Cooking a Fat Steak at Home


There is the most transcendent joy in eating a beautifully cooked steak at home. Simply cooked, with a crusty charred outside and juicy pink inside. The added satisfaction that it’s cost one quarter what you’d pay in a high-end steakhouse. All you need is good beef to begin with and the rest is obvious isn’t it? Well no, at least I don’t think so because if it was then everyone would be eating top quality steak at home regularly and I don’t think they are. Not nearly as regularly as they should be. So here’s a guide to cooking and eating the best steak possible at home.

The Beef
When I talk about steak I mean a fat steak at least 4cm thick. A forerib on the bone (the French would call a Cote de Boeuf), a wing rib, sirloin on the bone or a T-bone steak. The T-bone (or Porterhouse) steak is the one made famous by New York steakhouses such as Peter Luger where a steak for 2 can cost up to $100. It’s supposedly the best steak in NY and by extension the world, or at least that’s what NYers would like you to think. Peter Luger has first choice of the USDA Prime beef that comes into the city so eating there is truly a pinnacle of steak eating experiences. The steak there is wonderful; soft, juicy and buttery unlike anything us Brits can produce. But there is a deep dogma in the USDA grading system that means beef is graded purely by the amount of fat marbling apparent in the meat (like in Japan). This has led to decades of breeding animals that react better to the hormones fed to fatten them and to the copious amounts of grain used to finish the cattle in the weeks prior to slaughter. This consistently gives fatty marbled meat that is so visually appealing and tender but has ultimately led to the most important aspect being overlooked, beefy flavour.

In the UK we’re unbeholden to grading systems and rely on our senses to judge whether a cut of beef is top quality. I have my favourite cuts of meats; forerib and T-bone. What I look for is properly dry-aged meat at least 4 weeks. The dry-ageing not only improves the flavour of the meat but tenderises too. To my mind it makes all the difference. Good marbling is nice but not as important as breeding and feeding. What do I mean by that? Well take a look at the 6 week dry-aged grass-fed forerib of Dexter beef in these photos. It just screams BEEFY! You will never find this in a supermarket or ordinary high street butcher, that is why specialists like Berkswell Traditional Farmstead Meats and Aubrey Allen are so important.

The Cooking
Everyone knows how to cook steak, right? Put it on bbq and let the flames lick it till it’s done. Or stick it in a screaming hot pan to sear the outside and leave the inside pink. Well you could do that with a thin steak but with a really thick one you might get dodgy results. The outside might be too burnt before the inside is perfectly medium rare or you overcompensate and cook it too slowly and get a grey overdone steak. My favourite way of cooking a steak indoors is the Ducasse method. Which has never failed to produce a great crusty steak with the perfect pink centre. I even prefer it to chargrilling which sounds crazy because surely there’s nothing better than the chargrilled taste of beef fat atomising onto hot coals then permeating back into the meat? Let me explain the method to you then, named after legendary French chef Alain Ducasse:
– Cook your steak on low to medium heat in clarified butter on one side for ten minutes.
– Flip and cook it on the other side for another ten minutes. All while basting with the clarified butter.
– Let it rest for another 10 minutes before carving into thick slices. Dress the meat with the beefy butter left in the pan. That’s it!


It feels counter-intuitive cooking a steak for so long but provided it’s thick enough you will get the most awesome buttery crust that’s packed with umami-rich Maillard compounds. Let’s not forget where most butter comes from, no wonder it has such a wonderful affinity with beef. If you were so inclined you could even add a sprig of rosemary and a couple whole cloves of garlic to the pan. Once you tasted this simple way of cooking steak you will always go back to it. A point to note, if there a fat cap on your steak then gently render that first for 5 minutes. If you like your steak rarer then cook it straight from the fridge. If you like it more well-done then I can’t help you at all…

Honestly, I think this method produces a better tasting steak than in any steakhouse restaurant. The high-end places use Josper or Inka grills and make a selling point of these special chargrills. But really I just want someone to stand over a pan basting my steak for 20 minutes! There’s not a steak restaurant in the world that will do that so that’s why I like to cook steak at home. The result is clear:


When do you season a steak, just before hitting the pan? Ten minutes before? How about ten hours before? I favour the last, the first is acceptable but never ten minutes before. The following three photos shows why:

The first shows the steak freshly sprinkled with salt, when this hits the pan a nice salty crust will form but the meat inside is not really seasoned.

