Recreate the beloved bone-in steak of Florence, the Bistecca Fiorentina, right at home.
When in Florence, you would never pass up a chance to see Michelangelo's David, you don't skip the Duomo, and you certainly shouldn't miss out on eating Bistecca Fiorentina.
A Quick Introduction
The Bistecca is one of (if not the most) beloved dishes in Florence. It's made from a specific T-bone cut of beef, sliced extremely thick - at least 3 inches. The beef comes from the Chianina cow from Valdichiana in Tuscany, one of the most ancient and treasured breeds of cow in Tuscan history. Their name stems from the Chiana Valley in Tuscany - the same place where Chianti wine is made. These cows are sought after and beloved for their incredible tasting beef, and they are treated extremely well by farmers.
The steaks are served all across Tuscany, particularly Florence, with great pride. Just like pizzerias in New York City, every trattoria will claim they have the very best one!
Chianina cows grazing in Tuscany. Photo Credit: Greta Farnedi
How It's Made
One secret to why the Bistecca Fiorentina is so delicious is that it's prepared with fresh herbs that differ depending on who's making it. It's typical to see rosemary, sage or thyme (and maybe even all of them together) used to perfume the steak as it cooks.
Bistecca Fiorentina is always grilled, traditionally over an open fire with charcoal embers. Every chef has their own method, but it's often first hit with a high blast of direct heat to form the classic crust, then grilled with more indirect heat to gently cook the inside of the steak to perfection.
Like many, many Italian dishes, the rules of a Bistecca Fiorentina will vary depending on the chef who is making it. Some will serve it with a squeeze of lemon, some will say it's not tradition - some will add garlic, some won't. However it is cooked, pour yourself a glass of Chianti Classico and enjoy the flavors of Tuscany.
Perfect It At Home
Follow these key tips coupled with Giada's classic recipe to make the perfect Bistecca Fiorentina right at home.
The quality and cut matters. What makes a classic Bistecca so fantastic is the quality and the cut of the beef. While it's a little harder to find a 3-4" thick T-bone ready to go at the supermarket, the quality of the beef is the most important thing here. Find a local grass-fed Ribeye, T-bone or Porterhouse that is at least 2 inches thick to really emulate the experience. When there are so few ingredients involved in a recipe, it matters that each one is really fantastic - and in this recipe, it's the steak itself that shines.
Let it rest before cooking. When a steak is cut thick, it takes a longer time for the center to get cooked. Taking a thick-cut steak directly from the fridge to the grill means it's going to take even longer for the center to hit the temperature you want. Unless you want a rare steak, let it come to room temperature for at least 30 minutes before beginning the cooking process.
Don't be afraid of salt. Give it a generous coating of Kosher salt, or even better - Dario Cecchini's Tuscan salt blend. A thicker steak will need more seasoning than your average cut.
Focus on getting a great crust. Make sure your grill or grill-pan is HOT when the steak touches down. It's very important to get that charred crust first. Finish the steak in the oven to gently cook it to your desired doneness after the crust has been formed.
Charred lemons. That's all. We love this trick - not only is it so aesthetically pleasing to serve on a platter with the beef, but it brings out even more caramelized juices in the lemon halves. A hearty squeeze over the cooked steak cuts through some of the richness and makes a beautifully balanced bite.
Class dismissed - time to try your hand at making the famed steak of Florence!