Editor’s Note: Cook Like a Chef is a feature designed to help you master cooking techniques that will give your homemade meals professional style and carefully crafted flavor. Each month, a chef instructor from Cascade Culinary Institute at Central Oregon Community College will walk us through a skill or recipe.
See Cook like a Chef stories and videos at www. bendbulletin.com/chef
Today’s Cook Like a Chef recipe is seared rib-eye steak cooked in a cast-iron skillet on the stovetop and finished in the oven.
It’s garnished with a pat of blue cheese compound butter on top or Argentina-style chimichurri sauce on the side.
You don’t have to be a grill master on an outside propane or charcoal grill to cook a perfect steak at home. All you need is a heavy-bottomed pan, a hot oven and a good piece of meat.
Our chef instructor for steak is David Trask. He teaches the international classes at the Cascade Culinary Institute at Central Oregon Community College in Bend. Right now, he’s teaching a 10-week Caribbean cooking class. Trask is also the chef instructor at Elevation, CCI’s student-run restaurant.
Trask said he knows what most people do wrong when they cook steak at home.
“They’re not patient enough. They don’t let the pan or grill heat up properly, and they tend to poke at the steak. You should put it on the heat and forget about it for a few minutes. Be patient and let it work its own magic,” Trask said.
Trask gave us instructions for cooking a great steak at home, from start to finish in the kitchen. He said rib-eye is a good choice because it has a little bit more marbling to it — more fat inside the meat — than other cuts. Rib-eye is an expensive cut, so if you’re being more cost conscious, buy tri-tip or skirt steak.
The first step in cooking steak at home is getting it out of the refrigerator and letting it warm to room temperature before cooking.
“The steak will cook more evenly if it’s not straight out of the fridge. Pat it dry with paper towels so it’ll get a better sear when you put it in the hot pan. Season it on both sides with salt and pepper or Montreal seasoning (which has salt and pepper in it).
If you’re using salt and pepper, give it a hearty shake on both sides: four grinds of pepper on each sideand about a half teaspoon of salt on each side. “That’s what helps build that crust when you cook it,” Trask said.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Put a heavy-bottomed pan or cast-iron skillet on a stovetop burner and warm it up over medium-high heat so it’s hot (but not smoking hot). You don’t need to oil the pan.
“If the pan is properly heated, the steak will not stick. When the seared crust is formed, it will lift off the pan. You want a heavy-bottom pan because it holds the heat a little better and gives you more even heat. Put the seasoned steak (or two steaks, if they fit) in the hot pan. It’s all about getting a really good sear on the outside, because that locks in the juices,” Trask said.
Leave the steak alone; no poking or prodding allowed. After three to four minutes, lift up the down side and see how the steak looks. It should be a dark golden brown color.
“That first side that goes down is considered the ‘service side’ — the side that will go up on the plate. When it’s golden brown, flip it and repeat the process on the other side,” Trask said.
Next, put the steak in the oven and finish it off by cooking it to your desired doneness (see “Doneness test,” D1). This will probably take another five minutes.
The amount of time you spend cooking the steak in the pan and finishing it in the oven depends on the size of the steak and whether you like it rare, medium-rare, medium or well-done.
“The only way to get good at it is by doing it repeatedly,” Trask said.
You can put the whole cast-iron skillet in the oven or transfer one steak to a pan in the oven while you cook the next steak on the stovetop.
When you take the steak out of the oven, let it sit for two to three minutes under a tent of foil.
“The short rest allows the juices to work their way back into the meat. While the steak is resting, put a slice of blue cheese compound butter (see recipe below) on top of each steak to add some flavor,” he said.
Another way Trask likes to garnish steak is with a chimichurri sauce. He said it’s especially good during the summer months, served on the side.
It’s a garlicky, herbaceous sauce that originated in Argentina.
“It brightens up the flavor a little bit,” he said.
You owe it to yourself to master steak cooking at home. Like everything else, the more you do it, the easier it becomes, and family and friends will be thrilled that you can cook a steak that tastes as good as one at a restaurant.
“I cook steak probably more often than I should at home — maybe twice a week. We usually have skirt steak or tri-tip and reserve the rib-eye for a special occasion,” Trask said.
Bon appétit, and happy eating when you cook like a chef.
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