November 1, 2017
Summer is almost here and the familiar smells of freshly cut grass, sunscreen on salty skin, and chargrilled meats wafting from backyards are already filling the air – which means it's time to put away the slow-cookers, get reacquainted with your local butcher, and start up the barbecue again!
While there's not much you can't cook on a barbecue – from vegetables, to salmon, even a roast chook or a side of lamb – there's something about a perfectly chargrilled piece of steak with a fresh salad and a glass of red that just says summer.
And while everyone has their own techniques, rituals and routines for barbecuing steak, if you're looking for perfection we've consulted some of the best butchers around the country, to get the low-down on how to cook the perfect steak – because if anyone knows a good steak it's a butcher.
It might sound obvious, but the most important part of cooking a perfect steak is to make sure you start with a good cut of meat in the first place.
We prefer to buy local meat at our farmer's market, or Angaston's own Schultz Butcher, but any good butcher should provide you with options for locally sourced, grass and/or grain fed beef depending on your taste and philosophy.
When you're buying your steaks, it's also important to ask the butcher to cut them to an even thickness. If meat is poorly butchered it may come in a ‘wedge' shape, which will impact how evenly it cooks. Also keep in mind that beef steaks, no matter the cut, should be at least 21mm thick.
Once you've brought your steaks home and are ready to cook, follow these few key steps to help you prepare the meat for barbecuing.
Take the steaks out of the fridge at least 10 minutes before cooking so you're not fighting against a low internal temperature, and start preparing the meat by patting it dry with paper towel.
While most recipes call for a simple salt and pepper seasoning, acclaimed Sydney butcher Anthony Puharich told GQ that he avoids using cracked pepper as it can “turn meat acrid”. Instead he advises to simply season the steak with sea salt flakes.
When it comes to oil, most butchers say that the best results come from putting the oil on the meat, rather than the barbecue, and to always make it Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
For the ultimate flavour and tenderness, heat the barbecue to a reasonably hot temperature, before the steaks are added to the grill or hotplate.
You'll know the temperature is right when the steaks sizzle as they make contact with the barbecue.
We'd also advise not to crowd the barbecue with too many steaks at one time, as this will reduce the heat of the grill or hot plate, causing the meat to stew in its juices and toughen up.
You've heard it all before but sometimes impatience gets the better of you and you just can't help yourself!
The jury is finally in and butchers all over Australia say that you should only turn your steaks once.
It's simple, the more you flip the steak, the tougher it will get – so back away from the barbecue and let the steak cook on one side until moisture begins to appear on the top of the steak, then turn it once, and once only.
Because there are so many variations with barbecue temperatures, trial and error with timing is the only foolproof way to learn how long you should cook your steak for.
For those who are looking for a quick fix, you can also try to teach yourself how to test your steaks by touch. Use either the back of your tongs or a clean fingertip and press the centre of the steak to test its buoyancy.
For rare steak, the meat should be soft when pressed, medium should be springy, and well-done should be quite firm.
It's tricky not to get stuck-in straight away, but a tried and true method is to always rest your steak after it comes off the barbecue.
This ensures it stays juicy and tender before it's served. To keep the heat in, the butchers at Vics Meat Market in Sydney advise placing the steak on a hot plate and loosely covering it with foil for 2 to 4 minutes before serving – allowing the perfect amount of time to open your bottle of red wine.
A perfectly cooked steak calls for the perfect accompaniment and when it's a warm summer's day or night, a simple salad with crisp lettuce, tomato, red onion and a squeeze of lemon is ideal.
The true pièce de résistance though, is a full-bodied Australian red wine blend with a good tannin structure – something to cut the fat and really make your meal.
While we're flush with delicious reds that would be ideal accompaniments for any steak, we think our Yalumba The Strapper Grenache Shiraz Mataro is the ideal quaffable red for an easy weeknight barbecue at home… but it also won't look out of place at a friend's barbecue on the weekend.
With bold Barossa Shiraz sandwiched between the understated and fragrant perfume of Grenache and the earthy rustic tannins of Mataro, it's a strapping savoury red blend, and the ideal accompaniment for any perfectly cooked steak this summer.