Everyone thinks they can cook steak, but getting that quality – even crust, perfect doneness – can be a little more involved than just slapping a piece of meat onto a hot pan. We speak to Chef Eddie Gan, sous chef of Skirt at W Sentosa – Sentosa Cove, for the secrets to the perfect steak.
What is the difference between cooking on a charcoal/wood/gas grill?
While the ease of use, cost, readiness, and length of cooking time are some of the more apparent differences between the different grill types, the choice of the grill can impact the taste of food cooked. There would be a more noticeable and distinctive difference in flavor if we were to compare wood grilling to the other two.
Unlike the charcoal and gas grill, cooking on a wood grill will impart a pleasant and layered wood-smoke flavor. And interestingly, depending on the type of wood used, you may sometimes find a distinctly sweet and hearty undertone along with the smoky flavor that would pair well with many types of meat. You can also use a combination of (lump) charcoal and (almond) wood to achieve a balanced result of over-the- flame grilling and smoking, similar to what we do at SKIRT.
What is the best pan to use for steak, what are good alternatives?
The heavy-bottomed type is perfect for cooking steak, though any kind of pan is acceptable. Bearing in mind that temperature is prone to fluctuation when flipping, a heavy-bottomed pan would be helpful for retaining and distributing heat evenly. This essentially helps to ensure a better and more even cooking process throughout. What you want to achieve in a pan-seared steak is the Maillard reaction, as it is key to creating browning, and a nice crust, and flavour.
Steak size: Is it better to cook a large piece and then slice, or cook smaller individual pieces?
A large piece or smaller individual pieces. I would advise against everything else in-between. Smaller individual pieces can be done easily on the pan alone, but it can be tricky to achieve the right level of doneness and browning simultaneously. There are also other factors that may weigh in – such as type of cut, thickness, and whether it’s bone-in or not.
On the other hand, a large piece is more forgiving, which essentially reduces your chances of cooking a steak wrong. However, one can achieve a satisfactory result if they use the proper utensils and cooking tools such as a food thermometer. As complicated as it may sound, it is a fun and rewarding learning journey to master the craft.
Tip – Always sear for the crust on a larger piece on a skillet/pan and finish it in the oven.
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When to season the meat – and with what?
It is best to season the meat before and after cooking. If time permits, season the meat for at least an hour prior. Giving it a bit more time is particularly beneficial for larger pieces. It allows sufficient time for the salt to draw out the liquid and then for that liquid to be reabsorbed to create a more impactful flavour beyond the surface.
If you do not allow sufficient time for seasoning, you are likely to end up with a wet surface which is not ideal for creating a nice crust. Seasoning right before cooking is just as good for a dry and clean crust, especially for smaller individual pieces. Make sure to season after cooking, but only season to taste according to the diner’s preference. The amount of salt needed can vary in order to bring out the best of the meat. In SKIRT, we use Kosher salt before cooking and sea salt after cooking. It is also worth noting that both are larger than fine salt as we believe they work best with steaks.
How does Skirt cook their steaks? What is one restaurant “secret” that people don’t know regarding how they prepare their steak?
To be honest, there are no trade secrets when it comes to cooking steak in SKIRT. As the saying goes, if you have a nice piece of steak, all you ever need is just salt and pepper and let the meat tell the story. Therefore, we have more emphasis on sourcing the best quality meat in the market.
If a “secret” must be named, it would be resting. We generally rest our meat for at least 5 minutes to give it time for the juices to re-distribute evenly, which will help keep the juice in when sliced. Simple as it is, but often overlooked by many.
Cuts for takeaway are available upon special request from Skirt
Where to get your steak from
Featured image: SKIRT Restaurant