Learning to cook the perfect steak is essential. Yeah, everyone is mad over a decent steak! Can you buy and cook one at home on a summer’s eve before a big game? Do you BBQ? Have you ever cooked a steak to perfection? Whatever, the point here really is that steak is varied, and it’s going to come prepared a variety of ways. Regardless, if you have specific requirements, do not hesitate to refer to this guide for your perfect steak cooking lesson pre-date or before a decent BBQ. Get a timer, set a timer is the motto to work with here. Get a timer!
Know Your Cut
Knowing the cut of meat you have is important. In this case, we are talking about cuts of beef. There are four ‘main’ cuts of beef that you should know about before you attempt to cook a perfect steak.
The ribeye is a popular and flavorful cut of meat (the eye) surrounded by a bunch of juicy fat. The eye is a tender cap of meat from the spinalis muscle. The fat provides plenty of flavor to this cut of meat. Is this your perfect steak?
The strip is also known as New York Strip. The meat is similar to the ribeye’s tender cut, it comes from a similar part of the cow. Popular for its tender texture and marbling. Marbling is covered later in this article.
You might know tenderloin as filet mignon – at least, you’ll have heard the word. Tenderloin does not contain much fat at all and is a very smooth texture, though it can lack flavor. Flavor is attributed to fat content! Most folk want a juicy, fatty perfect steak.
Also known as Porterhouse, is a slice of meat with the rib and tenderloin attached. Usually featuring a very wide piece of tenderloin, T-Bone steak is popular but is not necessarily an easy cut of meat to cook well. It tends to cook unevenly.
Fat is Best for Flavor
In the United States, cuts of meat on the shelves at your local coop or grocery store are labeled on a scale measuring tenderness and marbling for the meat. Categories include Prime, denoting significant marbling in the meat, in a cow aged under 42 months. Finding Prime cuts of meat is more common in a high end restaurant than in your local Walmart. The most common grades of meat found is supermarket shelves are Just below Prime, and they are Choice, and Select. Keep an eye out for meat with loads of marbling as that is precisely where the flavor is!
Marbling adds moisture and flavor: two very important components of a kick ass steak. Marbling is the layers of fat in the meat; when you cook the steak, they melt and add delicious beefiness to your steak. Without marbling, you are simple eating beef: not a steak.
When you’re selecting a cut of meat, rather than thin cuts, go for a thick steak. A couple of inches of steak cooks more evenly and likely contains more fat and juicy goodness than a thin steak. Something too thin overcooks quickly and becomes more like chewing on leather. We are aiming to teach you all about how to get the best steak out there in your own kitchen: aim thick ladies and gentlemen. Between 1 ½ inches to two inches is perfect for a steak!
You can get into learning about aged meats if you want, but it is largely personal preference. If are simply looking to cook a perfect steak at home, it probably isn’t worth expending too much effort researching aging beef. But briefly: aged beef loses a significant amount of moisture, and aging the beef can change the flavor. It is also more expensive and is likely to be found in a restaurant. Let’s focus on cooking the best steak possible at home. Try the aged beef when you’re out on a hot date and feeling wealthy!
Season Ya Meat
Always season your meat if you want to dine on the perfect steak! Many folks have personal preferences here, but if you are looking for a perfect steak, keep it simple. Season your steak with some salt and pepper, and a little olive oil, and leave it to sit for about an hour before you cook it. If you are thinking ahead of time, season your steak a day or two in advance and leave it in the fridge. Seasoning your meat is essential: do not skip this step, you will regret it. Use a chunky salt and massage it into the meat with your fingers.
How Will You Cook It?
This article is designed to help you figure out the best way to cook a perfect steak at home. You might have a BBQ that you want to grill on, perhaps you have a George Foreman in the kitchen that has never been touched. Perhaps you have a great skillet you want to try out. Whatever utensils you might have, if you are going to be cooking steak regularly, invest in a decent pan. Preferably something made of cast iron. The cast iron flavor is unmistakable, and is great for all kinds of dishes, not just delicious juicy steaks. Cast iron sears meat to perfection, and holds heat for ages. Invest if you want to eat good meat forever.
You got to have oil in the pan, and plenty of it, to cook that steak perfectly. Don’t be shy with oil. You can add a little butter in right before the steak is done, but cook it in oil initially. Olive oil is perfect, if you are unsure. Make sure the oil is hot before you toss the steak in the pan, you want to sear that steak to perfection. Putting the meat in the pan before the oil is hot enough can cause toughness in the steak. That is NOT a perfect steak. When you put the steak in the pan, you should hear that satisfying sizzle.
Heat It Up
Heat your pan to close to maximum heat before you get the steak near that pan! If you are using a cast iron skillet, remember it holds a lot of heat, and you might want to monitor the heat closely. The idea with putting the steak in the pan at high heat is to sear the outside of the steak and to seal in those delicious juices. You want to consider that you might also overdo it and burn rather than sear the outside of the steak if your pan is too hot. My stovetop at home is particularly hot, and I can’t have the pan at full high heat to cook a steak. It cooks too fast. Consider your kitchen’s quirks when you’re making yourself a beefy feast! Toss your steak in the pan at high heat, slightly lower the heat. The length of time your steak has to stay in the pan depends on how you like your meat cooked. I cover that below. My advice: get a timer, set a timer.
If you are not across steaks completely, you might already be lost. Steak can be cooked for different lengths of time, and many beef eaters have a strong preference about how they like their meat cooked.
Rare: will be dark red in color. Should have some juices flowing, will feel slightly spongy to touch with a little resistance.
Medium Rare: pink in color with pink juice flowing. Might be soft, spongy and even springy.
Medium: pale pink in the middle with few juices. Feels firm to touch.
Well done: will have just a little pink and should not be dry. It will be soft, spongy and springy.
Cooking Times for a Perfect Steak
This is a general guide for many cuts of steak that you’ll find at the supermarket, including ribeye steak, sirloin steak and rump steaks. I will outline the basics in this article, but I do recommend referring to the charts here (scroll down when you hit the link) for a more detailed outline on cooking times for the perfect steak. The chart covers all sizes and cuts of meat, including beef, lamb, pork and veal.
Once you have your pan hot and you’re ready to throw the steak in, get your timer ready. Cook one steak at a time in the pan to ensure it cooks evening. Cook the steak using the following timer guide, and be sure not to flip your steak more than once. ONE FLIP ONLY. No more than one flip, when the timer goes off the first time. Remember to reset your timer too!
Rare: 1 minute
Medium Rare: 2 minutes
Medium: 3 minutes
Well done: 4-5 minutes
Using a thermometer might seem like overkill for some, but it can be a useful tool for checking the doneness of your steak. Check out the following guide that outlines what temperatures you can cook your steaks to, if you do not like or trust the timer method!
Rare: 120° F (48.8° C)
Medium rare: 130° F (54.4° C)
Medium: 140° F (60° C)
Medium well: 150° F (65.5° C)
Well done: 160° F (71.1° C)
After The Meat is Seared
After the meat is out of the pan, you can relax a little and stop worrying about timers. Before you can dig into your delicious steak though, the next and last thing you need to concern yourself with is letting the meat rest for a while once it is removed from heat. Letting the steak sit for a few moments in it’s own juices allows the fibres of the meat to reabsorb the juicy goodness, giving your steak a deliciously tender and flavorful finish. Check and follow this guide for minimum recommended resting times. After that… devour your perfect steak!
Rare/medium rare: 6 minutes
Medium: 4 minutes
Well done: 1 minute.