The steak after ten minutes, the salt has drawn out the water from the meat and it’s pooled onto the surface. When this meets the pan the meat will tend to stew preventing the formation of the nice flavoursome crust. The meat is not seasoned and it’s lost a lot of moisture, bad news all round.

After a few hours the salty water has been drawn back into the meat seasoning it from within. The surface is dry so there’s nothing to stop a great crust from forming.

So it’s clear, it’s best to season on both sides a few hours beforehand. Or if you’re in a rush season on one side just before frying that side and season again just before flipping. Never ever do anything in between.

Sesame Miso Sauce
Ketchup, bernaise, pepper, chimichurri? There are a lot of options when it comes to saucing. But here’s a recipe for a Japanese style steak sauce that might make you forget all those others. I retro-engineered it from one I had in a steak restaurant in Fukuoka. It should be mixed with freshly ground toasted sesame before dipping your meat into it. In the restaurant we each had a small bowl with grooves etched into it called a suribachi. The sesame seeds are ground in this before the sauce is added. The combination of the sweet deeply savoury and deep nuttiness of the sesame is simply sublime (it’s also great with pork):

200ml ichiban dashi made from katsuobushi and kombu
100g brown miso
120g mirin
75g sugar
50g rice wine vinegar
Simmer the above for 15 minutes then add a teaspoon of finely grated ginger and simmer for another 5 minutes. Take off the heat and stir in one tablespoon of yuzu juice (or a mixture of lime and Seville orange). The sauce will keep for a while in the fridge.


Digbeth Dining Club and Meatshack


Filthy, dirty, dripping – usually adjectives with negative associations to food. That is unless you’re cresting the current Streetfood trend. I won’t bore you with the Streetfood gospel, no doubt you’ve heard all about it, this apparently new way of dining is sweeping the nation. Or at least London. But wait. Birmingham is now on the Streetfood charabanc with the Digbeth Dining Club’s rota of mobile caterers. Late last year among the atmospheric inner-city train arches of Digbeth at the back of the Spotlight bar, there were intrepid Streetfood vendors doing their thing every Friday evening. Burgers, pizzas, stews, wraps, toasties, baps, buns, cakes, burritos, tacos, hotdogs, that is the canon of Streetfood. Some of the offerings are more successful and tasty than others, and some done with more dedication and care than others. Quite frankly there are some vendors who I think are having laugh. If the new Streetfood is about tasty inventive gourmet handmade food at reasonable prices then they fail on every account. But there is one vendor that always delivers on those promises. The prince of Digbeth Dining Club – The Meatshack.

The Meatshack’s burgers are the best in a 100 mile radius. Paul Collis has really studied what makes a good burger. His style of smashed mustard fried patty and semi-steamed bun really makes for a juicy, filthy, dirty but also outrageously tasty burger. The patty is a secret mix of aged local Hereford beef (ask for it pink) and the buns are the finest soft brioche. But he doesn’t stop there, there are wonderful specials that change constantly. His candied bacon variations are awesome but personally I think the black pudding variation his best yet, or maybe it was the special special suckling pig burger (pictured). Now if only I can get fries with that…

The Digbeth Dining Club had a winter break and will be back on the 1st March 2013. I will be there, as always, at the front of The Meatshack’s queue.

