By Jintana Panyaarvudh
The Nation Weekend
FOR STEAK lovers who enjoy cooking their own juicy chunks of beef, this week’s visit to Bangkok by American celebrity chef was a Texas-sized blessing. Jay McCarthy came armed with tips on how to get the most out of meat.
McCarthy was in town as America’s Beef Ambassador, promoting US beef with a demonstration on how to select the most suitable cut and how to turn it into the perfect steak dinner at home.
He began by explaining that the US government grades beef in descending order of quality as either “Prime” (with the most marbling of fat), “Choice” or “Select”.
American chef McCarthy
Both the amount of marbling and the animal’s maturity are taken into account in predicting the tenderness, juiciness and flavour of the meat, McCarthy said.
Most restaurants in the US serve Choice or Prime despite the higher cost both to them and the customer, knowing these grades produce the best results.
For home cooking, Select beef from the supermarket is still great, he said, though it’s true that the more marbling, the more taste and juiciness.
“I know a lot of Thai people don’t like marbling because they think it’s just wasteful fat, but that’s what gives beef its flavour,” he said.
You choose the right grade of beef, your preferred cut, and then fire up the grill.
Wearing his signature cowboy hat, McCarthy fired up the grill and demonstrated how to cook Tomahawk and Rib Eye steaks the way it should be done at home.
First, he said, the meat has to be at room temperature – 15 to 18 degrees Celsius. “Don’t take it straight from the refrigerator and cook it because it cooks differently when it’s cold. At room temperature, it will cook more easily.”
McCarthy believes adding a little pepper and sea salt makes the meat tastier, and he advised against flipping the steak too often while it’s cooking. “Flip it when you see the juice pooling on top. Once you get the meat to the desired redness, it’s done.”
His final tip was perhaps the one the fewest home cooks know about. Once the meat is off the grill, he said, let it rest and cool for three or four minutes before you slice into it.
McCarthy said a robust beef like New York strip loin is probably best suited to spicy Thai cuisine because it’s so strongly flavoured.
Tomahawk steak is here to tempt.
“Squeezing lime or lemon over grilled steak will both add flavour and suit the Thai palate,” he said.
For Thai beef salad or a marinated and grilled dish, he recommended flank steak, which comes from the cow’s abdomen or lower chest.
“My mom has always cooked flank at home. It’s better value than New York strip loin and rib eye, which are more in demand and higher priced,” McCarthy said. He prefers strip steak because it’s a muscle that’s done little work and is thus tender.
Born in New York, raised in Jamaica and educated in Texas, the kitchen magician has earned accolades for his innovative style and won awards for his restaurants.
McCarthy appears often on cable television’s Food Network and on radio and is a much-sought-after food critic and judge. He spends much of the year consulting, teaching and lecturing at home and abroad.
McCarthy serves Tomahawk steak at a “Tasty America” promotion at Siam Paragon’s Gourmet Market.
His cooking demonstration helped kick off a “Tasty America” promotion organised by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) office at the American embassy in Bangkok. It continues through Tuesday at the Gourmet Markets at Siam Paragon, EmQuartier and Emporuim.
The US exported $4 million worth of beef and beef products to Thailand last year – up 30 per cent from 2016 – according to the country’s agricultural attache, Paul Welcher. He credited the steady rise in demand to the meat’s high quality and tastiness.
The USDA says US beef is popular thanks to its uniform grading system, which gives consumers confidence in the meat’s quality and safety.