Steakcraft International: The Dexter Rib Steak from Pitt Cue Co., London
Steak Fact SheetCut: Rib Steak
Dry Aged? 55 Days
Pre-Cooked Weight: 25 oz.
Average Price per Ounce: ₤1.84
For a restaurant that champions low and slow cooking, London's Pitt Cue Co.'s ascension has been anything but. What started off as a seasonal food cart selling American-style barbecue on the banks of the Thames a scant two years ago has evolved into a wildly popular Soho restaurant that is creating a uniquely British style of barbecue. Pitt Cue Co. is the vision of co-owner Jamie Berger and chef Tom Adams. The two hit it off when they met in 2011 and were soon bonded by smoke, taking off an extensive pilgrimage through the United States to sample barbecue and bourbon. While Pitt Cue Co. started off as faithful homage to the styles they encountered in the American South, things have evolved significantly since they moved from food cart to restaurant. Case in point: the rib steak.
The rib steak comes from Dexter cattle sourced from Charlie Hart of Weston Farms in Cornwall. It is then "hung," or dry-aged, for 55 days in a specially constructed Himalayan-salt lined room at Warren Butchers. Dexter are originally from Ireland, but because of the similar climatic conditions in the southwestern England, they do very well in Cornwall, too. Dexters are a small breed, weighing in at about half of what an Black Angus steer would in the United States—in fact, the rib steak from a full-grown Dexter is smaller than the average veal chop here in the States.
Because of the practice of bringing cattle to market after 18 months in America, the limited Dexter production here almost never grades much above USDA Choice. But when allowed to grow larger, the breed develops abundant marbling and becomes exceptionally tender. It's also worth noting that the British butcher their beef differently than we do here in the States. The Pitt Cue Co. steak is cut from the "fore rib," a cut that's roughly analogous to the "rib" section of American dressed cattle.
A not insignificant flavor component to the Pitt Cue Co. steak comes from the fuel used to cook it. Pitt Cue Co., as one would hope, uses wood to smoke their meats, but even their direct-heat grilled offerings are cooked over coal and wood. When they started off as a simple two-man operation selling pulled pork and brisket, Berger and Adams used hickory or mesquite, mimicking the wood used for barbecuing through out the American South.
But as Pitt Cue Co. evolved into a restaurant and the partners became more immersed in food culture, they began to adopt the locavore approach and an ethos that favored sustainability, in both the sourcing of their animals and the wood they cooked with. To that end, they sought the services of Mark Parr of the London Log Company. London Log Company specializes in sustainable wood for cooking and provides the restaurant with a variety of indigenous woods, such as oak, plum, and sweet chestnut.
The steak is simply seasoned with sea salt and grilled over wood. It takes on the subtle notes from the smoke, imbuing the beef with a sweetness that helps tame the soapy, herbaceous notes that are the hallmark of pasture-raised animals. After grilling, the steak is rested on a "trencher"—a slab of bread used to soak up the juices from the beef. It's a practice that dates back to medieval times—roasted meats would be served on bread plates that would then be given to the peasants if the lord of the manor was feeling generous. Adams is far more magnanimous with his trencher, spreading it with marrow butter before placing the sliced steak atop. The final flourish is a drizzle of "glaze"—an intoxicating sauce made from rendered dry-aged fat and the smoked meat drippings from Pitt Cue Co's off-set smoker.