Monday, May 31, 2010

Cooking a well done steak Gordon Ramsay

I found this video on Youtube and thought it was interesting. A news crew went to Gordon Ramsay's Maze restaurant and filmed a well done steak that was "overdone and a bit burnt" and tasted like "rubber."

In other words, it sounds like just about every well done steak I've ever had.

I think the journalists were a bit obnoxious, and I have to side with Ramsay on this one. Either they have an axe to grind with Ramsay, or they're fishing for more ratings. In any event, a well done steak loses its flavour through cooking.

Typically, well done steaks will be slightly charred on the outside, especially if it's a thick steak that the longer cooking requires. An overcooked steak will be bitter. I'm not sure what rubber tastes like as unlike the reviewer, ever eaten it but I going to assume he's referring to the chewy texture.

However, the USDA minimum safe temperature for cuts of steak are 145F which is around Medium to Medium well done so a well done steak is not necessary for safety reasons. Red meat turns pink at around 140F as the myoglobin -- a protein that stores and carries oxygen to the muscle tissue -- starts to turn colour. It's also that runny red juice that people mistake for blood. It's actually the myoglobin that gives the meat its red colour.

Some tips for cooking steak:

  • Don't go by weight when cooking meat. Use the thickness as a measure instead. A one inch thick steak will cook on medium heat for 4 minutes a side for rare, 5-6 for medium and around 7 for well done.
  • Only turn steaks once especially if using a BBQ. If turned too early, the outer layer can stick to the grill and you want to get those great lines on the steak.
  • Meat is mostly water and they give it up through the cooking process. Let the meat rest for about 10 minutes so it can reabsorb the water and you'll end up with a more tender steak.
  • When taking temperatures, use the center of the meat away from the bone (the bone can heat up more than the meat and give an inaccurate temperature reading) and slowly pull out the thermometer reading the temperature the entire time. The lowest temperature will be the most accurate.
  • Ground meat should be cooked to 155F at least. There is greater danger for pathogens and fecal bacteria from the intestines in the butchering process with ground cuts of meat.
  • Chefs often fry their steaks in butter with a bit of olive oil and keep basting through the cooking process. Tilt the pan slightly towards you and with a soup spoon, keep pouring the butter over the top. This will result in a juicier steak even at medium.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Does 'searing' meat seal in the juices?

I know it's been a while, but I'm returning to the blog because I've started cooking again after a long contract. I dug out this old post I wrote two years ago and made some changes to it.

This is a somewhat old question now but I thought I would revisit it because there is still a great deal of confusion on the topic. I still see people doing this and for the wrong reason. It seems to depend on what one means by 'searing'. That does not mean preventing a complete net water loss from the meat tissue.

In fact, searing the meat results in a greater loss of water content from the muscle tissue than not searing the meat. As the meat is applied to a very hot surface, it browns the outer tissue and purportedly reduces the porousness of the muscle fibres, a belief that, according to Wikipedia, began with a food scientist and chemist Justus von Liebig in 1850.

The hard crusty outer layer of that is formed through a chemical process is often falsely believed to act as a barrier to prevent water from escaping during the cooking process.

Searing a piece of meat improves the flavour through a chemical process called The Maillard reaction. Unlike caramelisation in which sugars are oxidized, The Maillard reaction is a process where a carbon and oxygen group of a sugar reacts with an amino group from an amino acid which results in a browning effect and a flavour change. A good example is the toasting of bread or roasting of coffee.

It does improve the texture as the difference between a crusty exterior and a softer interior make for a more desirable palate experience. Quite often chefs will brown the exterior of the meat before broiling, frying or even boiling large roasts.

Sear the meat to improve the flavour, but a juicy cut of meat on the table starts with a fresh cut of meat from the local butcher.

For more information on the science of cooking, try On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee and Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor by Herve This.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010