– How do you cook a T-bone steak?
– Just like that! (in Italian: “zazzà!”) And there you go!
Yet, outside Tuscany no one knows how it should be cut: they slice it thin. And it has no fillet. Just take a look at a deboned steak: it is nothing but an escalope!
For us in Florence, steak has to be three fingers thick. They even do not know how to cook it. But it’s just like that! Zazzà! And there you go!
Accademia della Crusca
It may just be a coincidence, but the Florentine T-bone steak was born here, in front of the Trattoria Za zà. In fact, every 10th August (while waiting to see the falling stars) around the piazza the bonfires were burnt to celebrate Saint Lawrence, a saint that was dear to the Medicis: a martyr whose body was placed on a gridiron.
Once the flames were lower, a heated charcoal fire would remain. It was perfect for roasting veal and meat cuts three fingers thick. The British guests of the Medicis called it “beef steak”, a word used by the local people, which then became “bistecca”. A Florentine-style bistecca.
According to Pellegrino Artusi, the Florentine T-bone steak is “a steak with its own bone. It is one or one-and-a-half fingers thick. It is cut from the sirloin”. For the Florentines, it is a particular cut of Chianina meat, the bistecca must be one rib and a half thick (“un voto e un pieno”, “an empty one and a full one”, as the old Florentine butchers would say), and it must weigh more than one kilogram. Cooking is easy: once the grill is burning, the bistecca must be roasted a few minutes and… zazzà! It’s ready!
Recipe and Cooking instructions
The true Florentine T-bone steak is made of Chianina meat. It has a T-shaped bone in the middle, and the fillet and the sirloin are on its sides. To roast a true Florentine T-bone steak according to tradition, it is important for the meat to be “frollata” (must be left hanging) for at least one week, and to have the so-called “marezzatura” (i.e., the beef fillet must have some fat marbling), which melts during cooking thus enhancing its flavor.
No salt is used before and during cooking. It must be roasted on a burning iron grill. The meat should be left at room temperature for at least one hour before cooking.
The charcoal grill should not be in flames, it should be white, covered by ash. In Florence we say that fire should have a “pale face”.
Do not perforate with a fork, just turn the meat using a shovel.
At the end of grilling (five minutes for each side, turning it just once) put it to cook “sitting” on the side of the bone for three or four minutes. The secret lays in the cooking speed. The result should be a well-roasted steak on the surface and yet soft, juicy and raw inside: “al sangue”!