Following on from my mighty meaty dinner at Stratos last week, I mentioned in the post that the special guest of the night was Allan Morris, MD of John Stone Beef. And luckily for my carnivorous readers out there, I was able to have a chat with him and ask him what we’ve all always wanted to know about achieving the perfect cooked steak at home. So read on to find out what I was able to learn from his expertise…

First of all, I’d better give you a little intro into what John Stone beef’s all about, as I’m sure you’re wondering. So John Stone Beef is a company that supplies top quality, dry-aged, grass-fed beef to suppliers all around the world. The beef is raised and grazed in Ireland, where the cattle can happily munch on a diet of hearty and lush green Irish grass, all year round – which is exactly what gives the beef its delicious flavour. The emphasis is on the animals having as natural a lifestyle as possible and in using small, sustainable farms to provide the best cared for, most healthy animals that will result in the finest tasting meat…

Allan Morris

Allan Morris

And as for Allan Morris – he’s been in the industry for over 20 years having started as a classically trained butcher from a small shop in Dublin and is now the MD of John Stone beef, so it’s safe to say – he likes a good steak and certainly knows his stuff.

So now you know. And with that cleared up we can get onto the matter in hand… Allan’s top tips for the perfect steak:

  • Never put pepper on an uncooked steak! Feel free to season your meat after cooking (and tasting first), but not before. Putting pepper on a steak and then cooking it means the pepper will burn and result in a bitter-tasting steak.
  • Use a good quality, flat based pan. Not so heavy that it takes too long to heat the pan (especially if you’re using an induction hob), but not one that bends easily either. You need the ‘goldilocks’ of pans – one that’s juuuuust right 🙂 . Simply – just a good quality pan that will hold the heat.
  • Don’t use a griddle pan. It makes nice pretty lines on the steak but it doesn’t allow your meat to cook evenly.
  • Always get your meat out of the fridge a good 15 to 30 minutes before you intend to cook it to allow it to come to room temperature. Meat is a muscle – albeit no longer living – but a muscle all the same so if you put a cold steak into a hot pan, the result is still the same – the meat tenses and will result in a tough steak. Allowing the meat to adjust to room temperature first also means there won’t be any cold spots in the meat which would prevent the meat from cooking evenly.
  • Set your hob on a high heat and allow the pan to reach the heat before you start.
  • Don’t put your oil in the pan! Simply brush the steak on one side only with a little oil (any oil – vegetable oil will do. Also be aware if it’s a strong tasting oil such as some olive oils that this will impact the flavour of your meat), then place your steak into the hot pan, oil side down.
  • For a normal steak of average thickness, only turn it once. If your pan has the right high heat the meat will cook through and without burning. Most steaks probably only need three or four minutes each side.
  • When you turn your steak, place the other side directly in the same spot the other side was in previously as there will still be some residual oils and natural juices in this spot which will help cook the meat (don’t stick a fork or knife in to turn the steak, ideally use tongs or something that doesn’t perforate the meat).
  • Never cut into your meat to see if it’s cooked. If you’re unsure, buy a meat thermometer to test the temperature. A medium steak should be 55 – 60 degrees, a well-done steak 68 degrees. Allan also told me of all the thermometers he’s tried throughout the years, that Ikea have the best! Best value and does a great job too. Proof that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get the right kitchen kit.
  • When the steak is done, use your tongs to hold the meat and quickly sear the side, and do the same again on the side where the fat is.
  • Always rest your meat. Put it on a cooling tray or grill pan style rack so that it’s not just sitting in its own juices and cover it with foil, shiny side down. Allow to rest for the same amount of time that you have cooked it for.
  • Always warm your plates first, then add the warm steak to the warm plate.
  • Finally, taste your meat before you season it, then if the meat requires it, feel free to season with a little salt and pepper if necessary, leaving the natural flavour of the meat as king.
    Allan also recommended that Cornish smoked salt has a lovely flavour, or Malden smoked salt if you’re looking to add a little extra something.

I also spoke to Allan about common misconceptions when it comes to steak, and the big one is that people don’t like their steak on the rare side because they ‘don’t like to see blood’. He went on to tell me that blood in steak is a huge fallacy, that there’s no blood left in the meat as this is all removed when the meat is harvested. The juices are red, yes, because that’s the colour of the meat pigment – just as chicken juices run clear when cooked, steak juices have red pigment in them, but rest assured it is not blood.

Finally, we spoke about how to choose steak in a restaurant. I don’t know about you, but I never know which steak to choose when faced with an extensive steak menu in a restaurant that tells me very little about each different type. Allan’s top tips for choosing a steak from a menu were as follows:

  • Avoid the tenderloin – it’s an overrated cut of meat that chefs and people in the know never order. It’s lean and tender but therefore not very high on flavour and will be dry if overcooked.
  • Choose a sirloin for a tender but firm texture (but don’t have it well done!)
  • Choose a rib-eye for a slightly less firm texture. The meat has a good core fat which provides good flavour. Cooked medium rare is ideal.
  • Meat next to the bone is always much sweeter.
  • 200g is a good sized steak for anyone, providing more than enough meat.

John Stone beef is supplied to various hotels and restaurants across the UAE and globally, but you can find it online in the UAE from the Secrets Fine Food website along with many other gourmet treats.

And that’s all for now until we ‘meat’ again 🙂 .

Thanks again to Allan Morris for sharing all your top tips with me.