Steak out

By PATRICK STUART [email protected]

I had a pang of desire this weekend for a really good steak, cooked just how I like it – medium rare and charred on the outside from fast cooking over hot charcoal, with no flavouring other than a sprinkling of good quality sea salt (flor de sal).

My favourite cut for this type of simple cooking is sirloin, ideally well marbled with fat and aged for a good mature flavour. The butcher counter at Apolónia Galé had three different sirloins to choose from so I decided to do a taste off – comparing US Black Angus, Argentinean and Portuguese sirloins, each submitted to exactly the same treatment.

So I had the butcher cut me a nice steak from each, of exactly the same thickness, and headed home to stoke up the ‘barbie’.

I had great expectations for the US Black Angus. Eye-wateringly expensive at €39 per kilo it was the most visually appealing of the three (top in the photo) – beautifully marbled with yellowing fat, it looked pretty close to a good cut of Wagyu beef.

The Argentinian sirloin was a darker red and also well marbled, priced at €29 per kilo whilst the more lean and un-aged Portuguese sirloin was a more affordable €18.

There was clearly a big difference in the eating of the local beef compared to these prime imported cuts, although I would like to do the comparison again against some of Portugal’s premium Mirandesa beef.

The marbling and thick fat rind of the imports give flavour and keep the meet juicy whilst the ageing gives depth of flavour, but, that said, the local sirloin was of very good quality, milder in flavour of course but still juicy and tender.

If serving with a strongly-flavoured sauce this would be my choice, but for simple grilling the imports win hands down.

The US Black Angus was superbly tender with a mild rounded flavour to the meat and deliciously beefy fat, but I do not think it was worth €10 per kilo more than the Argentinean, which actually had more depth of flavour, even if it was not quite as juicy and tender.