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David Varley, executive chef at Bourbon Steak in the Four Seasons Hotel, and I have been talking about Michael Mina‘s inventive approach to cooking steaks for at least 30 minutes now. He’s getting very deep into the chemical interactions that occur when heat is applied to animal proteins. I’m trying like hell to keep up.
Then he drops this bomb on me: “If you cook a piece of meat right, you don’t have to rest it.”
Well, there goes six months of cooking school down the drain.
Varley explains that chefs and food scientists have learned how to cook a steak, whether with sous vide techniques or with celebrity chef Mina’s butter-tempering method, so that cooks can gently raise the temperature of a cut of beef without damaging its proteins. When proteins are damaged from high heat, Varley says, they coagulate and release moisture.
“You want that juice in the steak,” he says.
Old School kitchen jockeys, of course, were trained to believe that a steak cooked in a pan or on the grill needed time away from the heat to redistribute the juices back throughout the meat. But with Mina’s butter-tempering technique, which is used on various cuts of beef at Bourbon Steak, the cooks at the hotel restaurant don’t need to rest the meat, Varley says.
Why? Because the meat’s internal temperature doesn’t get hot enough for the proteins to start coagulating and releasing their moisture. Mina’s technique, in which a steak is taken from the refrigerator and warmed in clarified butter, slowly raises the temperature of the meat to about 125 degrees. From there, Varley says, it’s just a quick sear on the grill to produce that important Maillard effect on the surface of the steak.
At no point during this process should the meat’s internal temperature get high enough to damage those proteins so that they release moisture. With no moisture release, there’s no need to rest the meat.
“The resting actually makes [the steak] cold,” Varley says.
This week’s upcoming Young & Hungry column takes a deeper look at Bourbon Steak’s butter-tempering technique — and maybe one of its flaws.