Cooking the perfect halal steak
It’s hard to cook a perfect halal steak. Especially as what a perfect steak looks like is subjective. Of course some of us like it medium-rare, others well-done. It’s not uncommon for the redness of a juicy steak – the richly-pigmented protein, myoglobin – to be confused with blood. We often hear the term ‘a bloody steak’. That makes knowing how to cook it and eat it, harder. Not everyone knows that a red steak isn’t necessarily a raw steak. The latter is shiny as opposed to red or pink. Red meat has a higher quantity of myoglobin-packed muscle tissue than white meats. This is because chickens and turkeys, as smaller prey animals, have muscle fibres that need to react quickly, whereas large livestock typically have slower movement and stand for long periods of time, grazing. The blood has of course already been drained from halal meat, so we can eat redder steaks if we prefer the taste. A juicy, pinker meat is often heralded as tastier. At medium rare or medium, red meat only loses up to 20% of its juices, whereas meat that is well-done loses over double the amount.
Irrespective of how you like it cooked, there are a few common measures for a perfect halal steak:
- We recommend frying, but grilling it is a good secondary option.
- If you do fry, a heavy pan. We love the chargrilled look and taste of a steak cooked in a griddle pan. Check out the BBC’s advice on the best griddle pans.
- Don’t use butter for cooking! We love it too but save it for serving. It’ll only burn if it goes in first. You need an oil that can handle high temperatures. By the time the steak goes in, the oil should be smoking (only a bit, don’t aggravate the fire alarm!). A good option is groundnut or peanut oil, mild in flavour with a high smoke point.
- Calculate the cooking time by weight and size. There are calculators that’ll do this for you online.
- Let it stand once cooked. We know you want to tuck in while it’s hot but a steak needs to rest at room temperature for a minimum of five minutes before you eat it so the meat fibres can reabsorb the juices. This’ll make the meat tastier. Don’t worry, it won’t go cold for ten minutes or so.
We have to confess to being purists when it comes to steak. There’s a lot to be said for a lightly dressed piece of meat with no more than a shimmer of butter, rock salt and black pepper. Maybe some fresh green herbs or crushed coriander seeds. And who can forget the golden dollop of mustard? But there’s no denying that the creamy, classic steak sauce is a big deal: Peppercorn, Mushroom, Béarnaise… and now the gauchos’ Chimichurri is making it big too. We love Oriental-style sliced steak, with sesame seeds, soy and honey. Whatever the flavour, the obvious idea is that compliments and doesn’t overpower.
Health and steak
Red meat can play an important role in a healthy diet when you pick the right cuts of beef. Lean steaks offer supply a number of vital nutrients including iron and muscle-building protein which produces illness-fighting enzymes and hormones. Protein helps you to feel fuller for longer, so you’re less likely to want to snack afterwards. Try serving the meat with a crunchy salad of water-filled leaves and vegetables. And remember that the steak doesn’t need to fill the plate, if you don’t want it to. Try stacking your ingredients, fine dining style, for a lighter meal. Create a small base of mashed potato or asparagus, spinach, pastry or white beans, and layer with the other ingredients, with the halal steak, garnished, on top. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Or, dominate your plate with vegetables and freeze the other half of the meat. With steak it’s always, without exception, about quality not quantity.
Finding good halal steak
Good halal steak should always come from a halal-certified supplier who uses grass-fed, grazing animals for its beef. Tayyib should be of equal importance, that which is pure and wholesome, ensuring meat is free from antibiotics, hormones and harmful preservatives. As with any steak, its quality is in the treatment of the animals in life, and with the quality of the butchery. Meat should be smooth in texture and rich-red in colour.
Our favourite recipe
Scotch fillet steak with sage salt, mushrooms and burrata is our most-loved steak recipe of the moment. (You can switch the burrata for a halal-certified kind.)