Archive | September, 2008

Gordon Ramsey on How to Cook Meat

11 Sep


The secret of cooking meat is in the resting. I find it so dispiriting when I cut into a steak and watch all the juices leak out on to the plate because it hasn’t had time to relax and reabsorb all that goodness. Always start with your meat at room temperature. This is particularly true of thin cuts such as steak.

If it is still fridge-cold when you start cooking, the outside will be burnt before the centre has had time to warm through. If you are cooking a rare fillet, for example, give it two and a half minutes on each side and let it rest in its own juices for three. Then, just before serving, roll it in its juices again before flashing it through a hot oven.

Mind you, at home I’m more interested in cooking with less popular, cheaper cuts, which can be far more flavoursome and rewarding. They usually require slow-cooking methods, such as poaching, braising or stewing, to tenderise them. Adding a sweet element, such as fresh or dried fruit, can help to cut the richness.


Given how popular sushi has become, I’m amazed at how squeamish people are about eating their fish anything other than nuked. Believe me, if the inside is a bright white, the outside will be dried out and woolly. No, you want the inside of your fish slightly translucent, like the inside of an oyster shell.

If you are pan-frying, start with a medium-hot pan, add olive oil and put in your seasoned fillet of fish, skin-side down. Don’t worry about it sticking, because once it has caramelised, the fillet will release itself. Prodding and poking will just make it fall apart.

Once it is 80 per cent cooked, gently turn it over, add a knob of butter and keep basting it. Add the butter too early and you’ll end up with a blackened pan and burnt-tasting fish.

Finally, allow the fish to relax, during which time it will continue to cook. Like vegetables, it can be held for five minutes and then flashed in a 200C/Gas 6 oven with a little stock to warm it through.

Alternatively, for a lighter treatment, don’t be afraid to gently poach your fish gently in stock. At the restaurants, we’ll often wrap fillets and fresh herbs inside clingfilm to seal in the flavours and stop the fish falling apart. Just remember to take it off before you serve it up.

People read those stupid “countdown to Sunday lunch” menu planners which tell you to put on your potatoes with 20 minutes to go, your carrots with 10, your peas with five, etc, and think that they are being all organised and clever. Then, come 1pm, it’s chaos. They’re trying to carve the chicken, mash the potatoes, drain the veg and thicken the gravy all at the same time. I wouldn’t even try that with a brigade of 15 chefs.

No, what you have to do is master the art of timing – by which I mean preparing everything as far ahead as possible so that two thirds of the work has already been done and you’re just bringing together the elements for the grand finale.

That means having the meat ready up to half an hour before and quickly reheating it in its juices, if necessary. It means parboiling your vegetables and refreshing them in cold water, ready to be warmed through in a pan with a splash of olive oil. It means frying your mushrooms in olive oil and reheating them in butter.

The aim is to turn the final stages of cooking into an assembly line, which is much easier to control than starting everything from scratch and cooking it right through. And if it still feels like too much, for goodness’ sake put your guests to work.


The first thing you will notice when you watch a chef cook is how much salt he uses. That’s because salt and pepper are the building blocks of any kitchen, and the art of seasoning is one of the most important skills that you can learn. To be able to do so with confidence will do more than anything else to elevate your cooking; to draw out and enhance the flavours of your main ingredients.

Too many people wait until the end to season their food – normally once it is on the table. There are two problems with that. First, you’ll probably use much more salt that way – and that’s something we have all got to watch – and second, there will be no subtlety. Your tastebuds will be clobbered. Better to add it at the beginning of cooking so that the raw taste can be cooked out and it becomes more of a background flavour.

So season early and keep tasting all the way through cooking to see how the flavours evolve. Finally, don’t limit yourself: salt and pepper are only the beginning of the story. We always season fish or seafood with a squeeze of lemon or lime at the end and, increasingly, we’ll use whole bunches of herbs to infuse a soup or cream sauce, or add cloves, vanilla or cinnamon to a fish stock. Be bold. Be adventurous.