This past weekend I cooked something that has been on my bucket list for years: Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine Style Steak) which is a Porterhouse Steak cooked over embers.
There are very few variants to this cooking method with most recipes being remarkably consistent, so after reading several recipes and methods, here is what I did:
I went to my local butcher shop, 3-D Meats in Dalton, Ohio, and asked them for a 3# Porterhouse Steak. (Typically, this cooking method requires a steak as thick as 3-4 adult fingers. I went on the larger side, since I was feeding my family of six, with four hungry and quite carnivorous kids.)
When I got home, I allowed the steak to rest at room temperature for 3 hours. It is important to make sure your steak isn’t cold, so it cooks as evenly as possible.
I built a fire in my fire pit, adding logs for about an hour to make sure I would have a lot of embers to cook over.
While my fire was burning happily, I worked on braised cannellini beans and a tomato, red onion, and romaine salad in the kitchen. Luckily, my kitchen window overlooks the fire pit in the backyard, so I was able to supervise my children who were enthusiastically adding kindling to my already healthy fire.
Once the fire was dying down, I spread out the embers and placed my cooking grate over it. I waited about five minutes to make sure the grate was hot. I placed the steak on the grate with no oil and no salt. This was consistent in all of the advice I had read. The salt will add moisture to the steak and the oil will add a buffer from the heat and both of those things prevent the steak from caramelizing over the embers.
I cooked on the first side for about 6 minutes. I flipped it and was thrilled to see it was beautifully caramelized. I cooked the second side for 5 minutes. Then I cooked it for an additional ten minutes standing up on the bone. That allows the bone to heat up and cook the meat from within.
(It is important to note that this steak is meant to be eaten rare.)
I transferred the finished product to a platter and allowed it to rest for 10 minutes while I finished the sides, cut the bread my wife had baked and poured the Chianti.
I cut the meat from the bone and thinly sliced it.
I finished it with just a bit of Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt (my absolute favorite salt). This steak is all about the celebration of the meat. So, resist the urge to add black pepper, herbs, or steak sauce. It is the beef that you want to taste.
I hope you give it a try this summer, because it was one of my favorite food experiences to date. It is so simple and so flavorful. If you can build a fire, this may be the easiest steak you will ever cook.