Digbeth Dining Club
Spot*light, Unit 2 (opp. Air Nightclub), Lower Trinity Street, Digbeth, B9 4AG

Hillers Farm Shop


It was the Becketts Farm Breakfast I ate the other morning that had me thinking about farm shops. It reminded me that I haven’t been to Hillers for ages, maybe it’s not quite asparagus season yet because when it is you’ll find both Nick and me on the trail of those sweet green spears. That’s why we come here, during the asparagus season the counters are overflowing with the stuff freshly picked within the locality. As everyone knows the finest asparagus comes from Evesham.

But it’s not only asparagus, it is really one of the best farm shops in the region. You’ll find Ragley Estate Meats in there, a butchers that rears it’s own meat on adjacent Ragley Estate. You want provenance? You got it. Great seasonal veg as well the usual farm shop deli fare. What’s more there’s also a fishmonger.

It takes about 30 minutes to drive there from the south of Brum, why not stop by The Chef’s Dozen on the way?

Hillers Farm Shop
Dunnington Heath Farm, Alcester, Warwickshire B49 5PD

Lasan Eatery (now known as Raja Monkey Cafe)


Ahhh Franky Dosa, sounds like a Bollywood film star but is in fact the star of the menu at Lasan Eatery. I hesitate to call this place a curry house as you would automatically think it another Balti type establishment. This is definitely not that, it’s modern and light with a pared back menu from across India. Eatery is the right name for it with casual banquette seating and small open kitchen as you walk in. What curry house can you see your order being skilfully cooked?

Or for that matter in what curry house can you also order a dosa? A South Indian stuffed crêpe made from lightly fermented batter of ground rice and lentils. Served with sambar (a thin flavourful veg curry) and chutney, being southern they’re usually veggie and at Lasan Eatery there’s the standard dosa stuffed with spicy aloo. But there’s also chicken-stuffed and of course the very special mr Franky Dosa stuffed with mutton. They make their dosa crispy here just how I like it. They’re quite large for a starter so I tend to have a few sides of tadka dhal, aloo gobi or matter paneer to make up a whole meal. But then I would missing out on the excellent main curries. A classic Bhuna Gosht tickles the tastebuds every time I order it, sadly my favourite Rajastani Laal Maas didn’t make the recent menu reshuffle. Maybe I should start a petition to bring it back?

Lasan Eatery
1355 Stratford Road (opp. Waitrose), Hall Green, Birmingham B28 9HW

Rossopomodoro, Bull Ring

“Where can I get a proper wood-fired pizza?”

“Is there anything decent to eat in the Bull Ring?”

Was I right people of Birmingham? Were these questions vexing you to your very core?

Thought so. Here’s the answer. Rossopomodoro, situated in Birmingham Selfridges food hall. That’s the food hall that doesn’t really sell any food, but can offer you the delights of Krispy Kreme, Pret a Manger and Mr. Ed’s Diner. Yes, that’s our Selfridges food hall people of London, don’t judge us.

Now I wouldn’t pretend Rossopomodoro is perfection. But their pizza is, I think depending on who is shaping the dough and manning the fire, anything from pretty good to excellent. Not a fan of too many toppings on my pizza, I’d go for the Verace – which pimps the mozzarella and adds a slick of decent quality olive oil. Their tomato sauce is pleasingly simple, I think it’s just decent quality, well-seasoned, canned Italian plum tomatoes (which you can buy to take home if you want, better than most supermarket brands). I think they also import their flour, which is a bit mad but they end up with a decent tasting crust so whatever works for them.

However, don’t expect anything great from the starters which I always skip after a singular disaster with some arancini. Pasta is no better than found at regular Italian chain restaurants (i.e. woeful) and I’ve never stuck around to find out if their desserts are any good.

But that doesn’t take anything away from the pizza! If you are shopping in the Bullring and fancy a sustaining pizza, and who doesn’t from time to time, then here’s your answer. It’s surprisingly unbusy as well. In fact, I wonder how well it is doing, so pop along and support it so I can still eat there in future!

Rossopomodoro, Selfridges Food Hall. They also do takeaway. Pizzas around a tenner.