If you love a great steak, you need to know the various ways to cook a great steak. Whether it is a giant porterhouse steak, a New York strip steak, prime rib, or a filet mignon – it is delicious. Pair it with a potato and balance it out with some roasted asparagus or grilled veggies, and you’ve got a mouth-watering, appetite-ready meal. Have a craving? You may be used to grabbing your keys and heading out.
If you have ever enjoyed eating a steak at a steakhouse, but never thought you could create something so juicy and delicious at home – think again. Here’s everything you need to know about cooking the perfect steak.
Choosing the Right Piece of Meat
First things first – all steaks are not created equal. And just because the price tag on one is higher than another, doesn’t necessarily mean it will automatically taste better. You have to know what to look for. So, let’s start a checklist, shall we? As you head out to your local butcher or your local grocery store, you want a steak that:
- Is marked as USDA Prime Aged Beef. If this isn’t available, choose the meat marked USDA Choice. These are high-grade meats. USDA Select is not recommended.
- Is firm when you touch it.
- Does not look dark red. Instead, keep your eyes peeled for a steak that is a light, bright red color.
- Contains marbling. This fat that creates the marble is what gives it the best flavor. So you actually want the fat all throughout the meat. Just be sure to get the piece of meat that has small specks of marbling rather than large chunks of it.
- Is 1” to 1.5” in thickness. A little thicker is ok, but try not to get anything thinner than an inch or it will dry out too easily.
Salting Your Steak
Unless you want to steam your steak thanks to the moisture the salt brings out, don’t salt your steak. This is something so many people do when preparing their steak for the stove or the grill. But top chefs will tell you that it is a terrible idea. If you’ve ever done this and your steaks have turned gray and not brown on the grill, the salt is to blame.
Think about this. The salt draws out the moisture – yet you are looking for a nice, juicy steak, right? You will be missing some of that juice if you suck out the moisture with salt.
Get the Temperature Right
Cooking the steak on the right level of heat is important. Too high, and your steak may be charred, but raw in the middle. Too low and it may end up overcooked. The best way to ensure you get the right doneness is to monitor its temperature. Having a meat thermometer can ensure that you end up with the perfect steak every time. The list below will give you an idea of what temperature to look for based on whether you prefer your steak rare, well done, or somewhere in between.
- Rare (very red-pink): 125-130 degrees Fahrenheit
- Medium Rare (pink): 130-135 degrees Fahrenheit
- Medium (light pink): 135-140 degrees Fahrenheit
- Medium-Well: 140-150 degrees Fahrenheit
- Well-Done: 155 degrees Fahrenheit or above
Keep in mind that once your steak reaches the ideal temperature, you need to remove it from the heat source. Otherwise, it will continue cooking with residual heat, either in the pan or the grill, which may, in turn, increase its internal temperature.
Three Methods of Cooking
There are three methods you may use to cook the perfect steak – the stove, the oven, and the grill. We are going to take a quick look at all three.
Steaks on the Stove. You can pan-sear steaks by placing a little olive oil into a pan on your stove and cooking on medium-high heat. Sear them 5-6 minutes on each side, moving them around occasionally so that they don’t stick. Use your thermometer to monitor the temperature of doneness. Once it reaches near the desired doneness (within 5-10 degrees) cover in aluminum foil and allow it to rest for a few minutes before eating.
Steaks in the Oven. When cooking steaks in the oven, you want a hot oven – so preheat to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, take an oven-durable pan and put it on your stove on high heat. Once it is hot, add your steaks. Cook on each side for one to two minutes. Carefully, place your pan in the hot oven and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes, give or take depending on the thickness of your steak. Use your thermometer to check for doneness.
Remove from the oven and cover loosely with foil. Allow the steaks to sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
Steaks on the Grill. You will want to let steaks sit out from the refrigerator for about one hour before placing them on the hot grill. And be sure to remove any marinade you had your steaks soaking in. Spray the grill grates lightly with a nonstick spray and add the steaks. Here’s the trick – only flip it once. It will cook one side and then you flip it and let it cook the other side until done.
Again, always use your thermometer to check the temperature. Once your steak is how you’d like it, remove it from the grill and let it rest for another 10-15 minutes or so.
The Perfect Steak
You can always try to add rubs, seasonings, and marinades to your steak to try to get the best flavor. But, the truth is, if you choose the right cut of meat and you cook it the right way, then you already have the delicious-tasting steak. All the added flavor in the world can’t make a poorly cooked steak taste phenomenal.
So, light up the outdoor grill or turn on that fancy stainless steel range you invested in and put your appliances to work for you. But, hey – don’t forget the sides. They may not be the main attraction, but every good steak needs an equally good potato.