding a tangy garlic butter to going all out with a bacon and cheese topping. Continuing the potato theme is your trusty midfielder the humble mashed potato. With the addition of some all-star gravy (bonus points for making the gravy from the steak remnants), you can quickly turn steak on a plate into a tasty and substantial meal.
If you’re not a fan of spuds then not all is lost. Take that steak filled pan you’ve already got on the go and throw in a veggie medley to produce a steak flavour infused side dish that will not only satisfy your appetite but also make your midweek indulgence a little less guilty.
Sail in the gravy boat
It’s true that a gravy bursting with flavour can elevate a dish from the mortal realms up into the stratosphere but that’s not the only liquid-based booster that you can bring to the show.
If time is on your side and you can predict with reasonable certainty which day you will enjoy your cut of beef, you can take advantage of the magic that is marinade.
You can make simple steak marinades from just some good quality oil and a handful of spices to bring out the steaks natural taste profile to going all out and completely changing its taste with a more in-depth marinade. The choice is entirely yours.
The benefit of this technique is you can throw everything together in a bag and leave it in the fridge the night before your meal. While you’re beavering away at work, your steak will be at home sucking up all of the new delicious flavours.
In fact, this technique not only acts as a way to highlight or redefine the way your steak tastes but the process of allowing the meat to absorb these liquids over a prolonged period of time will also gently tenderise your steak and produce a smoother texture and juicier cut.
If your diary is in order, a marinade is probably the best way to go for making a cheap cut taste like anything but.
Sort it with Salt
If you’re reading this article then it's a fair assumption to say that you’re a fan of steak and, if you’re a steak fan, it’ll be even fairer to say that you’re well accustomed to bringing Sodium Chloride to your steak dinners but, what you might not be aware of, is the effect that salt can have on a steak if used in the right conditions.
Salt is one of the most abundant minerals on earth and, as a fun fact, is the only rock that humans can digest so that’s reason enough to use it to the maximum right?
As a natural tenderiser of meat, salt is really hard to beat. It’s chemical buildup allow it to attack and break down the tough meat fibres that give your cheap cut of meat the texture and bite of old boot leather.
How to unlock your salts potential for the amalgamation of your steak and a whole world of flavour is to defy your inner reasoning and really go overboard with the white stuff. One of the easiest ways to do this is to cover a large tray or a plate with salt, pop your steak on top, then continue to pour the salt all over your steak.
It may sound crazy and may feel like you’re ruining your dinner but bear with me. You need to make sure that every millimetre of meat is completely covered with crunchy, flaky salt. Once the steak completely disappears behind the salt screen you must leave it alone for at least an hour and let the salt work its magic. Side note: If you have an exceptionally thick steak of two and a half inches or more then it may require up to three hours of salting.
Once your steaks time in “air brine” is complete. Retrieve it from the mound of salt and thoroughly rinse it under a tap, the salt has done its job so be sure to thank it when it disappears down the drain.
This simple act of air brining your steak will produce an extremely noticeable difference in the texture and taste of your steak. If you take even one tip away from this article then make it this one.
While there are certain things you can do to make cheap cuts of meat taste a lot better, you’re never really going to get the same experience as eating a premium steak so it's important to weigh up your willingness to put in the extra work with a cheaper cut or perhaps its worth paying the extra few pounds and getting a finer cut to start with?
Both options have their merits and drawbacks but, with the help of this article, your dinner can still give you that satisfying steak-eating experience whether it's from the top or bottom shelf.