Kitchen Knives Essentials for Juicier Steaks

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The perfect flame-grilled steak is created when the best cut of meat, ageing, spice selection and cooking technique fuse to create gastronomic wizardry. Thus, a high-quality kitchen knives set is highly recommended to best prepare that special piece of meat for the fire.

Using the Right Kitchen Knives

Different cuts of meat require the use of different knives. Selecting the best knife for each cut of meat requires becoming well acquainted with the various kitchen knives types.

After all, only the best kitchen knives are capable of flawlessly slicing tenderloin into smooth medallions to create succulent Filet Mignon.

View our range of high-end Miyabi knives for guidance on kitchen knives types.

Expert advice

Deli and Butchery owner, Scott MacKenzie, built his business from scratch and shares some of his expert charcuterie knowledge with Ice-Cold Online:

The best steak for charcoal braais or gas BBQ grills has a bright, cherry-red colour, is juicy, tender and loaded with natural flavour. Scott recommends looking for good marbling and minimum sinew when selecting that perfect rump steak for the braai.

The marble effect

A basic kitchen knives set should always include a meat knife for creating precisely cut steak.
A basic kitchen knives set should always include a meat knife for more precise meat cuts.

Marbling refers to the little specks of intramuscular fat in each cut of meat and is aptly called “taste fat” as it adds a huge amount of taste and flavour.

A well-marbled steak is juicier as the marbling keeps the steak moist during cooking, preventing much of the juices from evaporating during cooking on the charcoal braai or gas BBQ grill.

As it influences the meat’s tenderness and moistness, marbling is one of the premier elements of steak evaluation.

Why Wagyu?

If you’re a meat lover and feeling a little fancy, a Santoku knife can make for a great addition to your kitchen knives set.

Highly marbled, this Japanese beef is considered by many as the most sought-after beef on the planet. Wagyu cattle is specifically bred for a higher percentage fatty acids, giving it a higher marbling score.

The higher the marbling score, the more tender, juicy and flavoursome the meat is. A hundred percent wagyu beef’s unique melt-in-your-mouth quality is attributed to it having the highest marble levels of any beef in the world.

Wagyu’s high fat content is also more filling and as such, the Japanese generally eat smaller 100g portions as opposed to the standard South African 300g cuts.

Many butcheries and restaurants put great emphasis on wagyu burgers, wors and mince. However, Scott says fat can be mechanically added to these products which nullifies the need to pay a premium for wagyu.

“The real value of wagyu is found in prime cuts such as rump and sirloin.”

The art of ageing steaks

In the absence of butcher's knives, a chef knife can be a good alternative to include in your kitchen knives set.
Butcher’s knives are must-haves if you tend to cut a lot of bony meat. If you don’t, a chef’s knife is a good alternative to include in your kitchen knives set.

Aging is a controlled decomposition of the meat that breaks down membranes and tendons to soften the meat and make it more flavoursome.

The difference between dry and wet aging lies in the packaging of cuts. Dry ageing is done in a dry ageing fridge or cabinet and the meat remains unpackaged. This ageing technique is suitable for cuts such as prime rib and tomahawk steaks that are on the bone and have a lot of fat.

Middle meats, such as ribeyes, sirloins and rump steaks are packaged in plastic bags and vacuum sealed and left in the fridge to age in its own juices.

Scott says because fillet is already soft, it doesn’t need to be matured. Besides that, fillet is not suitable for ageing as it doesn’t have a fat cover to protect it while ageing.

Cooking dos and don’ts

“The biggest mistake people make when cooking meat is taking it straight from the fridge and onto the braai. Prime cuts should be cooked from room temperature or else they become tough.”

Scott explains that meat clams up in cold temperatures and needs to be left at room temperature for at least an hour before cooking to give the fibres a chance to relax.

Steaks are cooked at a high temperature and therefore need to be relaxed before putting on the charcoal braai or gas BBQ grill. This will prevent the meat from stiffening up due to shock caused by a sudden, extreme change in temperature.

Meat cuts from the front quarter for stewing and slow cooking can be cooked straight from the fridge as the extended cooking time will soften the meat.

Scott recommends defrosting frozen prime cut steaks a day before cooking to ensure maximum tenderness.

“Prime cuts are already tasty and should not be marinated in sauce.”

Scott recommends covering steaks in a dry rub when taken out the fridge.

“My favourite dry rub contains crushed garlic, black pepper, thyme, and coriander seeds.”

After cooking, meat should be allowed to rest for about four minutes to give the fibres enough time to relax and increase in tenderness. This means taking the meat off the braai or grill before it is done cooking as standing time is also cooking time.

The touch test

The best way to test the level of doneness of a steak is the touch test (also called the palm test for steak doneness). This test uses the flesh between your thumb and bottom of your palm to test doneness as it mimics the softness of meat at its various cooking stages.

The image below illustrates the technique:

hand doneness test for steak

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