There are few better places to learn some insider tricks on cooking steak than the kitchens of Hawksmoor.
Esquire managed to get a private audience at the fiercely hot grill of Hawksmoor Guildhall, thanks to an invitation from lifestyle concierge service Ten Group, which offers this kind of behind the scenes access, to its members, whether it's meeting the chef, arranging an exclusive tasting menu or organising a last-minute table at a fully-booked restaurant.
Chef Chris Hayes took a break from grilling to give us the lowdown on the five key stages of doing it right.
1 The Meat
The most important part is getting good beef, which is why all Hawksmoor meat comes from the Ginger Pig. We use big cuts of steak for a reason, not for show. It's so we can get the colour and char all the way around the outside of the steaks without overcooking them. Because they need to spend a long time on the grill, we can still get a nice medium rare and keep them juicy on the inside if they're big enough cuts.
2 The Prep
All of our meat we grill straight from the fridge as we want it to be cold so it doesn't cook in the middle before we get a really nice glaze on the outside. We season all our meat with a combination of mainly sea salt, a bit of smoked sea salt and a small amount of black pepper. Don't put too much of the pepper on as it burns on the grill as it's so hot and too much gives a burnt taste on the meat.
We put quite a lot of salt on – what naturally stays on the steak after you've given it a shake is perfect.
3 The Grill
All of our meat is cooked on a Turkish charcoal grill. Charcoal gives our meat that distinctive smoky charcoal flavor which we love. At home, the next best thing is a charcoal barbecue or, inside, a skillet pan which you will need to get very, very hot before you cook. Don't use oil on either the steak or the pan. If the grill is hot enough you don't need it.
4 The Cooking
The Hawksmoor philosophy for grilling is that we don't want those black burnt chargrill stripes you see at some places but an all over crust. We constantly move the steaks every 10-15 seconds, just a little each time. What we're going for is almost as if you're pan-frying the meat so you end up with an all over dark brown colour, even on the sides.
Something that's often overlooked at home but is crucial to cooking a steak well. We rest it in a thermodyne oven that holds the meat at about 55 degrees so it gets it warmer in the middle and leaves it nice and pink in the middle, sucking all the juices back into the meat. We rest for about 8 minutes which can take it from a rare to a medium rare.
The best way to rest meat at home is simply to cover the steaks in aluminium foil, making sure you leave it for at least five minutes. Job done.