Bistecca alla Fiorentina is known as T-bone steak in the rest of the world. But it’s not the same thing!
Bistecca alla Fiorentina is famous in Italy for its delicious taste. It is obtained with the loin cut of a young steer, exclusively from the area of Chianti. Bistecca alla Fiorentina is unique not only for the Tuscan meat, but also for the meat’s preparation. It uses a cut of meat that includes the bone with a “T” shape. In Tuscany, we prepare T-bone steak on a barbecue or grill.
The Bistecca alla Fiorentina‘s history is as old as Florence, the city from which it gets its name. The tradition, celebrity and its name, go back to San Lorenzo celebrations and to the Medici Family. On the 10th August for San Lorenzo, Florence would become illuminated with bonfire lights, and large amounts of calf meat would be roasted and distributed to the locals.
Florence under the Medici Era was a major hub, where it was possible meet travelers from all over the world. The legend says that during one of the San Lorenzo celebrations, some English knights were presents, and received some of the roasted steak. These knights defined the meat in their language “beef steak“, this is reason why we call it “Bistecca” nowadays.
I found my precious kitchen recipes handbook “Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well” by Pellegrino Artusi – a book that anyone who loves eating and cooking should have on their bookshelf – and I reviewed some things I consider really important for barbecue.
Precise cooking is the secret to the taste of this dish: the meat should have a red crust on the outside, while being soft and juicy on the inside. In order to maintain the crust, the meat should not be turned by the aid of forks or any other cooking utensil that stabs the meat, they will penetrate the meat and break the crust that forms to hold the juices. Instead, it must be turned gently with tongs.
To heat the grill using rich coals of charcoal
The coals should be very much alive, barely veiled by a thin layer of ash, no flame. DO NOT use other instruments like plates, gas grills, electric grills, grills with baking stone etc. When you start, the meat should have no seasoning on it. This is essential to prevent hardening. When first placing the meat on the grill, the meat needs to be close to the coals, so that it forms a crust as quickly as possible and retains the juices. After the first minute, raise the meat to a more gentle heat. Turn the steak only once, cook it for about 3 to 5 minutes on each side, no more. It should be finally baked “standing” on the edge for 5 to 7 minutes, until traces of blood disappear (the steak should be thick enough to stand up on its own).
This dish can be traditionally served with cannellini beans, extra virgin olive oil and even fresh mix salad. Consider pairing with a bottle of Chianti wine.
- Don’t add any seasoning on the meat or on the grill. No lemon juice.
- Only salt the meat once it’s cooked. After cooking, freshly ground black pepper and some extra virgin olive oil is great.
- Allow the meat to reach room temperature before cooking. Never put on the fire from out of the refrigerator.
- Before you cut the meat, it’s helpful to let it rest on a wooden board, covered with a cloth, this allows the juices to redistribute to the inside.
- Never put the Bistecca alla fiorentina in the oven.