Home' Scoop : Scoop 52 Contents "medium rare", is heresy. In
fact the gastronomic world
seems hell bent on feeding us
beef as if it were sashimi.
Perhaps most galling of
all, even when I stipulate "I
mean medium", the grill man
still serves it up with barely an
epidermis of flavoursome char,
packed with enough blood to
still have a pulse.
Why, pray? I m paying good
money for the chef s cooking
skills, not just his (or her, of
course) ability to shop. Didn t the human species
harness fire so we didn t have to eat stuff raw?
Thanks in part to the opposable thumb, I
presume, mankind has the wherewithal to cultivate
just about whatever it likes for both sustenance
and culinary pleasure. As God (or Thor, or whom-
ever) saw fit, the steer occupies the musical chair
where temperament, convenience, maximum yield,
nutrition and flavour intersect. The mosquito may
be delicious, but they are buggers to fillet.
So, even at the expense of the environment
(beef production -- with the methane farts filing
the atmosphere, animal consumption of perfectly
good grain and land degradation -- is shit for the
environment, but that s not the point in this dis-
cussion) and despite the charms of pork, poultry,
lamb and game, beef remains the King of Meat.
Of all the delicious parts of the cow, none captures
the imagination of the human saliva glands more
than the purity of steak.
Which is why it generates such furious discus-
sion. And in turn, the myth that rarer is best.
Speaking once to Giles Hennessy of the eight-
generation cognac-producing clan, he relished
telling me that since bartenders starting using
Hennessy in cocktails, sales had skyrocketed. But
doesn t that corrupt the product borne of eight
generations of tender craft? He gave a Gallic shrug,
saying: "However people wish to enjoy our prod-
uct is the right way to enjoy it." Which is another
way of saying the customer is always right.
It s a position shared by chef Adrian Richard-
son, owner of Melbourne meatery La Luna Bistro
and author of the Australian meat-lovers bible
Meat: How to Choose, Cook and Eat It.
"It s personal preference," he told Scoop. "And
it s my duty as a chef to make sure the customer
gets the meat the way he or she wants it. Even if I
don t agree."
Adrian, who flouts perceived convention by
dismissing the "turn steak only once" nonsense,
is a medium rare man. "But, you
know, some people like Bronski
Beat and there s not much I can do
about that either. Either way, the
people who are too uptight about
how rare their steak should be
enjoy life the f**king least in my
Yeah, no wonder. They re
spending too much time gurgling
blood like a dyspeptic vampire
and swallowing gobbets of flesh
upon which their canines can t find
purchase. Newsflash Neanderthals-
order-their-steak-"blue": it s not about how rare
it is, it s about tenderness. In my top five dishes is
the braised shoulder of lamb, where the meat falls
off the bone thanks to long, slow cooking. Steak s
trickier of course, lacking the muscle density
and fat content to stay long around the heat and
remain tender, but erring on the side of wounded
is also a mistake.
So what do I mean when I say medium? Take
a 2.5cm-thick sirloin and the grey-pink-grey ratio
should be in equal thirds and barely a tear of blood
should be through the middle. But the key to all
grilled and roasted meats is one kitchen conven-
tion I adhere to like superglue: rest the meat.
Taken 10 minutes to cook a beautiful steak? Rest
it for two or three in a warm spot to let the muscle
fibres relax and retain some juice. Unless you re
determined to turn your fillet into a hockey puck,
the results are marvellous.
As Adrian says, the secrets to good steak are
to "buy the best meat you can afford, know your
barbecue or grill so you don t over or under-do it
and turn it as many times as it needs to be done
the way you like it. Practice makes perfect."
Indeed it does. As does a healthy dose of salt
and pepper about 20 minutes before you grill it.
Ditto using charcoals rather than gas, or a dry rub
of spices, or a marinade that doesn t include soy or
sweet chilli sauce (blecch).
In a way I have become one of the people whom
Adrian rightly assesses as "enjoying life the least"
with a whinge like this, but it s more of a plea for
understanding, an open letter of supplication to the
chefs of the country: Ladies and Gentlemen, when I
ask for medium, make it medium. sm
Daniel Murphy is Deputy Editor of FHM.
Meat: How to Choose, Cook and Eat It by Adrian
Richardson (Hardie Grant Books, $60) is out now.
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