Even though most of our readers love a good piece of red meat, the world of steak can remain a mystery to many people out there. There are all kinds of factors to take into account: What cut should I buy? How long do I cook a steak? Do I even like a steak cooked rare?
Lobel’s, a Manhattan butcher shop and city staple, has been providing counsel on those types of questions for generations. The Upper East Side brick and mortar store has been in business since 1954. The reason for such longevity is that the Lobel family settles for nothing less than the highest quality of meat—from steak, to pork chops and lamb shanks. Their beef consists of only USDA prime, which makes up only 2% of all beef, and within that category, they will only sell the highest caliber cuts. But you don’t have to live in New York to benefit from the Lobels’ attention to detail—they take orders online and ship nationwide.
The Lobels recently began offering a Bone-In Tenderloin Steak. This is newsworthy because you don’t often find a tenderloin (or filet mignon) with the bone left attached. After cooking a complimentary steak (an absolutely unique eating experience), we decided to talk to Stanley Lobel, the president of the business, about Lobel’s latest offering and a few other important steak-related topics.
What sparked the decision to start offering the bone-in tenderloin?
Mainly, it’s something brand new. As you know, the meat around the bone is the most flavorful. When you eat a steak there’s nothing like nibbling around the bone.
First of all, a lot of people are under the misconception that filet mignon is always soft, always flavorful, always high quality. But there are different grades in filet; even in the prime grade, there’s a step higher that we carry. This cut that we are offering is just outrageous.
How do you recommend cooking it?
First, I would sear it at very high heat in a skillet. Just throw some pepper in there; once it starts dancing then you can sear each side for about 30 seconds. Then you broil it very close to the fire. Of course, barbecuing would be the best, but you cook it very close to the broiler and a two-inch filet should take about six minutes on each side.
I cooked it rare and was amazed by how easily it cut, the extremely ruby coloring, and the marbling that was noticeable in each cut.
The marbling is specifically tied to the aging of the meat. These tenderloins are aged four to six weeks, and it can’t be aged in the tenderloin cut—it has to be aged as a whole carcass. If you didn’t do it that way, the meat would rot.
It’s also all part and parcel of the quality of the beef. Normally when you buy a filet in a supermarket or at a restaurant there’s no marbling—the marbling helps increase the moistness and the flavor content of the meat.
Do you find that there is a secret to cooking steak? Maybe something our average reader overlooks?
The true secret to cooking a good steak is getting a truly great cut of meat. But, really, the way I described cooking this tenderloin is the way you should cook a steak. You want to buy a steak that is at least an inch and a half thick—that’s the best way to keep that black and blue color.
How have you seen your business change and develop with the rapid growth of online business?
We’ve been in our main retail store on Madison Avenue over 60 years and we’ve had a lot of customers that have moved away from New York over time, so we just naturally had to accommodate their continued demand and our increasing, wide-ranging customer base.
How do you keep up with high demand by matching that with high quality?
We’re a butcher store online; everything is extremely high end. We ship special orders and if it’s not the best we don’t ship it—that’s just the way we do business. We ship priority overnight, which no one else does.
When adding new cuts of meat, whether its steak or otherwise, how do you do your sourcing?
When I was a kid, I used to go to the market with my father to pick out meat and we’d have to go to about two or three places. Now I go to about twenty or thirty places. Visiting vendors takes up most of my time. When I buy a steer, I look at the fat, I look at the bone structure, I look at the separation of the bone, the thickness of the bone, which all tells me a story—the youth of the animal, the quality of the animal, whether or not the animal has been overdosed with chemicals. And, of course, I take one of my kids with me to every visit, so that when the time comes they know how to take over and continue our level of quality service.
I read a Wall Street Journal profile of you that said you see Lobel’s as still a work in progress, can you explain a little bit about what that means?
It’s one thing to be the best and it’s a whole different thing to remain the best. You have to work even harder to remain at the top. I don’t want anyone to come in and say they received bad service.
Are there any other new developments we should be looking for from Lobel’s in the near future?
Well, we’ve already published nine cookbooks and we are currently at work on the initial stages of our tenth. It’s a cookbook devoted to sandwiches, using leftovers to make a great steak sandwich.