Searing a cut of meat for three minutes on each side does not a perfect steak make. “There’s more to it than that,” Lucki Maurer says. To him, there are three commandments that must be obeyed to create a quality steak: good breeding, good butchery, good preparation. It also takes genuine respect for life. Thankfully, he is not above offering a few tricks for improving your searing and grilling results.
Lucki Maurer isn’t just adept at cooking steaks, he breeds the animals they come from. What’s more, he doesn’t just use the fillet cuts. His guiding principle is: “from nose to tail”. Many a guest and cooking student has marveled at the miracles he conjures up from allegedly inferior cuts.
He doesn’t like the term “Landwirt”, which roughly translates to “agriculturist”. “I’m a farmer. A farmer from the Bavarian Forest,” he says. The word suits Lucki, who is as authentic as the luscious meadows on the doorstep of his home in Schergengrub and the Wagyu cattle happily grazing there. To Lucki Maurer, the farmer, “cattle breeding is not about making a product. It is a symbiosis between animals, nature and humans.” On his environmentally conscious estate, Wagyu cattle, Angus cattle and crossbreeds of the two spend all year on the pastures. It is a pure grassland farm with a suckler herd. The animals live the happiest life imaginable:
“We don’t dehorn our animals, we don’t do embryo transfers, we don’t give them any preventive antibiotics, we don’t feed them genetically modified feed,” the son of an innkeeping family from the Bavarian Forest explains. His parents operate a four-star hotel in the region. At Schergengrub, every animal remains on the farm from its birth until its slaughter. Handling every single step himself is important to Lucki.
Genuine Respect for Life
We’re in the “Stoi”, the former pigsty of the family-run farm, which Lucki inherited from his late grandfather. For two decades, Lucki has been teaching eager students about meat, barbecues and the nose-to-tail principle in his cooking classes. There is one question he hears again and again: “Hey, Lucki, how do I make the perfect steak?” If he were able to say it all in a single sentence, “we wouldn’t be spending the whole day doing a cooking class, we’d be seasoning a slab of meat, searing it on both sides and cooking it to the perfect core temperature,” as he always responds. But the perfect steak can’t be reduced to taking the temperature of the pan and picking the best T-bone.
How long to sear it? It’s up to you! Some like it medium, others rare. That’s what the core temperature is for: 130 degrees for medium rare, 136 to 140 degrees for medium, 147 to 150 degrees for medium well – you can look it all up. A popular trick is to add a sprinkle of sugar to your salt rub, the basic mixture used for seasoning the meat quite some time before cooking it. When the sugar caramelizes, it releases additional roasting flavors. The salt dehydrates the meat. Sounds a bit like a fast-tracked dry-aging process, doesn’t it? In a way, it is: the result is, quite simply, better meat.
No matter whether you are cooking a tomahawk, porterhouse, T-bone, club steak, flat iron, flank, striploin, chuck roll or any of the other succulent cuts from different parts of the animal. Lucki swears by the ribeye cap, the removed and rolled-up outer muscle of the ribeye steak, which he calls “the very best piece of meat on a cow”.
Ingredients for Lucki’s rub:
1⁄4 cup of powdered garlic
1⁄4 cup of powdered onion
1⁄2 cup of brown sugar
1⁄2 cup of coarse sea salt
1⁄4 cup of coarse black pepper
1 tbsp of dried thyme
(rub = a basic seasoning for grilled meat, consisting of salt, sugar and various herbs and spices)
Ingredients for the ribeye roast:
1 bone-in prime rib (around 2.5 kg)
4 tbsp DP rub
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
70 g butter
1 garlic clove
Coat the prime rib with the DP rub and leave it to sit for about 30 minutes. Grill the meat at 230°F, indirectly and with the lid closed, for two hours. When the meat reaches a core temperature of 133°F, remove it from the grill and place the thyme and rosemary on top of it. Tie the steak up with butcher’s twine and pan-sear it in melted butter and the smashed garlic clove.
I’d rather have a really good steak once a week than a daily dinner of sub-par meat that was created with profits, rather than life, in mind.
To find a complete answer to the question about the perfect steak, however, we have to go back a lot further. Lucki likes to use a metaphor that occurred to him a while ago: a cattle farm is like the gearbox in a vehicle, where many little cogwheels work together in unison. Every single aspect needs to be just right for that perfect cut of meat to land on your plate in the end: the rearing method, the breeds, their genetics, feed, castration, age and sex, the slaughtering and butchering process, the storage and maturing of the meat and, of course, its preparation.
Lucki likes to think of his meat as a whole food rather than a product. And he doesn’t care for clichés, either: he loves filter coffee, Toast Hawaii and isn’t above adding a splash of Maggi liquid seasoning to his beef stew.
With the legendary Jolly Roger Cooking Gang, founded by the award-winning celebrity chef Stefan Marquart, he got to know the wild side of cooking – together, they have cooked for 1,500 people at the SPD party conference and, on another occasion, for Metallica! But Lucki’s respectful approach to food is entirely of his own making. The farmer, who has been named the “best newcomer ever” in the top-100 ranking of German gastronomy professionals, draws his beliefs from the life he experiences every day in his stables and on his pastures.