Mild-Mannered Canadian Fury

Doug Stephen is Politely Peeved

Heston Blumenthal's Perfect Steak

Sun, 06 May 2012 «permalink»

My mouth was watering the entire time that I watched this.

It takes over 24 hours to cook this steak.

I’m going to repeat that.

Over 24 hours to cook this steak. Not marinate. Not prep. The active cooking time for this steak is over 24 hours. And my word does it look delicious. For reference, holding the steak at 50° C is about 122° F, which is somewhere in between Extra Rare and Rare. That’s why the meat stays such a gorgeous red, juicy hue.

Also, if you’re confused as to why he lopped off those gorgeously charred, blowtorched end-caps instead of eating them…

Any suspicion about “sealing in juices” is completely bogus; the idea that browning meats before roasting or boiling or braising or anything remotely like that will seal in any juices is an ancient and repeatedly debunked cooking myth. However, browning does impart flavor and has a generally positive effect on a dish, which is why you should still do so in those situations. So why remove all of that delicious, browned beef?

Bacteria tends to live on the outtermost, exposed portion of a cut of beef. This is why rare steaks don’t cause a lot of problems for people; as long as the outside of the beef is brought up to temperature before you eat it, you kill most of the bacteria. This is also the secret behind raw beef dishes like tartare and carpaccio; the cut to be used is typically “shaved” immediately before being prepared to remove the outermost layer of nasty. It’s also why “untrusted” or “unclean” ground beef is frequently cooked all the way through, as the grinding process mixes the bacteria throughout the beef1.

  1. Coli, one of the biggest health issues when it comes to beef, can be killed by exposure to temperature in the 160° F range. But Heston cooks this steak at 120° F for a perfect rare cut. By blowtorching the exterior of the beef, exposing it to temperatures in excess of 1000-2000° F, he is effectively sterilizing the meat before bringing it up to the desired cooking temperature in his low temperature holding oven. Because blowtorches are so extreme in temperature, it is very easy to get uneven browning mixed in with charring on the exterior of the meat so the outside may not be as appetizing as it looks. Hence, discarding the torched endcaps.

  1. Well-done ground beef makes me sad. I prefer to take my risks and eat my burgers medium-rare. I also prefer making my own burgers, after I’ve bought the beef, so I know it’s fresh and clean.