There's nothing quite like a good steak, unless you're a vegetarian and steak doesn't cut it for you. Most folks have their own way of cooking steak. Below are some recipes from various sources about cooking steak during the 19th century. I love this tidbit quote that comes from the first recipe "It is better to have the gentleman of the house wait for his steak than have the steak wait for the gentleman—be snubbed for having a thing good rather than have it poor."
To Cook a Steak.
The choice of cut varies with the taste of a family—porterhouse, tenderloin, round or rump; the two latter require more beating with the steak beater to break the tougher fiber. Break somewhat the fiber of the meat by beating with the steak-beater; lay the gridiron over bright but not too hot coals; place the steak on it, turn in two minutes, then again in two minutes. Take up the steak and press it into some soft butter on a warm platter; turn and press the other side; now lay again on the gridiron and finish by turning once or twice. A folding gridiron expedites and simplifies the cooking of steak. When sufficiently cooked place the steak on a warm platter on which is some soft butter, considerable salt and a dash of pepper; turn and press. Serve instantly. It is better to have the gentleman of the house wait for his steak than have the steak wait for the gentleman—be snubbed for having a thing good rather than have it poor. We decline to give a receipt for frying steak.
Source: The Home Messenger Book of Tested Receipts ©1878
To Cook a Beefsteak— Put a frying-pan over the stove till it becomes quite hot. Have your steak well pounded or mangled, — a sirloin steak is very good for this purpose, — lay it on the hot, dry pan and cover it instantly as tightly as possible. When the meat touches the heated pan it will seethe and adhere to it, but in a few seconds it will become loosened and juicy; turn the steak every half-minute, but be careful to do it as quickly as possible, so that it may not be long uncovered. When nearly done, sprinkle on pepper and salt, lay a small piece of butter on the steak, and add a table-spoonful of strong coffee. This makes a delicious broiled steak. Or, if you wish much gravy, shake a little flour over the steak when just done, and pour in three or four table-spoonfuls of cream, let it just boil up, under cover, and when the meat is done, take the pan from the fire, remove the meat, stir in quickly the well-beaten yelk of an egg, and serve hot. If cream is used, omit the coffee. Mutton or ham may be cooked in the same way, only they should be over the fire longer than beef.
Rump Steak, with Oyster Sauce. — Broil the steak nicely ; put four even table-spoonfuls of butter into a frying-pan, add pepper and salt to your taste ; shake in a table-spoonful of flour, and add the juice of half a lemon ; when it begins to boil up, put in as many oysters as can be used in this preparation ; let them heat through and just boil up once, taking care to shake the pan and keep its contents stirring all the time it is over the fire. When the oysters are done,—a pint to one steak is about the right quantity, —- pour all over the steak, and serve.
A French BroiL— Select a spider or saucepan with a smooth, clean bottom, set it over the range or stove till really hot, then lay on a good tenderloin or sirloin steak ; keep the spider very hot, and turn the steak as often as every two minutes, — no longer ; when half done, sprinkle over salt and pepper to suit the taste of those who are to eat it ; continue to turn the steak often till sufliciently done ; just as you are ready to take up and dish the steak, dust a little flour over it, spread on a table-spoonful of butter, or, if a large steak, 8. little more; turn it over, dust on more flour, and spread on the butter as on the first side; turn again, set the saucepan back from the hot fire, take the steak on to the platter, and set in a heater or oven to keep hot, but not to cook any more ; shake more flour into the butter in the saucepan, set again over the fire, and as soon as the butter bubbles up through the flour, rub it smooth with a spoon and pour in a few spoonfuls of boiling water ; stir constantly, and as soon as it thickens, pour over the steak, and serve hot.
Source: Motherly Talks with Young Housekeepers ©1873
This little tidbit is interesting:
If, friendly Reader, you wish to entertain your mouth with a Superlative Beef-Steak, you must have the inside of the Sirloin cut into Steaks. The next best steaks are those cut from the middle of a Rump, that has been killed at least four days in moderate weather, much longer in cold weather,—when they can be cut about six inches long, four inches wide, and half an inch thick: do not beat them, which vulgar trick breaks the cells in which the Gravy of the meat is contained, and it becomes dry and tasteless.
Source: Cook's Oracle ©1836
The tender loin is the best piece for broiling—a steak from the round or shoulder clod is good and comes cheaper. If the beef is not very tender, it should be laid on a board and pounded, before broiling or frying it. Wash it in cold water, then lay it on a gridiron, place it on a hot bed of coals, and broil it as quick as possible without burning it. If broiled slow, it will not be good. It takes from fifteen to twenty minutes to broil a steak. For seven or eight pounds of beef, cut up about a quarter of a pound of butter. Heat the platter very hot that the steak is to be put on, lay the butter on it, take up the steak, salt and pepper it on both sides. Beef steak to be good, should be eaten as soon as cooked. A few slices of salt pork broiled with the steak makes a rich gravy with a very little butter. There should always be a trough to catch the juices of the meat when broiled. The same pieces that are good broiled are good for frying. Fry a few slices of salt pork, brown, then take them up and put in the beef. When brown on both sides, take it up, take the pan off from the fire, to let the fat cool; when cool, turn in half a tea cup of water, mix a couple of tea spoonsful of flour with a little water, stir it into the fat, put the pan back on the fire, stir it till it boils up, then turn it over the beef.
Source: The American Housewife ©1841