Charred and crunchy on the outside, tender and pink on the inside.
Black Hide Steakhouse in Brisbane, Australia, is known for nailing the perfect steak crust, every time. (They’ve even won multiple awards, including Australia’s Best Steak Restaurant, Queensland’s Best Steak Restaurant and a Chef’s Hat.)
Of course, few home stove tops can produce the same high temperatures that commercial equipment in an award-winning restaurant can. So how can you replicate steak crust at home?
We spoke to Black Hide’s Group Executive Chef, Lukas McEwan, on just how a home cook can achieve the perfect crust – a beautifully caramelised outside, while remaining succulent and juicy on the inside.
Here are Lukas’s simple tips to recreate the perfect steak crust at home.
The first step to achieving the perfect crust is to start with the right thickness.
“Domestic appliances don’t get nearly as hot as commercial products, so to achieve a good crust you need to have a thick steak,” says Lukas. “Crust needs heat, so if your steak is too thin, it will overcook by the time you get your crust. The thinner the steak, the higher the chances are of overcooking.”
Look for a steak thickness of at least 1.25 inches or more.
Lukas says chargrilling will give you intense crust spots, but it won’t give you a full crust.
“Some people enjoy chargrilling because when it hits the bars you get dark, almost burnt, lines of crust. It’s a different flavour profile – almost bitter, and synonymous with charcoal barbecuing.”
“We steer away from chargrilling at Black Hide Steakhouse,” he explains. “The crust we create comes from a flat style grill known as the Montague Broiler.”
Imported from Chicago, the Montague Broiler is a high-heat cooking centre with a plancha top that allows restaurants to cook perfect steaks without losing heat.
“At home, you want to cook on something thick and heavy, so that when the big piece of meat hits the pan you’re not going to lose the temperature of the pan. A thick, flat top barbecue plate, or a heavy-based pan, like cast iron, is best,” says Lukas.
Before you cook, leave the steak out to room temperature first so you don’t lose the moisture.
“Then, get it as hot as you can get it.”
Don’t make this mis-steak
To create the best crust, Lukas says to oil the steak – not the pan.
“Smoke and burnt oil adds a bitter flavour, so use a neutral cooking oil with a high smoke point, such as vegetable, cottonseed, grapeseed, canola or vegetable oil. Don’t use olive oil – the smoke point is far too low.”
Oil the steak quite well and season liberally. For best results, use a high quality flake salt.
“When you think you’ve put enough salt on, you’re probably about 30% shy of where you need to be,” says Lukas. “Add quite a lot of salt. When the salt crystals and oil hits the steak, that caramelisation of the meat and salt together is where the crust is built.”
Once your pan is as hot as you can get it, sear the steak.
To flip or not to flip?
There are many theories around flipping steak. According to Lukas, flipping is not too important – it’s all about when your crust is ready.
“Ideally you want to achieve the crust before your desired cooking temperature. If you’re still trying to create crust and you’re already at temperature, you’re going to overcook the steak.
“Flip it as much as you need to to get the crust, without going above your desired temperature. Go hard on it, get an even crust, then pull it out of the pan and let it rest.”
Once it’s rested, you can check the temperature before finishing it off in the oven or pan.
“When you take it out of the pan, that residual heat will continue to cook. By the time it’s rested, it should be pretty close to where you want it to be. If you’re after medium rare, turn the temperature to low and put the steak back on the pan for a couple more minutes until you reach your desired cooking temperature.”
When to take your steak off the heat
If you want your steak medium rare, Lukas’s recommendation is to pull the steak off the heat at rare.
“You can always put it back on the heat if it’s under, but once it’s over you can’t take it away. It’s always better to take it out early then put it back in.”“Meat thermometers are excellent,” he adds. “If you use a meat thermometer, then anyone can create a perfectly cooked steak.” He recommends removing steak at around 116ºF/47ºC for medium rare, and at around 122ºF/50ºC for medium.
Finishing your steak
Let it rest before finishing it off in the pan. “If you cook your steak for 10 minutes, rest it for 5. Resting is always half the amount of cooking time.”
When steak rests, you lose a bit of crust. Lukas says you can finish it in a pan with butter.
“This is the French method – they put the steak back into a hot pan with foaming butter and baste it. This creates a lovely flavour.
“Take the steak out before your desired cooking temperature, rest it, put it back in the pan, add a big pump of butter and use the heat from the foaming butter to bring it to a nice medium rare or medium.”
- 1 large steak, such as a rib-eye, minimum 1.25 inches thick
- Good quality flake salt
- A neutral oil, such as vegetable, cottonseed, grapeseed or canola
- Butter, for finishing
- A thick, flat top barbecue plate or cast iron pan
- A meat thermometer
Bring the steak to room temperature. Brush the steak with oil and salt liberally. You need enough salt to help create the crust.
Bring the barbecue plate or cast iron pan to the highest temperature you can. Sear the steak, flipping as often as you need to achieve a crust.
Once you have an even crust, take the steak out before your desired cooking temperature and let it rest. The residual heat will continue cooking the steak.
Put it back in the pan, add butter and baste the steak with the foaming butter to bring it to a nice medium rare or medium.