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Steak and Ketchup

1 Man's Opinion 142

The Scenario:


Here at One Man Kitchen, we have a very specific remit. We talk about food. We don’t get into anything else in the world. Just food. So when news leaks out about the President of the United States being involved in any number of scandals, we have no comment. Not our business. We are here to talk about food. However, when the information leaking out about a certain world leader pertains to food, you can bet your bottom dollar that we are going to have something to say.

President Trump ordered and ate a steak for his dinner last month. Something so absurdly normal that it is barely worthy of comment. Regardless of your political affiliations, the time when a man and his steak come together is sacred but what he did… what he did was wrong.

If you cook a $50 28-day dry-aged steak until it is well done and then serve it with ketchup, then you are a fucking monster and you have no business eating steak. Just order a burger and toss the bun away, it will taste the same and it will cost about $45 less. Better yet, take the steak knife, cut the sole off of your shoe and pop it in the microwave.

Unlike many of my colleagues in the culinary world, I am not saying that a well-done steak makes you a bad person, I have been known to eat certain cuts of beef well-done myself, but to take something as beautiful and pure as a 28-day dry-aged steak, with all of the complex flavours that the process imparts on the meat, and burn it all away is horrifying.

Which brings us to part two of this cluster fuck. Ketchup on a steak. A seasoning choice so ridiculous that it was mocked in the popular Ryan Reynolds indie-flick “Waiting” where it was used as shorthand to indicate a character who was intellectually challenged while being loudly opinionated. Ketchup has its place, it is the backbone of many American dishes, a key component in bastes and barbecue sauces. Meatloaf wouldn’t be the same without it. Just like well-done beef there is a time and a place for it.

The reason that ketchup is so popular among children is that its familiar, overwhelming sweetness can drown out any unfamiliar flavours that might upset them. When you slop it onto a steak, particularly an aged one, you drown out all the umami flavours that define meat as a foodstuff.

We talk a lot on this site about buying the best ingredients that you can afford, but the atrocity that was witnessed in David Burke’s BLT Prime restaurant in Washington DC was the opposite end of the same problem. When you can afford the very finest ingredients but have absolutely no idea what you are meant to do with them. It is on par with the more historic occasion when tea was first imported to England and the leaves were boiled up, drained and served out on plates as part of a roast dinner. There is no point in buying the best ingredients if you have no idea what the difference between them and the cheapest version is. There is no point in buying the best ingredients if you have no idea how they need to be prepared.

The most expensive ingredient is not always the appropriate one. Cheap and tough cuts of meat, riddled with fat, are the best for slow cooking. The finest and leanest steaks are only suitable for a quick flash on the grill. There is nothing wrong with eating a well-done steak, provided you choose the right steak. A rib-eye or t-bone steak, thanks to their marbling, can weather the grill for longer than most. A thin cut fillet steak can be cooked to well done in a flash, giving you the well-done flavour that you desire without the experience of chewing through a leather belt. The added advantage is that your meal can be cooked on the same timescale as everyone else that you are dining with so you aren’t considered incredibly rude.

As for the rest… just leave the ketchup alone.

G D Penman writes books. He lives in Scotland with his partner and children, some of whom are human. In those few precious moments that he isn’t parenting or writing he likes to watch cartoons, play video games, read more books than are entirely feasible and continues on his quest to eat the flesh of every living species. He has worked in just about every job you can have in a restaurant and now he is here to yell at you for using a microwave when there is a perfectly good oven right there.

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