At Steak: Food for Thought

Some like it raw, some like it rare. Some cook it to medium while others prefer it well done. But we all love steak.

Derived from the Old Norse word steik, this meat dish is usually a juicy slab of beef, cut perpendicular to the muscle fibers. Meat is what man has primarily looked to for proteins, and all of the essential amino acids. In most cases it has also been a good source of zinc, vitamin B12, selenium, phosphorus, niacin, vitamin B6, iron and riboflavin.

A popular dish with meat lovers, steak can be served grilled or pan-fried. Almost all are served with special sauces that differ from region to region and taste to taste. Tender cuts from the loin and rib are cooked quickly, usually through dry heat.

While these are served whole, the less tender cuts from the chunk or round are cooked with moist heat, sometimes even being mechanically tenderised. Temperature is the most important ingredient of the steak. A slight change in temperature changes the very nature of the meal and each appetite appreciates a different sort of steak.

The raw steak, for example, is the uncooked form mostly used in dishes like steak tartare, carpaccio, and mostly African cuisine. Blue rare, or very rare, is cooked very quickly; the outside is seared, but the inside is usually cool and barely cooked. The steak will be red on the inside and barely warmed. People sometimes call it 'blood rare', 'Black and Blue' or 'Pittsburgh Rare.'

Rare, on the other hand, is gray-brown on the outside, and the middle of the steak is red and slightly warm. The medium rare steak will have a fully red, warm centre. Unless specified otherwise, upscale steakhouses will generally cook to at least this level.

Next comes medium, where the middle of the steak is hot and red with pink surrounding the centre. The outside is gray-brown.

Another way to cook steak is to medium well, where the meat is light pink surrounding the centre. In well done steak the meat is gray-brown throughout and slightly charred.

Whatever the case maybe, a sign of privilege and wealth comes with serving of the steak. Since beef prices are above average, steak is something not so common among the masses. In which case, a lot of other meats have come to take its place. Though chicken is often available on the menu, it is the fish steak that takes variety to a whole new level.

Fish fillets are usually cut parallel to the backbone. But if cut perpendicular, then you have a fish steak. The tricky bit is for the steak to hold itself together during cooking. Hence the flesh should be firm – which means that only fish like salmon, swordfish, halibut, turbot, tuna and mahi mahi can be made into proper fish steaks.

The larger fish make boneless steaks; smaller fish (such as salmon) make steaks which include skin, meat, a section of backbone, and rib bones. Smaller fish such as mackerel are sometimes cut into similar portions for curing, but these are usually not called 'steak'. Fish steaks are usually grilled, baked, or pan-fried (with or without being breaded or battered).

There are lots of side dishes to go with steaks. Baked vegetables are the most common partners of the dish, whereas baked potatoes being the most popular amongst these. In modern times, we have seen the partnership of steak and fries come through as well.

So the next time you fancy some steak, you have a huge variety of meat, be it beef, fish or chicken and plenty of veggies to choose from but just make sure there is plenty of everything and don’t forget the sauce!

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