The worlds’ best steak was judged to be the “sirloin cut of a Scottish Ayrshire, raised on grass in Finland and produced by a Danish company ” at the 2019 World Steak Challenge.
Although world- class steaks may not be available on many family-budget supermarket shelves, great cuts of steak are available to buy from specialist butchers.
With some 50 – 70 different cuts of beef displayed on a butcher-shop Cut Chart it’s not surprising that meat-buyers puzzle over what to buy and buy the ones well-known to them.
Learning about steaks
For example, rib-eye is one of the best types of steak for pan-searing, which helps bring out its strong, delicious flavours. The rib-eye has distinctive fatty marbling while sirloin is a lean cut of meat, not as heavily flavoured nor as tender as rib-eye.
However, trim off the fat and connective tissue and a sirloin steak has great beefy flavour and chewy without being tough.
As a guide, the supermarket price in Gibraltar for both sirloin and red-eye both vary around £20/kilo whereas fillet steak may cost some£30/kilo. A fillet is smaller than other cuts but is very much more tender.
Sizzling ribeye steak
The right specialist steak restaurant that serves the quality cuts, Prime and Choice, will have different cuts available..
..they will know how to make sure that they prepare and cook the steak you’ve selected just right for your preference.
In addition, the specialist steak-houses will get a finer cut of meat than the individual purchaser can source from a supermarket or standard butchers.
Take a tour around Gibraltar’s many steak places to gain knowledge and experience. Trying out the different types and qualities of steaks will help you select, cook and enjoy the steak you buy to eat at home..
..and also help when choosing the steak style you like when you eat out !
Steak at home
As an alternative to eating out, you can prepare and cook your steak at home although the price paid for Prime or Choice steak, perhaps for a special occasion, may be high.
For the best enjoyment the preparation and cooking needs care and attention but is not complicated. Fans of rare steak sometimes go all the way and mince up the steak with a raw egg to make a steak tartare
The World Steak Challenge
Isaac Rogers, a judge at the 2018 World Steak Challenge, posted on the Steak Society website his description of the winning steak..
“There are few pleasures in life like the pure indulgence of a premier steak and this steak is worthy of its title. This was a bloody marvellous steak. It had the buttery sweetness of Wagyu that gave way to a delicious beefiness..
..but while a Kobe beef like Wagyu melts in the mouth this steak had more of a chew. However, each chew delivered a sucker punch of taste.”
He described the way he cooked and enjoyed it.. ” The steak was soft and densely marbled like Wagyu. In fact I can’t remember seeing a sirloin so heavily marbled that wasn’t Wagyu.
The steak was about 150g and just over half an inch thick. Because of the high marbling, I cooked it for two minutes each side, leaving it to rest for four minutes..
..I sliced the steak to reveal a heavenly looking medium cooked steak
– I took bite into a piece and instantly swore, sat back and melted into my chair.”
Premium Steak grades
If that much enjoyment is available when eating a steak in a restaurant it may be at a high price.
The restaurant has to be chosen carefully for its reputation to ensure that such an experience is delivered .
Beef is graded based on the amount of intramuscular fat, the marbling, with the highest degree of marbling reserved for the Prime grade which represents less than three percent of all beef produced.
The quality of Prime grade beef is ensured by a Certification system with the farm or ranch on which the beef is reared numbering the meat packages.
Hereford beef herd in pasture
This certification of quality-control runs through shipping, storage and delivery to your plate. The specialist restaurants have to be certified that their handling is up to a high standard, including for example, avoiding bruising the meat.
Is a top steak available in Gibraltar ? Gibraltar certainly has plenty of steak places where you can go on a search, a mission to find your preferred type of steak..
The restaurant first has to secure the Prime beef and then cook it and provide it to the table at just the right moment. A restaurant busy with say Christmas parties might be pressed to give your special steak just the right amount of attention.
The best steaks
At the annual World Steak Challenge there are often more than 200 entries from 22 countries, revealing a whole world of steak types and flavours.
What are the best known types of steaks to include in your search?..
You may know about Aberdeen Angus but what do you know about Wagyu? Or even UK’s Hereford and Angus or Spain’s Rubio Gallego?
Aberdeen Angus bull
Aberdeen / Black Angus beef develops with better marbling than most cattle.. “Cows that would become today’s Aberdeen Angus cattle have been roaming the Scottish Highlands since at least the 16th century, possibly even as far back as 600AD.
“They were known as Angus Doddies by locals back in the day, and perhaps weren’t fully appreciated. Now however, Aberdeen or Black Angus beef is famous throughout the world and commands a premium price tag.”
Argentinia, Australia, USA and Uruguay are major providers of Prime beef. Closer to Gibraltar, Europe also produces Prime and Choice beef.
Hereford and Angus
UK continues to provide top-quality Hereford and Angus together with Shorthorn, Dexter, Galloway and Highland breeds.
Galicia produces two-thirds of the beef provided by Spain, including well-known Rubio Gallego
The Argentine brand Supremo describes their beef as
“When prime Angus and Hereford cattle graze on sprawling pastures on the Pampas plains , the foundation is laid for exceptional quality: perfect steaks come from following appropriate animal welfare practices, gentle rearing and careful selection.”
It was the Argentinian cattle-herders/cowboys, the gauchos, who perfected cooking their beef on their open-air parrillas.
Wagyu Japanese beef
Much-prized Kobe beef is a brand of Wagyu (which means Japanese beef) from Japan’s Hyogo region. Grading of Wagyu beef gives a score based on its fat colour, meat colour, rib-eye shape, size of rib-eye area, and IMF%, which refers to its marbling.
“Only the best beef from the Hyogo prefecture that is raised and graded to exacting standards can be marketed and sold as Kobe beef so be sure that that you are eating and spending your hard earned money (because real Kobe will cost a lost) on real, certified Kobe beef” explains Isaac Rogers
The best beef Cuts
When buying to enjoy at home, steak-lovers look out for Prime, or Choice, quality and choose a cut like fillet, rib-eye, sirloin or rump, and t-bone.
In their Ginger Pig Meat Book Tim Wilson and Fran Warde explain “Steaks fall into two categories. They either have great flavour or they have tenderness; it is rare for both qualities to go together.
“The golden rule for cooking steak in general is to sear over a really high heat, then cook to your liking and rest for four or five minutes to let the muscles relax and flavours enhance.
And, remember, anything from the front or rear of the animal needs to cook for longer than cuts from the middle, which is much more tender. “
– Eye Fillet (aka Fillet or Tenderloin) ..A classic cut, the eye fillet comes from the strip of muscle tucked against the backbone of the animal.
– Scotch Fillet (aka Ribeye)
– Sirloin (aka Porterhouse or New York Steak)
When you next go out to buy a steak , or book a steak experience in a restaurant, be sure to have decided before you start what you intend to eat..!
..time for a steak!
Feature writer Jon Lewes 2020