This is a relatively simple and almost infallible method for consistently cooking a perfect steak and sauce, all in a single pan and with limited effort.
Prep/cook time: 2-3 glasses of wine
Total hands-on time: 10 mins
This recipe and method is a slight butchering of Sexy Time Steak by Tim Ferriss, from his new book The Four Hour Chef. As a hyper-learning fan from way back (I have more books on accelerated learning from my teenage years than Playboy mags) and an avid cook, this book really calls to me.
It’s not a book about just becoming a great cook – within it is a clandestine blueprint to becoming a great *anything* – but I reckon it’ll get you to being decent enough in the kitchen if you follow it.
Calling T4HC a cookbook for geeks is like calling Fight Club a boxing movie for the lazy. (yeah I’ve read the book too, but I reckon the movie is way better – apart from Marla’s line about grade school, it didn’t quite have the ring of the alternate abortion statement…)
In the end there’s some legit criticism levelled against it, it’s quite scattered and random in some ways, but I think the author is just trying to take you through the same process - albeit accelerated - that he went through to get where he is, I recognise the sentiment, and the failings of the approach. The whole “learn by my mistakes” thing is an attractive goalpost, but for many of us we still NEED to learn by mistakes.
In this case, I think Tim’s book is fantastic for those who have tried and failed, or at least tried and had mediocre results then resorted back to normal habits, there are some real sharp mostly failproof guidelines to success, along with some good guides to seeking success.
Also to note, I have the Kindle version – Tim has specifically mentioned this should be a benchtop book, even in this digital age.
Anyhoo enough about the book, let’s talk about Sexy Time Steak…
- 400-600g steak (ribeye/scotch gives best results easiest)
- half an onion (or a few sliced mushrooms)
- 3-5 spriggs of Rosemary (or whatever)
- 3 cloves of garlic (or more, can never have too much)
- knob of butter (grass-fed if you please)
- chunk of fat (tallow/lard/ghee/coconut oil/whatever)
- half glass of red wine (doesn’t really matter what)
- dry steak with paper towel
- put in freezer for up to an hour, don’t freeze (dries surface)
- rub in some garlic, salt, pepper
- heat oven-proof pan and fat/oil to scorched earth levels
- sear each side for about a minute
- lay down the herb spriggs and onion slices and put the steak on top
- stick it in the oven until it reaches temp
- 50°C/120°F for bleu
- 55°C/130°F for rare
- 60°C/140°F for med-rare
- (if you’re here for anything else you don’t deserve to be reading this, go away)
- transfer steak to plate, put it in turned off oven
- put frypan on med heat for a few minutes to finish off the sauce
- tip sauce on steak
- serve that mofo
I’ve had a couple fails with this Sexy Time Steak method, but I realise now it’s largely because my oven is a big effing liar about it’s temperature. I’d previously been setting the temp on the oven dial – a Miele mind you – at Tim’s recommended 93°C/200°F, however after way overcooking two steaks I suspected shenanigans and so used my wireless temperature gauge to give me a “true” reading. As it turns out, 70°C/160°F indicated actually sets the oven at the right temp, who knows what the “proper” 93°C/200°F temp would have given in reality – basically, it cooked the meat way too quickly for me to catch it so stick to temps between 70-90°C/160-200°F.
Before having discovered this flaw, I decided I was going to nail this recipe – if not improve it – and so went ahead and bought a whole slab of ribeyes to practice on for the next week.
This is how I “dry age” my steaks at home. Of course you can eat them whenever, but I’ve found optimum to be about 4 days stored like this.
In today’s case, I’m just cutting a piece off and going for it.
Drying the surface as much as possible, Tim recommends “dry brining” which is basically putting salt flakes on the meat (to draw out moisture) and leaving it in the fridge overnight, I’m too lazy to be that prepared so I just skip to the paper towel step.
Then chuck it in the freezer for 45-60 mins, this apparently evaporates any extra moisture from the surface.
Then for each side use half a clove of garlic chopped into a few pieces and crushed with the side of a knife, take the garlic and rub it onto the meat. Then go ahead and rub some salt and pepper into it.
Heat the pan up to scorched earth levels, toss in some fat of some kind – I like ghee – and then cook the surface of the steak for about a minute on each side.
Lay down a bed of onions and herb sprigs.
Then lay out the meat on the bed of herby stuff (in this case, onions, garlic, rosemary). This both infuses a bit of the flavour and sets us up for a delicious sauce and stuff, but also removes the steak from the direct heat of the pan to prevent it overcooking or heating up too quickly.
Chuck the pan in the oven – pre-heated to about 93°C/200°F. In this case the inner temp of the steak was only 26°C/79°F, so clearly I could have scorched the outside somewhat further if it was desired to have a more seared steak.
I left it in there about 10 minutes and then tipped in some red wine – D’Arenberg Footbolt Shiraz in this case, a bold fuckoff wine that goes fantastic with red meat. You can probably use pretty much whatever though, so don’t sweat the wine choice, it’s mostly wankery.
Amount used was probably half to 2/3 of a glass – so about 100ml I guess.
Put together a knob of butter, two cloves of garlic crushed/whatever, some random herbs (I’m partial to cloves usually, but in this case just took whatever jarred crap I have), and some cracked pepper.
Then smother it on your steak.
Depending on your preference, take the steak out at a given temperature, I prefer bleu and so once it hits low 50°C/120°F I take it out.
I just love the mouth-watering feel of meat served at almost exactly body temperature like I just ripped the flesh straight from my prey, it’s neither hot nor cold, and just seems to melt in the mouth.
Of course there are issues with the fatty/sinewy/connective tissue (gristle) that don’t get cooked “properly” when done bleu, this can make them difficult to cut apart but don’t conflate that with “chewy”, rare meat is anything but chewy which is another illogical wrong idea out there in conventional wisdomland – the chewy parts will be the not meat stuff, but totally worth it if you seek the ultimate in steak pleasure – however it does take a while to de-acculturate from eating hot overcooked meat, but once you discover the primal beauty of body-temperature flesh it’ll be hard to stomach “cooked” meat ever again.
If you’re cooking for others, I and Tim suggest ramping temps up to 57°C/135°F. This is enough to properly render the fat which is more tasty and less ick factor for those unaccustomed to rare meat, and gives the flesh a half red half cooked look and feel about it.
Then transfer the steak to a plate and chuck it back in the oven, but turn the oven off. This will keep it about the same temp for the next 5-10 mins that you finish off the sauce.
The Sauce Finish
Then chuck the pan onto high heat for a bit and reduce the wine further whilst cooking the other stuff a bit more.
After a few minutes, tip the lot on top of the steak.