How to Cook the Perfect Steak

May 27, 2014

Steak is a special occasion meal.  If you're celebrating an anniversary, birthday, or even holiday, steak is the protein of choice.  Since steak is enjoyed every once in awhile, you'll want to make sure you cook it right.  Follow these steps to cook the perfect steak in your own kitchen.

1. Choose the right cut for the right dish

The steak cold case can be just as confusing as any other aisle in the grocery store.  There are a variety of cuts and depending on the dish, certain cuts are better than others.  I could write a thesis on varying cuts of steaks and their best uses but for this article, we will stick to the basics.  In general, you'll want to look for a steak that is well marbled (fat running evenly throughout the meat) and at least an inch thick.  Whether you choose a T-Bone, porterhouse, or tri-tip really depends on personal preference.  Filet mignon is best cooked on the stove-top while the others also fair well on the grill.  Flank steak and skirt steak are great for a crowd and are often marinated before cooking.  You'll want to avoid these thin cuts when cooking a traditional "steak dinner."  For a illustrated steak guide, read this reference.

2. Trim the fat

Fat and steak are friends.  Fat adds tremendous flavor to steak.  Steaks without enough of it usually end up tough and dry.  However, you'll want to trim the excess fat around the outside of the steak because when it melts, it can potentially cause flare ups which are dangerous for you and your steak.

3. Season and wait

While you might be tempted to season your steaks with a ton of spices - don't! Salt and pepper is all you need.  I prefer using kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper.  If you've splurged on a good quality piece of meat, you'll want to taste that meat.  Once generously seasoned with S&P, allow the steaks to come to room temperature before cooking.  This ensures that the steaks cook evenly.

4. Sear

Whether you are cooking your steak on the grill or on the stove top, searing the meat is essential.  This means laying your meat down on a hot grill or pan and not moving it.  Allow your steaks to cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side.  DO NOT puncture your meat with a carving fork or press on it with a spatula.  These techniques release the juices and can ruin a perfectly good steak.

5. Turn down the heat

After creating a crust on the  steak (via searing), turn down the heat to allow the steaks to cook (and not burn).  Use a meat thermometer to monitor you steak's doneness.  Reference this chart for varying doneness temperatures. Because of carryover cooking time, you'll want to remove your steaks from the pan or grill about 5 degrees shy of the ideal temperature.

6. Rest is best

After cooking, allow your steaks to rest 5-10 minutes prior to serving.  This gives the protein fibers a chance to relax and reabsorb the juices.

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