Sean Hall, executive chef of new Sydney steakhouse 6 HEAD, answers your meaty questions.
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of slicing into a juicy, tender steak when you’re hungry. But while most blokes love eating meat, we’re not quite so handy at cooking it. Which is why we’ve asked an expert to help.
I’d like a nice steak for dinner. How do I know what cut of meat to buy?
It really depends on the day of the week and if you’re planning a quick meal or nice sit-down dinner with a good bottle of wine. We’re spoiled for choice in Australia with great local butchers – make sure you use them for your meat! And always look for the cuts that look fresh and have a beautiful yellow fat.
It’s hard for me to choose a cut, as I am spoilt working with a great variety of cuts daily, but here are three steaks that I recommend:
An amazing cut of meat, with no fat, which makes the texture soft and very buttery as the muscle doesn’t get overworked.
Rib eye on the bone
My personal favourite. The cut has more fat content which adds so much more flavour to your steak. Leaving the bone on assists with flavour, especially when it’s dry aged.
This comes from the belly of the cow and has a beautifully rich flavour. Once bashed out with a meat tenderiser, these cook in minutes and you will not be let down. Ask your local butcher to help you as it gets tricky with the sinew.
Okay, I have my steak – now how do I cook it?
We all have our own way of cooking but I always follow the following steps for top result, both at work and at home.
Always season your meat with flaked sea salt up to two hours before cooking. This will help with flavour and draw moisture out of the meat.
- I always choose to get my pan hot and cook on medium heat as this helps me control my cooking of the meat. I love adding a crushed garlic clove and fresh rosemary to the pan as this adds some extra flavour.
- You need to ensure you turn your cut more or less at the same time as this will help the steak cook evenly. Do not leave it to be turned only once or twice, it will burn the outside.
- My best advice is to get a meat thermometer – you’ll never have an under- or overcooked steak again.
- When the steak is almost done, add some butter to the pan and baste your steak. This will pick up all the flavours from the pan and run through your meat.
- The most important part: always rest your meat. This will help your steak hold on to all those amazing juices. If you’ve cooked your steak for eight minutes rest if for at least four minutes.
What does “resting” meat after cooking it actually do?
Resting is important when cooking cuts of meat on high heat or open flames. When cooking a steak on high heat you put the cut under pressure and it looks for a way to get rid of all the juices. Once removed from the heat, if the steak is cut immediately all the juices will run out. If you give your cooked steak time to rest, the fibres will relax and keep hold of the juices that give so much more flavour.
What about marinades? What do they do, and how do I make one?
You should only really marinade your meat if you want to tenderise steaks. If you decide to marinade keep it simple. Fresh herbs and garlic with good olive oil will do the trick. Or get a few strands of rosemary, three cloves and garlic and some bay leaves and mix it using a hand blender.
What about for a stew or casserole – what cut of meat should I use here?
As we’re heading into the cold winter months this is the best time to get slow braising going. And the best part is the flavour intensifies over a day or two, which makes it great for leftovers on that cold Tuesday night after you’ve cooked the perfect Sunday stew to impress the family.
Again, go to your local butcher and invest in some good meat. Secondary cuts are cheaper and the butcher will be happy to assist you with the perfect cuts. As I mentioned before, we’re spoilt for choice with all the great secondary cuts out there. I tend to always go for the osso buco, oxtail or short rib. Try and use a cut with the bone on as this will help with intensifying the flavour. And when you cook it, let it go low and slow for hours.
What’s dry aged meat?
Dry ageing is a process that’s been used for many years to add more flavour to meat. You create an environment where the enzymes in the connective tissue break down to increase flavour and also make the beef more tender. A crust of fungus will grow on the outside of the meat, pulling out moisture and adding an amazing mushroom/earthy flavour to the meat. So essentially it does two things: adds more flavour and make it more tender. You can age a steak anywhere from 14 to 120 days, and you’ll often see chefs push boundaries with ageing times.
What makes wagyu so special?
It really comes down to three things: superior flavour, high amounts of fats that make the meat extremely tender and the marbling of the fat that melts away when touching it. It’s very rich, depending on the marble score and grading of the meat, and it’s something very, very special. Japan leads the way on wagyu but the products in Australia are amazing.
What are some less well-known cuts of meat that I should try, and how could I use them?
Try flank, bavette or flat iron steak. Simply cook it over high heat and serve with some oven-roasted tomato, seasonal salad and chimichurri and you’re onto a winner.
Any tips on matching wine with meats?
I love bold big wines when eating meat. But to make it simple: the leaner the meat, the lighter the wine. If you’re serving a big steak on the bone or a slow braised rich stew, go bold and rich. And remember to always give your wine some time to breathe before you enjoy it – it’s basically like resting a steak.
6HEAD is Sydney’s newest waterfront steakhouse. With a focus on premium steak cuts and curated wines, the arrival of 6HEAD complements the area’s storied history with an exclusive dining experience. Executive Chef Sean Hall’s extensive culinary background – from growing up on a cattle farm in Johannesburg, to mastering classically trained French cooking techniques and working with the Jamie Oliver Group in the UK – has enabled him to design a bespoke menu that beautifully complements the 6HEAD ethos. For more, head to 6head.com.au