Photo Courtesy Boston.com
I thought yesterday’s Top Chef Challenge was pretty interesting. For the Quickfire Challenge, each “cheftestant” (I’d like to think that I just made up that word, but I don’t think I’m that creative. I’m sure I’ve heard it a million times before) had to properly butcher a tomahawk steak and cook it to the medium rare request of chef Rick Tramonto (p.s.- Love that Spike called him out for having frozen scallops in his walk-in. Stupid, yes, but did you love it or did you LOVE it?). I’m just learning the techniques regarding a propery cooked piece of meat, and my two favorites are properly searing the meat and the rule of thumb flesh. You read that right.
Heat a thin coat of oil until it gets very hot. This helps get a good surface between the meat and the pan, and it provides a nice caramelization of the meat. Many recipes call for olive oil, but peanut oil is also a fantastic oil to use for searing due to it’s high smoking point (the temperature to which an oil can be heated before it smokes and discolors—indications of decomposition, and fire (see previous post).
Most importantly, don’t crowd the pan. This ensures even cooking. It also prevents the meat from steaming inside instead of searing (resulting in uneven, overcooked meat). And don’t touch it! Allow each side to sit for a few minutes to get a nice crust. Once the meat releases from the pan, it is time to flip it! Once you’ve seared all sides of the meat, you’re ready to transfer the meat to your braise, roast, or continue with whatever cooking method your dish calls for. Finally, let the meat rest. It allows the juices, which have concentrated in the center during cooking, redistribute throughout.
Rule of Thumb Flesh:
This is so handy, but I don’t think I’ve quite mastered it yet.
Rare: Touch your thumb and forefinger together and feel the fleshy part below the thumb — it will feel soft and a little bouncy. Medium: Touch your thumb and middle finger and press the fleshy part. There is a little give and it springs to the touch.
Well done: Touch your thumb and little finger together and press on the fleshy part. There is no give and it is firm.
I’m not going to lie, quite often, I still have to cut the meat and see how red it is. Which is very bad- it leads to the “bullseye effect”- red meat in the center, grey meat surrounding it. But I’m getting better with this.