Bistecca a la Fiorentina (Florentine Steak)

The Web abounds with recipes for Bistecca a la Fiorentina. Most of them are pretty accurate, which should come as no surprise given how easy this is to make. However, there are a few points of method that should be made, namely:

  • Do not oil the steak before you cook it; the oil will burn, leaving a bad taste. Rather, the objective of this kind of steak is the specific allure of rare grilled beef with raw olive oil.
  • Use a good quality olive oil; ideally from Tuscany.
  • Use a Porterhouse steak, preferably at least two inches thick.
  • Ideally (some would argue necessarily), use beef from the Chianina breed of cattle. Good luck. (Although you might be able to track some down via the American Chianinia Association.)
  • Let the meat sit at room temperature (covered) for an hour before grilling.

After that it’s as easy as can be. Bistecca a la Fiorentina is basically just a really big Porterhouse steak dressed only with salt and pepper, then grilled until rare, sliced, and dressed again with olive oil and lemon juice. It’s a nice change from the spicy and saucy American style of steaks we usually eat during grilling season.

I had been wanting to make this ever since I read about it in Bill Buford’s book Heat. Buford’s now proverbial “Dante quoting Tuscan butcher” friend prepared it for him, and the description was, as is typical of the book, a bit over the top. That one was something like four inches thick and grilled for thirty seconds. (OK, I exaggerate; but so too, I suspect, did Buford.)

I doubted I would find any Chianina beef nearby, but didn’t worry about it as I figured this first attempt was experimental; designed to get a feel for the technique. So I went for regular ol’ beef (I don’t even know the breed). I got the butcher to cut me a nice two-inch thick, 800 gram Porterhouse, and I could tell by the twinkle in his eye that he knew I was up to something good.

At home, I followed the prescribed method pretty much to a tee:

  1. Let the meat come to room temperature (about an hour out of the fridge, covered).
  2. Rub the meat on both sides with a generous amount of freshly ground pepper and kosher salt.
  3. Grill over direct high heat for 2-1/2 to 3 minutes per side.
  4. Move to indirect medium heat and cook for another 7 to 8 minutes, turning once.
  5. Remove the meat from the fire, cover, and let rest for five minutes.
  6. Cut the filet and contre-filet from the bone, and slice at a slight angle (to cross the grain of the meat).
  7. Dress with extra virgin Tuscan olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Serve and enjoy!

Warning: the following photos may be off-putting for vegetarians.

One big Porterhouse steak:

After grilling:

After slicing:

(My apologies for the substandard quality of the photos; when the steak came off the grill I wasn’t exactly in “photography” mode.)

20 thoughts on “Bistecca a la Fiorentina (Florentine Steak)

  1. Holy Juicy Steak! That looks awesome. How many weeks old is the meat? I’m gonna have to try that recipe.

  2. “then grilled until rare”

    You see, this is where I always go wrong. I never know, when I throw a rare steak onto the grill, how much cooking time is required until it becomes rare again. :)

  3. Dave, I don’t know how old the beef is. I confess I got it from a supermarket, but cut to order from the butcher. Next time I’m going to a real butcher shop.

    Michel… huh?

    Oh wait… you’re implying that the steak starts off rare, so therefore, blah blah blah. Well sir, you are clearly not a griller. Rare doesn’t mean raw. The meat stars off raw, then the next stage is bleu (seared outside, cold and raw inside), then it becomes rare (seared outside, warm and red inside).

  4. You cannot imagine the difficulties I am having today with simple English, ergo my foot-in-mouth transgression.
    But, you’re right, I know nothing of grilling. I don’t go near our barbecue, I leave that to the connaisseurse of the house.

  5. Supermarket steak… heretical ;) (kidding) Still looks yummy! I just like the steak as aged as possible.

  6. Org say me want have big piece bloody meat, Yum!

  7. Don’t worry; vegetarians can look at meat just fine without being off-put.
    Meateaters however usually don’t like to see pictures that show how those cows were bred and slaughtered… There is a reason meat is relatively cheap.

