The three principles of cooking meat, browning, cooking and seasoning, are extremely important when it comes to doing justice to a good steak. The cooking time will depend to a great extent on the thickness of the steak more than anything else. To what degree you will want to cook it will depend on both the type of steak and your personal taste. A fillet steak will take very little cooking for it to be palatable and will spoil if overcooked, where a ribeye steak will benefit from longer cooking.
The browning stage of cooking steak will be more effective with a larger surface area and so for thicker steaks you may want to give them a bash with a heavy object (the cast iron frying pan that’s ideal for cooking steaks will do this job very well). Flattening out will result in an increased surface area and a reduced thickness. This will help with browning and also reduce cooking time. You may also like to try creating a criss cross pattern in the steak with a sharp knife as this will also increase the surface area exposed to the pan. Browning the steak in a very hot pan will add flavour in the same way that flavour is added by roasting coffee or toasting marshmallows.
The great thing about cast iron is that once it reaches a high temperature it will keep that heat very well. However, it does take much longer to get to temperature compared to aluminium or steel. Another thing to aware of is that your steak can stick and burn if the pan isn’t seasoned.
Season your steak when it’s in the pan and hot enough to dissolve the salt. Good quality sea salt is great, but if it’s not fine, you’ll need to give it a good pounding in a pestle and mortar or grind it to prevent it clumping in the pan. I like to use a combination of sea salt and smoked sea salt, but just enough to bring out the natural flavour of the steak. Pepper and other spices are best added at the end of cooking to stop them burning.
How you like your steak will depend on your own personal preferences and there seems to be no real definition as one person’s rare is another person’s medium. A good guide if you’re unsure, and if your steak’s thick enough, is to use a temperature probe. As a guide 40°c would be rare and 70°c well done.
SEASONING A CAST IRON PAN
Place the pan over high heat until it reaches a medium temperature (around 5 minutes at high heat). Put a dollop of beef dripping or oil into the pan and move it around to coat. Then remove the pan from heat and allow it to cool. When the pan has cooled enough, wipe it to remove any excess.