Huw Oliver was a lifelong vegetarian until lockdown – not by choice, but out of hippyish family custom. Twenty-five years of no meat. Then he got stuck in a house with a dyed-in-the-wool carnivore. Desperate to inject some sort of excitement into his life, he has decided to cook and eat every available meat for the very first time. To his intestines (and his dad): sorry. This is Meat, Reviewed.
Week three: the perfect steak, medium rare
I’m seeing red. There’s too much of it. And, frankly, very little in this outrageously spenny section of the supermarket means anything to me. Frustrated and faced with too much choice, I drum up the requisite primal, carnal urge and basket three juicy-looking cherry-red rib-eyes.
Scraps of bird and slithers of hog are nothing compared with the monstrous hunks I’ve just got my mitts on. Well-marbled ergo generously fatty, rib-eye (aka entrecôte) is – so Google tells me – the richest, beefiest beef out there. My teeth structure holds that I was born to eat it. But will my stomach be able to cope?
The prep Straight away, this is a fucking nightmare. At least vegetarians broadly agree on how to cook halloumi or falafel, right? Not so with steak. Everyone has an opinion (and everyone thinks their way is sacrosanct).
Do you season the meat well in advance, or just before? Is oil the superior fat, or butter? Do you flip it just the once, or multiple times? The online noise is deafening. In the end, I rub in the salt a good hour beforehand and use a mix of butter and oil. Then it’s non-stop fluster and my quest for medium rare turns to a frantic blur.
The guilt factor Steak is awe-inspiringly fast food. It rages, spits. From red to purple to mahogany in an instant. The juices are almost inky. I’m so caught up in breathless panic that, to be quite honest, I don’t give dead cattle a second thought. I simply feel grateful my kitchen and I have survived this violent, kaleidoscopic experience (but sure, it’s sad the cows didn’t).
First impressions Glass of burgundy poured. French beans, sautéed potatoes, rib-eye plated. But I can’t – I can’t cut it. There are three steaks between the four of us, and I was immediately drawn to the crispiest: this one’s mine. A butter knife won’t hack it. I upgrade, then I’m in. And... just... wow.
The meat of the matter Left Bank bistro. Turtle-necked intelligentsia at the next table. That inimitable stench of roadside piss. Vin rouge, entrecôte, haricots verts: I’m living my Parisian dream, a Proustian memory in the making. The pinkish muscle tastes deep, rich, and butter-smooth in the mouth. The slightly chewy, browned exterior acts as the perfect foil. And cor, that smell. It’s juicy, hearty, butterflies-inducing communal food to take your time over, and I love it.
The aftertaste So I can see what you lot were on about. But are you supposed to feel just un petit peu disgusting post entrecôte? I can hear my stomach rumbling as it employs never-before-used digestive techniques. And yet the lingering umami provides some distraction through the evening, and to the relief mainly of my girlfriend, I survive the night without any major incidents. An unforgettable meal.
Verdict? The prep was stressful, but I feel that confusion was more an indictment of dogmatic know-it-all humans than of steak’s intrinsic complexity. The beef itself was succulent. My senses are still tingling. And for that: 9/10.
Next week: Pork pie.
Got meat cravings?
Look for your nearest open McDonald’s.
Or find a butcher that will deliver to your door.