More than meats the eye

2019-09-17 06:01
Participants in the Steak Masterclass at the Silwood School of Cookery were taught how to make a pepper sauce.

Participants in the Steak Masterclass at the Silwood School of Cookery were taught how to make a pepper sauce.

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Tuesday 24 September is Heritage Day, aka Braai Day; and yes, while salads, sauces and braai broodjies are indispensable supporting acts, for most, the star attraction will be the meat.

Jason Allen, the owner of The Hussar Grill in Steenberg, says no matter which cuts you buy or where you shop, meat is expensive. So when you do buy, make sure you buy the best and don’t waste your money by over-braaing it.

People’s Post recently joined Allen at the Silwood School of Cookery in Rondebosch for a Steak Masterclass where he shared advice on how to do exactly that.

Firstly, he says, don’t deviate from quality and always buy fresh.

“Unless you have a long-standing relationship with your butcher, stay away from pre-packed marinated meat,” he says.

Jason also recommends that you rather buy your meat from a butcher than a supermarket.

“The problem with buying meat from big chain stores is that you are not always sure what you are buying.”

He explains that besides the grade of meat, you also have to take into consideration the beef’s breed and if it was grain- or grass-fed.

A booklet handed out at the masterclass says South Africa produces 85% of its own beef with the rest being imported from Botswana, Namibia and New Zealand. Local breeds include the Nguni, Afrikaner, Brahman, Angus cross-breeds.

Feeding techniques have an impact on marbling (streaks of fat in lean meat) and the ratios of unsaturated fats versus saturated fats.

“At Husser Grill, we serve A-grade, grain-fed Angus beef. If you want flavour, buy meat with marbling, or better still, meat that is still on the bone. But be careful not to mistake marbling for sinew. Fat has a slightly yellow tinge to it while sinew has a shiny, white colour,” he says.

Allen says there is nothing worse than chewing and chewing on a piece of sinew. “Simply remove the lining of sinew by sliding a sharp knife under it. There is no need to dig into the meat, the sinew usually cuts away quite easily.”

The tenderness of the meat has a lot to do with the muscle it is cut from X the work the muscle does and the rate it does it at. Meat cut from the shin, leg and cheek, for instance, do a lot of work and need slow, long cooking.

Rump, the most popular steak in South Africa, is cut from the hindquarter which needs to be matured. It has a layer of fat that provides extra flavour.

Fillet does little or no work. It can be served rare to medium-rare.

Of all the cuts, fillet is by far the most tender and it has almost zero fat content. It is cut from the long muscle which runs underneath the backbone of the animal.

Jason says if you are going to buy a head of fillet don’t go smaller than 1.8kg and no bigger than 2.2kg.

“If it falls out of these perimeters it might be a sign that there was something wrong with the cattle. Either it was under-nourished or it was injected to grow faster.”

When it comes to the actual braaing, here are a few tips provided at the masterclass:

. Do not freeze your meat. It stops the maturation process and retains water, making the steak dry and flavourless. Ask your butcher to vacuum pack each steak individually and let it wet-age in the fridge for up to 28 days or more. If the bag blows, have it re-vacuumed immediately as oxidisation will set in and the meat will discolour and go off.

. Steaks must be at room temperature. Don’t cook directly from the fridge. Room temperature steaks achieve more even cook-through due to the shorter time required to cook the centre.

. To braai the perfect medium-to-rare steak, grill it for one minute per centimetre of thickness per side. For example, if your steak is 2cm thick grill it for two minutes on the one side, then flip and grill it for two minutes on the other. Do not “roll” the meat, in other words, sear the sides.

. If the meat has bone or fat on it, grill it bone- or fat-side first. This is called rendering the fat. The meat will absorb the flavour of the fat as it melts. Remember to cut (shallow incisions about 2cms apart) into the fat to prevent it from curling.

. For steak, the coals should be glowing and your clean grid should be oiled (sunflower or olive oil) to ensure that the steak turns easily. Avoid too much flame. Keep hot coals aside and braai chicken and wors first. Then scrape over the hot coals for the steak.

. Lightly brush your steak with olive oil and season with your favourite spices. Do not use salt on raw meat. It absorbs moisture and dries out the meat. If you like, you can add it after the meat is done.

. Use tongs, never a fork, to lay your steak on the grid and to turn it. A fork punctures the meat, draining the fats and juices. Also, don’t press down on the meat with your tong. Just let it sizzle.

. Ideally, steak should be basted at least once on each side during the grilling process, then, just before serving, coat it one more time.

. Allow the steak to “rest” in a warm area for at least three to five minutes as it enables the meat to “relax” and the juices to flow more readily.

Upcoming Steak Masterclasses with The Hussar Grill will take place on 10 October, 14 November and 28 November.

V To book your place and pay, go to


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