Goal or Problem
Cooking steaks at home often ends up with a (slight) disappointment because the steaks are too chewy. Some recipes advise to use prime beef only. Some recipes advise to fry in very hot oil first and then fry on low heat. However, nothing really seems to help.
Here is the recipe that produces a tender juicy steak with tasty brown crust.
- Use beef steaks, which are at least 3 centimeters (1.2 inch) thick.
- If the beef is in the freezer, remove it and let it warm up to the room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 60°C (140°F).
- Season steaks with salt and pepper to your liking.
- Put the steaks into the oven. Place them on a grid rather than on tray so that that they absorb warmth from both sides equally. Leave them in the oven for about one hour until the core temperature reaches 50°C (122°F). This corresponds to medium rare degree of cooking.
- Heat up butter in a frying pan. Fry both sides of the steak. The browning happens really quickly! About 15 seconds is needed per side.
- Let the steaks rest under aluminum foil for about five minutes.
Why does this recipe work?
- The core temperature of 50°C (122°F) guarantees that the steak is juicy. At higher temperatures, the connective tissue around the muscle cells contracts and squeezes the moisture out of the muscle cells.
- While the steak is in the oven, the surface dries up. This produces higher concentration of proteins and sugars on the surface. When you place the steak on hot butter, the chemical reactions between proteins and butter occur much quicker than when the surface is wet.
- While the meat rests under the aluminum foil, the thin layer that has been heated up can absorb moisture from the environment, which it lost during frying.
- Beef gets tough above 80°C (176°F). This recipe guarantees that the beef is exposed to temperatures higher than 80°C (176°F) for very short period of time (15 seconds).
Limitations and Side Effects
Use prime beef having fine grain and buttery texture. This recipe will not help to make the cheaper cuts of beef tenderer.
If you use a prime beef and it gets tough, make sure next time that the core temperature is not higher than 80°C (176°F). Use meat thermometer to measure the core temperature. You can start with frying once the core temperature reaches 50°C (122°F). If you still do not get desired results, check the thermometer. Does it show 100°C (212°F) in boiling water and 37°C (100°F) in your mouth?
If the beef is raw, the core temperature has not reached 60°C (122°F). One hour was not enough for the steak to get warm enough in the core. Using the meat thermometer should help again to determine the right moment when to start frying.
The molecules of beef have no reason to behave differently in your kitchen than elsewhere!
This recipe is inspired by the book Cook & Chemist by Eke Marien & Jan Groenewold (www.cookandchemist.com). Note that both book and Web site are in Dutch.
The book is nice mixture of theory and recipes. The book explains chemical reactions occurring during the cooking. The recipes demonstrate how the observer (cook) experiences these reactions and can take advantage of them. After reading this book you will better understand what kinds of chemical transformations occur during cooking. This will help you to understand why recipes work. Then you can modify them and create your own variants. You will find many smart ideas in this book.
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