Interview: MasterChef alumni Matt Sinclair shares his tips and techniques on all things beef

As warmer weather approaches, what better way to celebrate spring than a good old fashioned BBQ or cooking up a Sunday roast? The AU Review spoke with MasterChef finalist and restaurant owner of Sum Yung Guys, Matt Sinclair, who enlightened us with his knowledge of the best beef cuts and cooking techniques. From slow braising, roasting to cooking the perfect steak, Matt gives us the low-down that we need to sharpen those culinary skills and become a meat maven.

What are some easy to cook beef cuts?

Easy to cook beefs for people are ones that are most tender. Ones that are pretty hard to mess up, such as the eye fillet, sirloin, porterhouse and things like that. They’re the easiest but I’m not necessarily saying they’re the tastiest or the best. In terms of ease and simplicity, they are pretty straightforward and perfect for grilling. They’re probably at the top of the list.

What are the best beef cuts for roasting, slow braising and curries?

If you can get a nice wagyu rump cap it’s really nice for roasting. For slow cooking, short rib or beef cheek is definitely my two picks. For curries, I like using chuck from the shoulder. Texturally it holds up really well and has a great flavour.

What’s the secret to cooking a perfect steak?

The perfect steak is always starting at room temperature. Make sure it is well seasoned, has a nice high heat, good caramelisation, sealing it and then the resting. It’s not so much the cooking part, but in order to do justice to the cooking process, the resting is the key.

How long do you let the steak rest?

I like to almost let it come back down to room temperature, so I know that it’s stabilised cause obviously it goes through some intense processes with the high heat. As a guide they say about half the amount of time it took to cook. If I’m cooking a rib eye, I’m quite happy to let it sit there for 20 minutes to almost half an hour and let it relax. The longer the better. You can also use a thermometer as a gauge to give you the physical indicators. When you’ve hit the right temperature. Touch it and feel it and develop a feel for it. You develop your own gauge on it and have in-built techniques without needing to use a thermometer.

What is the ideal temperature when cooking a steak?

You can go anywhere from 55 to 65 (between medium rare and medium). For things like rib eye and wagyu steak that has a lot fat content , you want to go a little bit passed medium rare. This is in order to render the fat properly and the fat on the bone .

What are the most underrated and affordable cuts of beef?

It’s starting to become more common knowledge for things like flat iron steaks, skirt and those different cuts are becoming more readily available and they’re delicious. You get a flat iron steak that’s cut off from the shoulder and there’s a lot flavour up in that region and it’s a quick cook. I like to cook it over charcoal with some chimichurri with a nice spiced up potato salad as a side. Flat iron steak done over a charcoal with a spicy, acidic and herbaceous chimichurri is always a winner.

What are your favourite beef recipes and drink pairings when hosting a dinner party or BBQ?

If I were to host a dinner party, I would do  a slow braised short rib or roast it. If I was going to replicate some modern restaurants, I’d get some heat in there, like a nice spicy Thai glaze for it and paired with a nice light red with a grenache or a sangiovese. They’re a little bit lower in alcohol because if you’ve got some spice and things like that in the sauce, spicy food and high alcohol in wines are not a good mix. It tends to blow up in your mouth.
I would also do a big nice prime rib and roast the rack then go with a similar choice of wine.

What are your tips for beginner home cooks when cooking with beef for the first time?

It’s the golden rule of becoming good mates with your butcher I think. I still go to our local butcher and there will be different cuts or different things that he will suggest cause he obviously knows I like to cook and experiment. I rack their brains and ask what they would do with it. These guys work with it everyday, so if anyone knows how to treat certain cuts, that’s what they are there for. If you want to try something different, go down to the butcher and tell him what you’re chasing and ask them how they would treat it. It’s the best way to kick off.

For more information around cuts, cooking tips, and recipes, head on over to Australian Beef.

Danica Sharma

Writer for the AU Review, a lover of books, poetry, good food, travel and adventure. Follow her personal instagram @danicaarasharma or her poetry instagram @danicasharmawrites