It all started with Peter Luger. When Franck Ribière — who comes from a family of French cattle breeders — ate at the Brooklyn steakhouse 15 years ago, he had an epiphany.
“When I tried the steak, I said, ‘Wow’…for French people used to eating tough meat, it was so tender, so juicy,” Ribière, 50, recalls. “It was like drinking beer all my life and then you go to wine.”
It inspired him to travel the world in search of sublime steaks.
His new documentary, “Steak (R)evolution,” out Friday, highlights 10 cattle ranchers — from Argentina to Japan — and the variables that go into a great T-bone.
“With a good cook and a good butcher, every piece of the cow is good,” says Ribière, who, when pressed, says his favorite cuts are the bavette and T-bone (pictured). The latter, he says, “is really the best part of the cattle.”
The best flavor is achieved when fat is evenly marbled through the muscles in thin lines, Ribière says. When marbling appears thick and uneven, the cow was likely fattened up too quickly in a short period or force fed. The result is “a blob of fat [that] has no taste,” he says.
With corn-fed meat, “the taste of the corn is taking over the taste of the meat,” says Ribière. He favors cows that are mainly grass fed but finished on local grains. That way, he says, “you keep the terroir.”
“In the US, you’re eating the cow much too young,” Ribière says of our beef cattle, which are typically slaughtered before they reach 18 months old. “You’re eating veal.
“I think the right age [to slaughter cattle] is 36 months to 5 years,” he says. “With older cows, you have much more taste, and you can feel much more of the quality of the meat, the taste of the fat, and then you have more interesting tenderness.”
“Not too much and not too little,” he says. While it depends on the breed, Ribière says 40 days is the ideal time to concentrate the flavor just enough. “You’ve gained enough, but it’s not too much,” he says. “It’s a perfect balance.”
“No flame and no butter,” Ribière declares. He favors cooking the meat on a broiler or on the stove and not salting it until it’s on the plate. Resting it the same amount of time as it’s cooked is essential — “to get the most flavor of everything and to really taste the meat and really give the people the best jus.”
“The best breeds are English,” says Ribière, who praises the UK’s Angus, Longhorn and Hereford cows for having a good balance of fat and a slightly sweet flavor. “ [They] have a very good taste, good tenderness.”