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Bob Hart’s Perfect Steak


Every barbecue adventure should start ? and possibly end ? with the preparation of the perfect steak. And our Thrill of the Grill adventure this summer is no exception.

There is something new in the air this year: it’s call smoke, it originates from a charcoal barbecue fire, and it can make all the difference. If you have ever considered trying out solid fuel cooking and adding some wood smoke ? hickory, say ? to your cooking, this is the year to get serious about it.

But if you are a gas barbecue demon, fear not: by following the rules, one dish in which you can very nearly match your charcoal-burning neighbor is the perfect steak. And speaking of rules?

It all begins with the steak: do not expect to buy a rubbish steak ? one labled ‘perfect for the barbecue’, for example ? and arrive at a deliciously moist and tender final result. It will not happen.

So start out by buying ? from the best real butcher you can find ? a thick, prime, aged steak. A rib eye, for example, or a thick scotch. Or perhaps a porterhouse or a good rump or a T-bone. But while I suggest you avoid the ‘cheaper’ cuts for grilling, I also suggest you avoid the most expensive cut ? fillet. Which is wonderfully tender, but very light on flavour and, frankly, not worth the money.

Now, take your steak out of the fridge a couple of hours before you intend to cook it.

Salt it generously with sea salt and place in a cool spot ? ideally out of the reach of the dog – and allow it to absorb the salt and gently warm to room temperature.

Now, it’s simply a matter of oiling (with EV olive oil) and seasoning (with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper and perhaps some finely-chopped fresh rosemary) the steak.

Now, it’s time to cook.

Fire up your gas barbecue to a blistering 230-250C or so ? lid down of course ? after ensuring your grill (NEVER a hot plate which is not something on which you should ever torture a good steak) is clean and oiled, place your steak at 45 degrees to the grill bars and drop the lid for 2-4 mins, depending on the size of the steak.

Now, lift the lid, flip the steak and drop the lid for about 20 seconds less than the first time. Repeat the process, this time flipping the steak and moving it through 90 degrees. Then, after trimming off another 20 seconds from the cooking time, flip it again and finish the job. Then, take it off the grill, place on a rack inside a warmed waking dish, loosely tented with foil and allow to rest for at least half the total cooking time.

Do not assume, incidentally, that a steak is for one person: a decent rib eye (500-600g) will feed two or three if you slice it thickly and share.

And that’s it. Practice will make perfect, and personal tastes can be adjusted for. But, as a basic rule, cook the steak less than you would normally cook it, and you will be amazed how much better it tastes, how much tenderer it is, and how much moister. And be aware ? there is no going back!