While steak may not be as difficult as soufflé to prepare, it has its own intricacies. For instance, there are varying degrees of “doneness,” but when you’re pan frying, it takes mere minutes to transition from one to the next, so precision is key. There are different cuts, different cooking methods and different options for seasoning.
We’ve created a detailed guide below to help you cook a perfect steak whether it’s in the oven, grill or stove top. Here’s a cheat sheet to easily save these tips and share with friends.
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Cuts of Meat and Levels of Doneness
How you cook your steak will depend on what type of cut you get. The better-quality cuts include names you’ve probably heard before: ribeye, strip steak, tenderloin and T-bone or porterhouse. Other cuts — such as tri-tip, flank steak or sirloin tip — can be harder to create the perfect steak.
The main thing you’re looking for in a cut of beef is the marbled texture created by fat distribution. Normally, we think of fatty meats as a bad thing, but with steak, you want just enough fat to enhance the flavor and increase the juiciness when it melts. Well-marbled beef is the American standard for a reason.
Another consideration is the thickness of your meat. Thin steaks tend to overcook much easier, so you should aim for a cut that’s an inch-and-a-half to two inches thick. It goes without saying that different cuts and levels of thickness will require different cooking times. Talk to your butcher for their personal recommendation based on the size and weight of your cut.
The cook time also depends on just how done you want your meat. Blue, one classification higher than rare, is steak that’s barely warm and still dark in color, appearing almost purple and feeling spongy to the touch. Rare steak will look dark red, feel soft and have juice flowing, while medium-rare is more of a pink color and puts out slightly less juice. Medium well is the ideal doneness, with not much juice flowing, a pale pink middle and a firm exterior. If you prefer your steak well-done, it will have just a trace of pink color (if any) and feel a bit springy.
The best steaks are allowed to sit for 5-15 minutes after cooking to reach full doneness. We recommend to cook the steak to the level right before your desired doneness and then let the steak finish cooking while it rests of the heat. For example, if you prefer medium to well-done steak. Take the steak off the heat source as it reaches medium. Tent it loosely with aluminum foil and allow it to sit for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.
For more on checking doneness, scroll down to the “finger testing” section.
Prepping Your Steak
No matter what cooking method you’re using, there are a few things you should know before you get started. First, you should always allow your meat to come to room temperature before working with it. At the very least take your steak out of the fridge 30 minutes before you cook it. Cooking meat that is too cold will leave the center undercooked when the exterior is done.
Next, you should make sure the meat is dry on the outside before using it. Too much moisture will prevent proper browning, so just about every expert suggests patting off raw steaks with a paper towel before throwing them in the pan or on the grill.
Don’t forget to season your steak! Two easy methods for prepping your steak are 1) generously salting your steak and letting it sit for at least 45 minutes before wiping off and seasoning or 2) marinating the steak in fish sauce or otther marinade for three days before cooking.
When creating your seasoning mix, keep in mind salt is an important aspect of this equation, since it heightens the flavor of your meat and aids in caramelization, creating a gorgeous crust. Some cooks salt their steak days in advance, but you can wait till the day you plan to cook it. Opinions are divided about adding pepper before cooking. Some say it’s fine to add it to the steak before, while others claim it burns too much when searing and should only be used toward the end. This choice can be left up to your own digression.
To keep your steak from sticking to the grill or pan brush olive oil over the steak then add your seasoning.
You can even mix up a homemade rub if you prefer, or use a marinade to add flavor and increase tenderness. Some cooks like to dry season with crushed coriander seeds. There are many marinade options, like balsamic vinegar, teriyaki glaze or honey mustard. These are just a few ideas you could use if you want, but as long as your meat is salted, you’re good to go!
Pan Frying Steak
When you think about how to cook the perfect steak, you probably envision a hot grill on a summer day. However, what if it’s too chilly to fix any sort of food outdoors? You don’t have to miss out — just cook your steak on your stovetop! It may seem strange at first, but some people prefer this method. It’s easier to develop the slightly sweet, golden brown crust that you love, and pan-seared steaks tend to come out a bit moister than those cooked on the grill.
Start by checking your ventilation and finding the right pan. Your range hood should be powerful enough to handle steak cooking below it — otherwise, your kitchen will be filled with smoke. In terms of pans, you’ll need one that’s heavy-duty enough to withstand the high heat it takes to sear a steak. If you own a Xtrema skillet, this is the perfect time to use it. If using a ceramic skillet, we recommend you heat it up in the oven at 400 °F. Once it has been preheated, carefully place on the stove top and press the fatty side of the steak against it till some fat is released into the pan. then lay flat on one side.
If you prefer to oil the pan instead of the steak, avoid using butter, as all of the milk solids will burn out before you reach the desired temperature. Professional chefs recommend canola or groundnut oil. This makes it easy to tell when the pan is hot enough, because the oil will start to smoke. Don’t let it smoke too long, however, because the oil will break down and tinge your steak’s flavor.
Keep the steak in the pan for a couple of minutes, flipping at regular intervals so it’s evenly cooked and the temperature differences in the pan are equalized. For a well-done steak, it should be cooked four or five minutes on each side, and thin cuts or lower levels of doneness require less time. In any case, it doesn’t take long to cook at all, so watch your beef cut closely and don’t let it burn!
Baking or Broiling Steak in the Oven
To broil steaks in the oven, rearrange the top rack so that, when the broiler pan is on it, the steaks will be roughly six inches from the heat. Preheat your broiler with the skillet in the oven (about 15 minutes), carefully remove the pan once preheated to the stove top and sear the steak for 30 seconds on each side. Place the pan back on the oven and broil each side for 2 minutes. The cook time depends on how done you want your steaks. Don’t forget to flip the steaks over halfway through so they’ll be broiled evenly!
