Tim Hayward Wrote the Book on Steak

By Drake's

Jun 10, 2024

Tim Hayward Wrote the Book on Steak

“I choose what I do because I’m enthusiastic about the subject and then I dive in,” says Tim Hayward, sat at his kitchen table in Cambridge on a recent rainy morning. “I realised that no one had really gone deep on steak before, or at least not in a way that felt truly comprehensive.”

As an award-winning food critic at The Financial Times, a broadcaster and the author of books on subjects as broad as barbecuing, bread and knives, Hayward has a reputation for rigour combined with a sense of humour. Nigella Lawson calls him a “respectful eater and a beautifully elegant writer,” a sentiment that we very much agree with.

His latest book is Steak: The Whole Story, a multi-year investigation that is part meat encyclopaedia, part recipe book and part personal history. The aim, Hayward hopes, is that he’s written the book on steak. 

“It was a fascinating subject to research. I discovered that the concept of Wagyu started after WW2 and was influenced by the American’s post-war taste for steak. All the playing the cows music and massaging them is influenced by America. Korea has 142 ways of cutting steak, and I was fascinated by the reach of the American beef lobby, where cuts are traded as commodities.”

“I’m certainly not a vegan,” says Hayward, “but I think we should eat less meat and buy better. I’m optimistic that the book will give people the tools to understand where our food comes from and how we can appreciate it more ethically.”

For Hayward, the greatest steak in the world is txuleton, a traditional Basque approach that takes rib cuts from aged dairy cows, some as old as 20, giving the meat a greater complexity and depth of flavour. “The best for taste and texture,” he says. “The popular notion for a steak is that it has to be tender and juicy and you have to be able to cut it with a fork.

“The American beef lobby is huge when it comes to that way of thinking and they set the expectations, but I don’t like fillet, it’s boring, Wagyu is dull, I want something with texture. Florence is also a great steak city, particularly at Trattoria Sostanza, which is a restaurant that everyone should eat at once in their lifetime.”

For steak cooked at home, a simple approach... and a very hot pan, are the key elements. “Salt the steak the night before,” says Hayward, “put it in the fridge overnight, uncovered. While you’re cooking, keep flipping it, then probe with a meat thermometer until you get a reading of 56.6 degrees, medium-rare. 

“Ribeye is my first choice of cut. With good steak, you don’t need as much as you think you do. Get a better-quality, smaller rib and share it with somebody.”

And when it comes to the perfect drink pairing, he likes to take a New York’ish approach. “A cold martini goes perfectly with steak. It was the thing, well one of the things, that I liked very much about Keen’s in Midtown, a brilliant, old-fashioned steak house."

“One martini… followed very closely by another one.” 

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