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Kitchen Queries

Welcome to Kitchen Queries, where the nigella.com team will answer your cooking or food related questions.  We’d love you to submit some of your recipe problems, dilemmas or queries for us to get our teeth into!

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  • How to cook a perfect steak?

    Hello!i tried steak many times but it never came out perfectly....meat tends to remain raw n the outer portion gets dark n the meat doesnot get tender..how will i marinate my steak piece or how to cook a perfect steak?please tell me the procedure.......n people say beef will never get tender until raw papaya is use for marination.....is it true?????what should i do???plz reply back......im in trouble........

    From the nigella team:

    The tenderness of your steak will depend upon the cut of beef that you decide to cook. The tenderest cut of beef is the fillet (also known as tenderloin or filet mignon) which is the muscle that sits on either side of the cow's backbone, around the middle of the back. As this muscle does very little work it is very tender, but some see it as less flavoursome that other cuts of beef. You should not need to marinate or pre-prepare fillet for a tender steak. Just behind the tenderloin is the sirloin (in the US this is top loin or strip steak and in France it is called the faux-filet) which is not quite as yielding as fillet but has more flavour and is a popular cut. Again it is unlikely that you would need to do much pre-preparation for this steak. After this comes rump steak (in the US this is known as the sirloin and in France rumsteak) which is tougher and will benefit from some pre preparation.

    One of the easiest ways to tenderize a steak is to beat it with a mallet (or a rolling pin or the base of a heavy saucepan). If using a mallet then use the spiked side first to break up the fibres then the flat side to flatten the steak slightly (if using a rolling pin prick the steak vigorously with a fork several times before using the rolling pin). The thinner steak will cook more quickly so you may need to reduce cooking times. Marinades will help, either through acids such as lemon juice, wine or vinegar or through fruit enzymes found in fruits like papaya and pineapple. However we would caution against marinating for long periods as thy can leave the meat mushy and unappetizing.

    One of the best ways to cook steak is to pan fry it as it is easier to monitor the cooking of the steak verses the oven or grill, broiler or BBQ. Cook the steak in a heavy frying pan which had been preheated over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes. Pat your steak dry and season with salt and pepper and rub in a little vegetable oil. For a 2.5cm/1 inch thick steak the approximate cooking times are: rare 1 1/2 minutes each side; medium rare 2 minutes per side; medium 2 1/2 minutes per side. Well-done steak tends to be tougher so many people do not recommend steak this way, but if you like well-done steak then it will take about 3 1/2 minutes per side. 

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