Cooking steak in the oven without a broiler can also be done. Start by preheating your oven to 300° F. If you have several pieces, make sure to spread them out enough so they all brown properly. Cook steak for 25 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 135° F for medium-rare steak. Take the steak out of the oven and heat the oven up to 450° F or as high as it will go. Wait 5-10 minutes as it heats up and then place the steak back into the oven for 10 minutes. Take the steak out of the oven and cover the pan with foil and let it sit for 10 more minutes.
Pan Searing Steak
A combination of pan searing and time in the oven offers the best of both worlds. If you’re a fan of well-done steaks, begin by following the steps for pan frying. You’ll need a heavy-duty pan or skillet like the one’s we sell here and a hardworking ventilation system set on high. Preheat the oven to 375° F, then, after searing the steaks for a couple of minutes, put the pan directly in the oven and roast them for a few minutes more.
This process works just as well in reverse. Heat the oven to 250° F and rub your steak with a bit of oil, as well as seasoning it with salt and pepper. Place the meat in the center of the oven, on a rack above a baking sheet, and roast it for approximately 20 minutes. While it’s cooking, take time to heat up oil in a skillet, so when you remove your steak from the oven you’ll be ready to sear it right away.
Don’t be afraid to use the high heat setting, as you want the right amount of crust to form. Sear each side of the steak for three minutes, then pick it up and crisp the edges for about one minute each. The goal is a tender, well-cooked middle and thorough browning and caramelization on the outside.
How to Grill Steak
There’s not much that compares to a summer barbecue with friends, especially if it involves a hunk of juicy steak! Grilling is one of America’s favorite pastimes, so learning how to grill steak perfectly often ends up feeling more like fun than work. Not to mention, cooking steak on the barbecue has the benefit of smoky flavor and faster-forming crust.
When it comes to just about any kind of meat, coal-fired grills are superior to gas, but either one will get the job done. If you do have a coal grill, try to get your hands on hardwood coal if you can. This is another way to boost the flavor, but don’t worry if all you can find are briquettes. Aside from your grill and some fuel, the only thing you need is a pair of locking tongs for handling the meat.
Arrange your coals or briquettes in a two-zone pattern so all the heat is on one half of the grill, then warm up the grill to its maximum temperature. The steaks should be placed about three to five inches from the flame for optimum searing and juiciness. Cook steaks 4 to 5 minutes and then flip and continue to cook for 3-5 mintues for medium-rare (135° F internal temperature), 5-7 minutes for medium (140° F internal temperature), or 8-10 minutes for medium-well done (150° F internal temperature).
Don’t forget to take the steak off right before it reaches your desired doneness. Tent the steaks with aluminum foil and let sit for 5 minutes before slicing.
How to Tell When Steak is Done
As we mentioned before, one way to check your cooked steak is by using your fingers to prod it and determine how done it is. Rare steak is fairly soft, while well-done is on the firm side. However, if you’re having trouble telling the difference with your meat, here’s one special trick that might help.
You can gauge doneness by using your own fingers as an example. Gently touching each finger to your thumb will show you what the meat should feel like – your first finger represents rare steak, your middle finger is medium-rare, your ring finger is medium-well, and your pinky is well-done. This comparison is possible because the amount of tension in the muscle below your thumb is slightly different depending on which fingertip you touch.
Let the Steak Rest
Once you’ve finished cooking your steak, whether it’s hot out of the oven or fresh off the grill, it’s essential that you leave it alone for five to ten minutes before carving it up and serving it.
Your steak will continue to cook itself even after you remove it from direct heat. That’s why your goal should be to leave it a little undercooked, as those few minutes at room temperature are crucial to its doneness.
The other reason is that steak needs some time at room temperature to absorb any free-running juices. If you cut into a steak too early, instead of a moist and tender finish, you’ll lose all of the flavorful juices it built up while cooking. So give your steak a while to rest — otherwise, you’re guaranteed to end up with dry meat.
Safety Tips When Cooking Steak
You’ve probably heard all of this before, but it bears repeating. Not only is testing the temperature the only way to ensure your steak is cooked to your liking, but it’s also how you know if it’s safe to consume. For the best results, an instant-read thermometer will tell you the internal temperature throughout the cooking process.
For future reference, here are the suggested internal temperatures for steaks in all stages of doneness:
- Blue: 120-130° F
- Rare: 130-140° F
- Medium-Rare: 140-150° F
- Medium-Well: 150-160° F
- Well-Done: 160-170° F
The dangers of eating raw meat are real. Raw or undercooked meat is able to make you sick because of the bacteria introduced during meat processing. Heating it properly is the best way to kill it. Some common types of contamination are E. coli or salmonella, which will upset your stomach for a few days after consumption. However, less common contaminants like Listeria monocytogenes or Campylobacter jejuni might also be present. These can affect your nervous system and possibly even introduce a life-threatening condition.
Avoid the risk altogether and fully cook your meat.
Cooking the Perfect Steak is Easy with Xtrema Cookware
As you’ve learned, there’s no single correct way to cook steak. Depending on the time of year and your household equipment, you could utilize any method in this guide! They’ll all result in the same tender, delicious perfection when you present the steak to your family or friends.
If you need to upgrade your cookware because your current collection won’t cut it for steak, you’ve come to the right place. Our ceramic skillets and cookware sets are sturdy, versatile, promote the even cooking that steak requires and don’t contain any toxins.