A big, juicy cut of steak for the table is a well-earned luxury during the holidays, but cooking at home can often seem daunting. Jason Oakley of Coquille Bistro and Scarpetta knows a thing or two about steak from his days as head chef of the Mandarin Oriental’s Fifty8o Grill Steakhouse; here’s his advice for cooking bigger cuts with panache.
At the store: I opt for thick, bone-in cuts like a large rib eye or côte de boeuf around the holiday season. My rule of thumb is that the smaller the beef, the easier it is to screw up so don’t be afraid of larger cuts.
If using frozen beef: Good quality frozen beef is fine for home cooking, but defrost it properly for 48 hours in the fridge, and not under water.
On salt: Invest in proper sea salt. Not iodized or table salt. We use Maldon at our restaurants (and you can find it on Taobao).
Temper, temper: Don’t take it out the chiller and straight into the frying pan, allow it to temper by sitting at room temperature for 25-30 minutes depending on size.
Seasoning: Aggressively season your steak with sea salt and coarse black pepper. Do not use powdered pepper. The steak should have a good crust of salt and pepper, especially if your cut is particularly thick.
Pan and oil: Find the heaviest-bottomed frying pan you have.
Season it with olive, groundnut oil, or anything with a particularly high burn point. Don’t use butter (yet), avocado or pumpkin oil.
Cooking: Heat your pan to just before smoking point, being careful of oil splatters. Once in the pan, leave it alone for four minutes (two minutes or less for one-inch steaks) and allow the Maillard reaction to do the rest. Resist temptation to poke, turn, check or otherwise fiddle with it.
Flip it: As you flip it to the other side and are halfway into searing time, put in some crushed garlic, rosemary and lots of butter. We tie our herbs together with twine for easy removal. Once the butter hits the pan it will brown quickly, which is good. Baste the steak frequently.
Côte de boeuf oven finish: After searing, put the whole steak in a preheated 200-degree oven. Transfer to a lined baking tray if your panhandle is plastic or wood. Cook for 20-25 minutes, or until the steak has an internal temperature of 50-54 degrees (for medium rare). Côte de boeuf and bone-in rib eye only.
- Swiss Butchery carries a large selection of steaks. Call ahead to request bone-in cuts. (swissbutchery.com, 5223 7301)
- Online grocers like www.fieldschina.com carry a good range, while www.tablelife.com specializes in smaller cuts.
- Supermarkets like C!ty'super (IAPM Mall, B/1, 999 Huaihai Zhong Lu, by Shaanxi Nan Lu 淮海中路999号5楼, 近陕西南路), City Shop (Shanghai Centre, B/F, 1376 Nanjing Xi Lu, by Xikang Lu 南京西路1376号, 上海商城B楼, 近西康路) and Ole’ (Kerry Centre Jing'an, 1563 Nanjing Xi Lu, by Changde Lu 嘉里中心北区, 南京西路1563号NB2-01单元, 近常德路) can also be forthcoming.