    I won’t link to them, I won’t spoil the aftertaste for you. Besides, the comments thereads here are long enough already.

  8. LOL :) Mare, you like my work ;)

    I used to be a vegetablearian myself, then I came back to my animal nature. Life feeds on life. Before, I ate meat well done. I was a veg for 2 years, after that, I ate meat very rare, almost blue. It’s like my nature had reasserted itself with even more fervency than before.

  9. Yes, life feeds on life. I hate to make a Blork post on steak political, but sometimes the steak is not of the beef variety. (Warning: graphic content.) Nature always gets its revenge.

    Having said so, Blork, that looks excellent. Why do you you have to live so far my me in South Shore?

  10. I’m not gonna look, simply because I’m enjoying my Grilled-cheese sandwich with bacon and my ROCKSTAR (Breakfast of champions)

    But most ppl would turn vedge if they new what happened in slaughterhouses. Ppl are out of touch with what it takes to get food on the plate. Most people don’t realize that mushrooms is a fungus that the molds up out of dung. But then most ppl wouldn’t last a week in the woods either, once inserted back into the food chain.

    Now gimme that steak, Dave wants Bistecca

  11. OMG 400 grams–that’s nearly a pound. are you getting it that heavy/thick so that you can have it crusted and marked outside, and still rare inside? just curious–that’s like a 15$ steak, right? you don’t have to mention exact prices, but i guess i’d pay about that much for it–great looking!

  12. I’m not gonna look at that movie either. I do think about the whole meat process and the meat industry, and it does bother me. I’m glad to see that so-called “ethical” meat producers are popping up and their products are becoming more available. Unfortunately there aren’t any such retailers near where I live with one or two exceptions that only see such meat frozen.

    As a compromise, I try to at least buy local meat. As far as I know the meat processing industry here isn’t nearly as bad as in those worst-case scenario places we hear about in the Western U.S. But I’m basing that mostly on scale, not first-hand knowledge.

    Stony, keep in mind that the bone was probably 200 grams. Plus there were leftovers (not much). In fact, the next day I put just the bone on the BBQ for about ten minutes and was able to gnaw half a meal’s worth of meat off of it afterwards. (I re-cooked it because the meat near the bone is the rarest, and cold, almost raw meat isn’t very appealing to me.)

    Yes, the objective is to have the contrast of the nicely crusted exterior with the very rare inside.

    The steak cost $24, which is not so steep when you consider it is really two steaks in one. Generally speaking, supermarket T-bones go for about $11 or $12 and they’re only 3/4 of an inch thick. this sucker was 2″ thick at the bone, so in fact it’s more than two steaks. Not to mention the fact that this would set you back at least $60 in a restaurant! Oh, and just to make it as bombastic as possible, we knocked it back with a $50 bottle of Barolo.

  13. I think the best part of a good steak is the day after, when you can do 100 things with it . . . a brilliant steak salad or sandwich . . . sure beats reheated pizza

  14. Can you tell me, why kosher salt? What difference could it possibly make if it wasn’t kosher?

  15. Lattegirl, with kosher salt it’s more about texture than the kosherness. Kosher salt comes in big coarse grains, which has a nicer effect. If you rub regular table salt on it you might end up with a solid wall of saltiness, where as with kosher salt you get a dispersion of coarse grains.

    Probably not a huge difference in the end, but if you use table salt you should just sprinkle a bit on instead of rubbing on a lot of it.

    BTW, kosher salt is also free of additives like iodine — not that iodine is bad or anything, but it is another difference. You could also use fleur de sel or a similar hand-harvested coarse salt, but in that case you’d end up using a dollar’s worth instead of five cent’s worth, for no real difference in the end.

  16. On the other hand the fine salt builds a nice crust the keeps the juices in the steak. Opinions differ, in the end its all about taste.

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