Alex Mackay's Perfect Steak with Hot, Soft and Hard Garlic Butter

10 minutes
to cook

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'I found my first steak under a slab of Maitre d’hotel butter.

The steak’s sizzling brown surface melted the cold butter in my mouth. A cold slab is no longer enough; part of my butter needs to melt and mingle with the steak’s meaty secretions in the pan; part needs to soften and flow across the glistening flesh but stay a little hard in its heart. I sometimes get sucked in by the smoky kisses of a charcoal grilled steak but a frying pan is the best place for it. The best place to fully brown the flesh and the best way to catch the juices that fry to a meaty treasure. 

You release this treasure with water then add a knob of golden butter. Once your steak has had a rest, not too long, just a nap, slowly turn the steak in these juices until it glows with incandescent goodness. This makes the difference between a steak that is nice and a steak that is sublime.  The less cooked you like your steak the hotter the pan should be. Very approximate cooking times are 2 minutes each side for medium rare, 3 minutes each side for medium, 4 for well done. If you’re willing to share, slice the steak quite thinly for younger kids. It doesn’t seem right to puree or freeze a steak, but you probably can'. Alex Mackay

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From Delia's Food and Wine Workshops, recipe by Alex Mackay Serves 2

  • method
  • Ingredients


1.  Get everything ready before you start frying.

Put a bowl to pour the fat into, a plate with a rack over the top and 6 tbsp of water next to your stove.

2.  Get a medium (20cm) frying pan, it needs to be just large enough to hold the steaks comfortably but not have too much space around the outside. Add the vegetable oil. Heat the oil until it smokes.

3.  Season the ribeyes on both sides with salt. Add the ribeyes to the pan. Fry for 2 minutes over a high heat. Don’t worry if the pan smokes, it needs to be this hot. Turn the steaks. Fry for 2 minutes. Drain the fat. Turn the heat to low. Add the 10g butter to the pan. Fry for 15 seconds on each side, the butter will go brown and smell nutty, but it shouldn’t burn.  

4.  Put the steaks on your resting rack for 2 minutes. Add 6 tbsp of water to the pan. Stir it in vigorously. Bring to the boil. Boil for 30 seconds until there is about 2 tbsp of liquid left. Take the pan off the heat. Stir in 4 slices of the garlic butter. Put the steaks into the pan.  Add any juices that have escaped on to the plate under the resting rack. Turn the steaks over in the buttery pan juices until the surfaces are well coated. Top with the remaining garlic butter.

Serve with every last bit of juice in the pan and the two slices of cold butter.  

Magic Garlic Butter

Prep Ahead I’ll tell you two weeks in the fridge, but I’ve have successfully kept garlic butter for a month in the fridge and it is lovely. The butter can be frozen for least 3 months. A good way to freeze garlic butter is to cut it into 25g slices first then put the slices into a sealed plastic box so that you can get a portion when you need it without having to hack into the log.

Makes 275g. Enough for about 20 portions. You may as well make this much to have a magical slice whenever you fancy one!

Prep / Cooking 10-15 mins     
Active Time 10-15 mins
2 tbsp chopped garlic (about 8 average cloves, 3/4 of an average head)
1, 25g bunch curly parsley, leaves and stalks
250g soft butter
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

1.  Boil your kettle. Get a medium bowl. Add the garlic cloves. Pour the boiling water over the top. Leave for 5 minutes.   

2.  Start peeling the garlic as soon as it is cool enough to handle. Chop the garlic and parsley finely. This can be done by hand or in a small food processor.

3.  Get a large bowl. Add the butter, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. Mix together well.

4.  Put a roll of clingfilm at the back of your chopping board to hold the roll steady. Pull out enough clingfilm to cover your board. Scoop the butter out of your bowl with a spatula. Spread it across the clingfilm in a rough line, 20cm long. Lift the edge of the clingfilm over the butter.  Roll the butter in the clingfilm, pulling it tight and smoothing it into a cylinder after each roll. Once you’ve rolled the butter about 4 times, cut the cling film. Twist the ends in opposite directions like a sweetie wrapper until you have a tight round log, it will be about 15cm long.  

Gentle Garlic Butter  
1.  Put the garlic into a medium saucepan. Cover with 1.5 litres of water. Bring to the boil, boil for 5 minutes. If you want a very delicate flavour, do this twice. Drain. Peel. Continue as above.

Photo by Peter Knab


50g Magic garlic butter (see end of method) cut in half, each half cut in 4 slices plus 15g cut in two slices


You will need a 20cm frying pan

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