Pros: Lots and lots of tips, hints and guides; good recipes
Cons: Recipes are not as consistently good as one might hope
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
First published 1/2/2001
First you’ll find a section on “Making, Buying, and Cooking Steak.” Yes, “making” the steak goes into all the details of how the cows are raised, sold, etc. It includes some basic nutritional information, what matters to the companies, fat, texture, and so on. You’ll find out about “aging” beef (not to be attempted at home) and how to store beef. There are tips on buying steak (what it should look like), cooking steak (doneness, including how to tell doneness without cutting the meat open), methods of cooking, and grading of beef.
The rest of this book is organized by cut of steak. Which is to say, there’s the tenderloin chapter, the T-bone chapter, the porterhouse chapter, strip or top loin, rib, rib-eye, sirloin, chuck, round/eye round/rump, flank, skirt, etc.
Each chapter starts out with information on that particular cut of steak: what its texture and taste are like, whether it comes with bone-in, how large and thick it tends to be, what it may be called by your butcher, and how it can best be cooked. If you really want to turn out the best steaks in town, it’s hard to find a better resource than this cookbook!
Some of the recipes in here are fairly standard. For instance, in the tenderloin chapter you’ll find the classic “Steak au Poivre,” or peppercorn steak. Some recipes are twists on the classics: such as Surf and Turf, Asian Style, which makes use of scallions, fresh ginger, and garlic. William Rice also pulls recipes from various cuisines, such as Stuffed Filets with Ancho Sauce, Steak and Noodles Vietnamese Style, and Three-Pepper Fajitas.
You’ll find a few recipes that won’t quite fit your standard view of steak: Asian Beef Salad with Cucumber, for instance. Flank Steak Sandwiches with Red Pepper-Dill Ketchup. And, of course, he comes up with some fabulous interesting recipes: T-Bone Steak with Tomato-Green Peppercorn Butter; Pangrilled Rib-Eye with a Sweet-Hot Mustard-Beer Sauce. Some are his own recipes; others are from various other chefs. You’ll also find appetizers and side dishes, from Beer and Cheese Spread to Mango Guacamole, White Gazpacho, Couscous Salad with Plum Tomatoes, Cowboy Beans, and Apple-Stilton Coleslaw.
Random Little Things
You’ll find helpful tips scattered throughout, such as “Bill’s Six-Step Guide to Great Grilling,” and the guides to carving, equipment, and condiments. You’ll even find a list of great steakhouses across the US. Thankfully the helpful tips are actually referenced in the table of contents, so they’re easy to find when you need them.
The “flavor” of this book is interesting, and something that amuses us. New and interesting things are done with steak in this book, there’s no argument there. It’s about as far as one can get from slapping it on the backyard barbecue two minutes before the football game. These are truly sumptuous and inventive dishes. But I think Mr. Rice realized that if he was going to put out a steak cookbook, he would have to cater to that other crowd as well. So every now and then, you’ll find him exhorting you to “serve it with beer!” (I think that last quotation should be imagined in a deep, manly voice.)
So, How Good Is It Anyway?
We really like this cookbook. Some recipes are pretty good but not great (T-Bone Steak with Six-Shooter Rub; Sliced Porterhouse with Garlic Butter Sauce; Steak Diana). A few are just okay (Strip Roast with Horseradish Cream Sauce; Short-Order Steak and Eggs).
Some, however, are strictly fantastic: our favorite is the Bloody Mary Steak and Sauce, followed at a close second by the Jerk Beauty Steak.
So is this cookbook worth it? Yes. The recipes are good (if not consistently amazing), and the tips for cooking steak will more than make up for any deficiencies in the recipes.