In a city like Boston, where there are more restaurants than one person alone could ever possibly get to, the default answer when asked how to get a perfect steak would likely be….visit a steakhouse. And why not? Chef Tiffani Faison of Sweet Cheeks BBQ is certainly not advocating a 100% home-cooking lifestyle – after all, she would be without a job if that were the case!
But she IS willing to share her steak-searing secrets, and did so last Tuesday evening at a Boston Center for Adult Education (BCAE) Celebrity Chef class (one of the many sponsored by us at 90+ Cellars). There we learned the differences between various cuts of steak, what to look for when picking out a prime piece, and how to cook it once we take it home.
Firstly, Faison explained the differences between cuts like filet and ribeye. A filet comes from the back of a cow, near the spin – so it’s leaner meat. Less fat means it’s easier to cut through, and doesn’t require as much chew as a sirloin or ribeye. A ribeye comes from an area of a cow with a greater fat buildup (Faison hilariously demonstrates the location of the area in the photo below), and the resulting marbling in the steak gives way to a fuller, richer flavor than one found in filet.
“What about bone-in cuts?” asked one student. It turns out cooking a steak with the bone-in gives an even richer flavor – but Tiffani has objections to paying an astronomical amount of extra money for said bone, especially since hers is often going straight to her dog. Still, she could not object that the bone enhances the steaks flavor – as long as the person cooking knows what he or she is doing!
Next, Faison taught the class how to select a great ribeye. She recommends the meat program at Whole Foods’ brand new South End location, as well as the skills of her friend Mikey over at MF Duloch. Once in the presence of a butcher, Faison advises looking for ribeye with enough marbling and a “fatcap”. Some people think it’s a bad thing, but it melts while cooking and renders the beef. Basically the more fat, the better (more on that later).
Finally, the cooking! No matter how great your cut of meat, no matter if it has a bone in it or not – none of that will matter if a steak is not well cooked. Two key ingredients when cooking a steakhouse-quality steak are butter and kosher (NEVER iodized) salt. The class had a good chuckle when Chef Tiffani advised the class was “not about how to live forever, but how to cook a steakhouse steak.” Point well taken – students were seen piling on the butter and salt as they cooked their steaks, in pairs.
She also suggests cooking on a cast-iron pan. Add oil and don’t put the steak on until that oil is smoking. If the steak doesn’t make a satisfying sizzling noise when placed on the oiled pan, the pan is not hot enough!
The fact that only a few ingredients went into seasoning the steak was something that amazed the class. Faison simply added thyme and garlic (oh, and more butter) after cooking the steak on both sides, and an absolutely heavenly smell filled the room. The steak smelled, well, good enough to eat! But patience is a virtue. The steak must rest after being cooked, advised Chef Tiffani. It is after all a muscle, and needs time to relax and let its “contents” evenly redistribute. A well-rested steak is more flavorful, has a better texture, and cuts easier. It will also be telling of how the steak is cooked; a medium-rare steak served un-rested can appear to be too well done if cut into immediately.
Paired with Lot 74 Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley, the finished steaks produced by the paired-off students were a hit! And they left not only with full bellies, but with brains brimming with knowledge that will surely impress friends and family, once it is put to the (delicious) test.
You can view more photos from this class on our Facebook page, and visit our BCAE Celebrity Chef series page to see photos from other classes, get recipes, and read more helpful blog posts! And remember that you can sign up here to receive a discount code giving you 25% off BCAE tuition (some restrictions apply – see sign-up page for details). Oh hey Wine Club members – you get 30% off!
What's your favorite cut of steak? How about your favorite wine to pair with steak? Let us know in the comments!