FOR those producing beef in the premium space, the opportunities going forward on the domestic front won’t come from re-inventing the wheel but rather from fine tuning an already attractive product.
Celebrity chef Adam Liaw’s insights into the way Australian families cook and what they are seeking provided a good deal of fodder for thought among some of the country’s leading seedstock producers at the Angus National Conference in Ballarat recently.
Mr Liaw, of SBS’ television show Destination Flavour fame, former MasterChef winner and regular Fairfax columnist, gave a fascinating talk at the conference, which started with how to best cook a steak but ended up venturing deep into the psyche of the home cook.
The average Australian family typically cooks just five dishes, said.
“I write 700 recipes a year so it’s the greatest validation of what I do when someone says we now cook something out of your book on a regular basis,” Mr Liaw said.
“We don’t really want to change the way we prepare meals.
“What we do want is for what we cook to be better.
“Writing recipes is so often about trying to improve something or fixing something that is a small problem with a particular dish.”
There was no argument that Australians liked cooking steaks, according to Mr Liaw.
“The million dollar question for food producers is how do you make it better,” he said.
“It’s a factor of value equals benefit divided by price.
“It could be healthier, or more ethical, easier to cook or - the big one - tastier.”
In the Liaw household, an evening meal takes just 18 minutes on average.
No one wants long, complicated recipes, Mr Liaw said.
“If I can teach someone how to make something they already make tastier, cheaper, more simple - that’s it in my business,” he said.
“As premium beef producers, those in the Angus world were in an incredible position, he believes.
“People are focussed on trying to make their food tastier and healthier - anything in a premium product space is going to do well,” Mr Liaw said.
The trick was coming up with that little bit of value-add and Mr Liaw said he thought beef, and in particular Angus, was doing that well.
The Angus brand was well known for quality and taste, he said.
Some other words from his experience that were music to producers’ ears: “People could not be any more interested in anything in the cooking world than how to cook a steak properly.”
A lot of the discussion revolves around how many times you flip it in a pan, Mr Liaw said.
Here’s the answer: It really doesn’t matter.
“The number of factors that go into how good your steak is that are more important than how many times you flip it could not be higher,” he said.
“I can cook you a great steak flipping it once; I can cook a great steak flipping it 15 times.
“But I can’t cook a great steak with a bad piece of meat to start with.”
There were so many old wives tales around cooking a steak, he acknowledged.
Should you oil the steak or the pan, when to salt and do you take it straight from the fridge to the heat?
A few hints from Adam Liaw: The frypan is still the easiest and best way to cook a steak but have a heavy frying pan.
Everything sticks to a pan when it’s not hot enough.
Resting a steak after it’s cooked is the most fundamental part - it allows for that vital redistribution of juices.
Exposure to air before cooking allows the nice crust which is so often desired.
Scientifically-speaking, the nerds have worked out the best time to salt is more than 40mins before cooking - it draws out moisture which then has time to become a brine on the outside and make the steak really juicy.
However, Mr Liaw choses to salt as it goes into the pan to give a good crust.
The bottom line?
With steak, and beef in general, we’re on a good thing as far as home cooking in Australia goes.
Let’s keep tweaking to perfection.