The golden rules of cooking the perfect steak – and why you're breaking them



Top cuts: Barry Kerrigan with four different types of steaks at his award-winning Kerrigan’s Craft Butchers in Malahide, Dublin. Photo: Frank McGrath
Top cuts: Barry Kerrigan with four different types of steaks at his award-winning Kerrigan’s Craft Butchers in Malahide, Dublin. Photo: Frank McGrath

Geraldine Gittens

The three golden rules of cooking a perfect steak are being disregarded in households across Ireland.

Award-winning butcher Barry Kerrigan reckons there are a few basic tenets that should be followed to create the most mouthwatering hunk of beef. But it’s likely you’re not doing things right.

Many amateur cooks throw the meat in the pan straight from the fridge, and start eating it as soon as it’s cooked.

Not so, says Mr Kerrigan, a self-taught aficionado who assumes control of the kitchen at home whenever steak is on the menu.

The owner of Kerrigan’s Craft Butchers in Malahide, Dublin, knows his steak – his shop was recently crowned the best butchers in Ireland.

His three golden rules include the fact that steak needs to be cooked from room temperature – not from the fridge; it needs to be cooked both on the pan and in the oven; and it must be allowed to rest after cooking.

But the process starts when the meat itself is being bought – at the butcher’s counter.

Firstly, customers should question their butcher on what farm their meat came from, what breed it came from, and the gender of the animal, Mr Kerrigan says.

Female cows, or heifers, tend to be more flavoursome. As do Hereford, Angus and Continental breeds.

Dry ageing, for any length of time from 21 to 100 days, also improves the meat’s tenderness, Mr Kerrigan says.

“My top tip for cooking steak is obviously to choose a good quality piece of meat first,” he said.

“Personally, I think Hereford, Angus and Continental give a good level of marbling and that’s what gives you the juice and the flavour in a steak.”

He added: “If you like your steak well done, a thinner steak is better. That’s the question we ask the customer, how are they going to cook their steak? And if they like their steak well done, I steer them towards rib eye because the marbling keeps the steak nice and moist.

“Whereas with fillet steak, if you cook it to well done, it’s going to dry out and be tough.”

The next step is the cooking, which Mr Kerrigan insists mustn’t be done when the steak is straight out of the fridge.

“If you’ve your meat in the fridge at two degrees and you put it on the pan, the outside warms really quickly but the inside is still cold. Room temperature allows for an even cook,” says Mr Kerrigan.

“My personal preference is to fry the steak, it gives a chance to get a crust on it. The type of pan is important. I use a cast-iron oven-proof grill pan. It’s an investment, but if you get the right tools and make an investment it works out very well in the long run.”

The pan needs to be smoking hot, and oil should be rubbed on the steak – not the pan – with seasoning. Turning the steak every minute on the pan is also important, Mr Kerrigan says.

“If I’m cooking an eight-ounce steak, which is about an inch-and-a-half thick, I give it four minutes on the pan. I turn it every minute, and then sear it on the sides as well. Then I finish it in a preheated 180-degree oven, I put it on the tray in the oven if I don’t have an oven-proof pan.

“After four minutes in the oven, I take the steak out and place it on a rack on a plate and allow it to rest for two minutes.

“It’s very important to let it rest on a rack, you don’t want it sitting in the juices,” he added.

“Whatever juices pour out of the steak, you can pour back over the steak again when you serve it.”

For any cautious cooks who fear undercooking their meat, Mr Kerrigan suggests using a meat probe which will tell you when the meat is cooked through.

“The longer you cook steak for, you’re cooking the moisture out of the steak.

“I would say to anyone that likes their steak well done, finish it in the oven for eight minutes and use your probe [to avoid overcooking it],” he says.

Irish Independent

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