Ask the Butcher


Butcher Tom Mylan completed his long tenure at Marlow & Daughters/Sons/Diner this Saturday. He’s on to the next episode, but thanks to our special access (Tom and our Senior Editor, Annaliese Griffin, will marry this fall!), you’ll find his meat wisdom here at Brooklyn Based in our occasional new series, Ask the Butcher. Email us with questions for future columns.

Dear Tom,
I love steak, but I never seem to cook it as competently as they do in a restaurant. My current method involves searing it on both sides and then putting it in the oven for about five minutes. The problem is in the searing. I can never get it crispy (is that even the right word?) on the outside, while keeping it nice and bloody in the middle. I can’t even get the crispy outside when I cook it that way thoroughly. Can you please describe the right way to cook a nice piece of steak rare? Also, what cut should I be buying?
–Judy M.

Judy, it’s complicated. Variables like: how thick your steak is, what kind of pan you use and even how good (or bad) your stove are end up huge factors in cooking a delicious steak at home. That said, I’ll make as simple as possible for you:

Step one: Buy good meat. Pay a little more and get properly raised and well hung (dry aged) beef from mature animals (over 25 months old). The cut is not as important as the quality of the meat but you can tailor the cut to your desires. If you like more fat, buy a rib steak. If you like a lean and beefy cut, get a flat iron. Feeding a lot of people? Get a porterhouse.

Step two: Treat it right. When you get your steak home take it out of the package and let it be free. Salt and pepper it liberally and let it sit out for an hour or so before you think of cooking it. This will insure that the steak is warm and thus will cook evenly and not be overdone one the outside while staying cold in the middle. Last thing is to pat the steak with a paper towel to remove the moisture. A wet steak steams instead of fries when you put it in a pan. The number one key to a good crust on the outside is a dry steak.

Step three: Cooking, well done. Before you start, get your skillet very hot to help set up the beginnings of a sear. Cast iron works best for cheapest. Skip the raised grill pans unless it really important to you to get grill lines on your steaks, otherwise you’re just missing out on flavorful crust. Right before you throw your steak in the pan, toss in a few tablespoons each of butter and olive oil. This is a key to a pan steak on a New York City apartment oven: you don’t fry a steak you frrrry a steak. Using lots of cooking fat is key to that great crispy outside but without it seeming dry and weird. Fat tastes good. Use lots of fat. Lastly, you can skip the oven finish unless the steak is thicker than, say, 1 1/4 inches. Test for doneness by feel (Google it) or by sticking the steak with a paring knife and holding it to your bottom lip. If the knife is lukewarm pull the steak and let it rest for 5-10 minutes. The result (with a bit of practice) will be a perfectly cooked medium rare steak.

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Dear Tom,
What should I be listening to?
–Imola B.

Heart, Lynyrd Skynyrd and any of the first three Danzig records. Also: Black Moth Super Rainbow and Das Racist (but not just the fucking Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell song).

Dear Tom,
I’m not a vegetarian and I like a lot of pork products, but I don’t like bacon. What’s wrong with me?
–Alicia K.

Ok, the question here is: Do you actually dislike bacon or do you just feel that maybe it doesn’t live up to the “religion of bacon” that has spread across the United States?

If you don’t consider yourself a card-carrying member of the cult of bacon, but also won’t kick it out of bed if it shows up on your plate, then fine: you’re a totally well adjusted eater of pork with your own ideas about the world. If however you actually dislike the taste of bacon then, and I am sorry but the law is pretty clear on this one, there is something deeply fucked up about you.

Dear Tom,
I figured you would know: what is the best way to kill a zombie vampire?
–Robert Q.

I’m going take a controversial stance on this question and say fire is the best way to kill a zombie vampire. This has nothing to do with its effectiveness as an anti-zombie-vampire agent and has everything to do with how cool a burning zombie-vampire looks. We have to compromise style over practicality every day of our lives but I’m damn sure not going to do it when it comes to doing something as important as killing the undead.

What question can’t Tom handle? Try him!

Sent by Annaliese. Photos courtesy of Winnie Au via Flickr.

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