The Greatest Steak You’ve Never Heard Of
There is a long-held belief in the UK that the best steak you could get would come from honest to goodness grass-fed, young, British cows and this was reflected in the way the steak flooded the market.
You may have tested the water with some US steak, perhaps grain-fed for a slightly different flavour profile. Your numbers may even have come in and you splurged on a chunk of Wagyu to impress the in-laws.
These steaks are all fine and well, they’re tasty enough to make a good meal and readily available enough to be slung in your basket along with a pint of milk and a cut loaf.
However, the old ways may not be the best ways.
If you’re reading this blog then it would be safe to say that you know your meat. Somewhat of a steak aficionado? You may know your filet from your flank, your chuck from your cheek, and you have the Wagyu grades memorised like your first times tables.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. There is another steak out there that may just have the rest of the herd beat.
It’s called Txuleta (pronounced choo-letah) and it’s taking the British steak scene by storm. It’s started to appear on the menus of many fine steak houses up and down the country however it still remains relatively obscure to most people outside of the most dedicated beef lover.
What is Txuleta and what makes it so good? The biggest and most stark difference between the Txuleta and your current favourite cut of young steak is age.
Now I don’t mean that this steak has been dry-aged or cured for years, what I mean is that the cows these steaks come from have enjoyed long years of grazing in the Basque region of northern Spain.
The Basque region is renowned for its beef and food plays a huge part in the local culture. In fact, there are more Michelin starred restaurants concentrated in this part of the world than in any other so you can trust them to produce some truly top-quality beef. In times gone by the Txuleta beef would have been traded with local cider producers earning it the colloquial nickname of “cider house steak”.
They say that wisdom comes with age and that may be true but, in the case of the Txuleta, age also brings the most astounding flavour. The cows that produce this magnificent steak are aged between 8 to 14 years old which may not sound like a lot but, in the world of steak, that is quite the ripe old age. To put that in perspective, the USDA will flat out refuse to give top “prime” certification to any steak that is more than 30 months old and, thanks to outdated BSE regulations, most farms on this side of the pond will slaughter before 30 months as well.
Some of the cows that produce Txuleta are retired dairy cows that are flown in from Poland or Germany to graze the pastures and fatten up in their twilight years until they become Txuleta ready or they may even be from the Galician Blond breed that is specifically reared into strong and muscular animals that produce the most incredible cuts of meat and can be slaughtered as late in life as 18 years old.
Before you run for the hills at the thought of “old” steak just bare with me, I was in the same boat, with thoughts of old and stringy beef from a cow at deaths door filled my mind before I’d even tasted it.
The Txuleta is a steak to behold. Its fat is tinged with a distinctive aged yellow, the meat is a dark almost maroon colour with even marbling that gives it a pronounced and unmistakable flavour that will satisfy the palette of the most demanding steak sommelier. The difference in flavour between your Txuleta cut and the steak sitting in your fridge now is like the difference between lamb and mutton or perhaps the difference between Heinz ketchup and the “red sauce” down the local burger van.
What must be noted though is that eating a steak is a profoundly personal experience with tastes varying from flavour to flavour, from cut to cut, and from “doneness” to “doneness”. Txuleta produces an intense beef flavour and texture that refuses to be ignored and varies drastically from the buttery textures and smooth flavours of a younger steak. So much so that it may not be to everybody’s taste but any steak fan worth their flaked salt would be remiss to pass on trying the Txuleta.
When you get a piece of this special cut in your hand you can quickly see that this is no ordinary piece of meat. This is something to be revered and respected. Even cooking the Txuleta demands an extra level of special care and attention.
The key to cooking the Txuleta is the same as the key to its great taste. Time.
Forgot everything you’ve been told about cooking steak. Forgo the screaming hot pan and settle in for a longer, cooler, more pleasurable, and infinitely more rewarding cooking experience.
The steaks will usually come in 8cm - 10cm thick cuts and will require a patient 8 to 10 minutes of searing on both sides with some light seasoning of salt and pepper (however nobody would hold it against you if you threw in a bit of butter and thyme).
Special care and attention should be paid to the fat as rendering this down and achieving the crunchy carbonised is a critical part of the cooking process.
The purists out there will insist that Txuleta should only be cooked the traditional way over a charcoal fire and with minimal accoutrements such ass a simple tomato salad or some spring onions, charred in the same fire. Some high-end establishments even taking it a step further by cooking their Txuleta over a mix of hardwood charcoal and grapevines.
But for those of us without the vineyard in the back garden, it is still possible to get a fantastic result by simply exercising a little bit of patience and paying this steak the respect it deserves. You will be well rewarded for going the extra mile on this one and you may find yourself becoming a total convert when you taste the almost startlingly beefy beef.
If you’re looking for something different, something that will take your taste buds on a supercar Sunday, something you can wax poetically about to your mates down the pub, then you need to get on the Txuleta bandwagon.
In closing, Txuleta is an age-old steak that has been appreciated for generations yet finds itself in the interesting position of being the new kid on the block in British markets and restaurants. It is a fantastic opportunity for steak fans to try some of the best and most flavourful meat that Europe has to offer and all without breaking the bank with Txuleta still being surprisingly affordable compared to more “famous” types of beef that some converts would even call inferior.
This steak blog is produced, read by, and enjoyed by people who love steak. People who have a deep respect for the animals our favourite food comes from and are eager to thrill our palettes with new and exciting flavours. In an age where cattle farming for beef is becoming industrialised, could a steak bursting with flavour and produced by a cow that has led a long and happy life be a welcome breath of fresh air? I am certainly a newly converted Txuleta fanatic and I’m sure you will be too.
All you have to do is give it a try.