How to Cook the Perfect Steak
How to cook the perfect steak at home is something we are asked quite often. If you look across the internet, you will find many ways and interpretations as to what goes into making the perfect steak. We looked too and saw that a certain chef suggested fashioning a herb brush (yes exactly what it sounds like) to brush herbs over the steak during cooking. We prefer to keep things a bit simpler, but with no lesser results. There are some fundamental things you can do that will certainly ensure whatever the cut you most enjoy, you’ll maximise the flavour and tenderness, and not be that far off preparing it to a good restaurant standard. So, keep these tips in mind and you will find the end result improves dramatically. Without further ado, here are our thoughts on cooking the perfect steak.
1. The Right Meat
Firstly, we advocate choosing the highest quality, most flavoursome prime cuts of steak you can. Not all beef is created equal and better meat makes a difference. That really gets things started off in the right way. Secondly, that the preparation and cooking are different for different steaks. For example, sirloin is best cooked rare to medium-rare, but the rib-eye can be enjoyed medium-rare to medium, and the fillet is considered to be best enjoyed rare. But it’s all based on personal tastes, just don’t go beyond well-done i.e., burnt. And be aware, sometimes there’s just a few minutes between the perfect steak and a ruined one, so it pays to be on the ball.
2. The Right Tools
When cooking a steak, a large heavy-duty frying or griddle pan are best. The reason for this is heat conduction, these types of pans retain heat well allowing them to get really hot, which makes them ideal for caramelisation to happen, achieving that flavoursome, smoky, charred finish on the surface of the steak, without cooking all the way through the meat. Also, have a good spatula or ideally cooking tongs on hand to enable you to flip the steak easily. A spoon will come in handy too.
- Heavy duty frying or griddle pan
- Spatula or cooking tongs
- A spoon
- Extra plate (for resting)
3. Ingredients and Preparation
About three-quarters of an hour to an hour before cooking take the steak out of the fridge and allow to come to room temperature. The reason for this is so that the heat from the pan can more easily penetrate to the middle of the meat. If you try to cook it straight from the fridge it can result in an unevenly cooked and disappointing steak. Naturally, you do not want that. On the theme of keeping it simple, coat the steak in some oil such as sunflower or vegetable oil, just enough, but don’t use an oil with a low smoke point like olive oil as these oils will burn and go bitter.
Then season well with salt on both sides of your steak. The salt will be absorbed by the steak to help draw out the moisture, this, in turn, creates a salt brine which is reabsorbed back into the steak when cooking to help make the meat even more tender.
Sear the steak and then have the butter on hand so you can easily scoop a blob and pop it into the pan when the steak is cooking. You want to wait a little to add the butter because adding too soon will cause it to burn, rather than foam and go golden brown. The pan will naturally decrease in temperature as juices are released and the meat absorbs most of the heat, so add it in after the first sear on both sides. To enhance with even more flavour, add in some whole garlic cloves and thyme or rosemary. They will mix with the butter and juices of the steak to add some delightful flavours.
Now you can add the cracked black pepper so keep that handy. How much you want to add is up to your own taste but remember you add it at this stage because the pan, so a few good turns will likely be enough.
Alternatively, if you have the time, maybe for a special occasion, you can take your steak out longer before cooking and salt it in advance. A good rule for time is for every one centimetre of thickness leave out for two hours.
A note on salt, lots of recipes call for sea salt, and sea salt is good, but plain table salt does the job just as good. The main thing about salt is to use enough without saturating the meat.
You can, of course, use other ingredients in the preparation of the steak such as a balsamic oil for a sweeter flavour, or a marinade, but we won’t get into that today. Get the fundamentals right with most things you’ll have around the kitchen then branch out to try something new later. Besides, keeping it simple is still delicious!
- Sunflower or Vegetable Oil
- Garlic cloves (optional)
- Thyme or rosemary (optional)
Ensure that you give your pan enough time to heat up. It needs to be very hot. This is so that you can sear the steak until it gets a caramelised brown smoky crust. Otherwise, it’ll be cooked but you’ll miss out on the excellent flavour caramelisation brings out in the meat.
Quick Tip - Now cooking a steak is quite a quick process, there will be variances depending on the steak you are cooking, but overall, it’ll be quite quick, and you need be wary of cooking for too long. Even an extra minute can be too much.
Next, season with your cracked black pepper and then if you have a steak with an outer layer of fat like a sirloin, sear this first for about a minute, then do the same to the opposite side. Now, turn it over and lay it flat in the pan, add the knob of butter, and if you have them the garlic and herbs too. One side usually gets caramelised a little better than the other, but to ensure they are as caramelised as evenly and as much as they can be, turn every minute in the pan. In between, use your spoon to baste the steak with the butter and juices.
Overall cooking times will vary depending on the steak and thickness of the cut, but generally aim for these cooking times:
- Rare – about 1min to 2mins each side
- Medium Rare – about 2mins per side
- Medium – about 2 and a half mins up to 3mins each side
- Well Done – about 4 – 5 mins each side
Just keep in mind that the thicker the steak the longer these times may be, but not much, it could be 30 seconds or less.
5. After Cooking
Once cooked transfer to a warm plate, not hot (warm it in the oven) and rest for at least five to seven minutes, and for a total time that’s half of the cooking time. The steak is rested to allow it time to reabsorb the juices to help it become even more moist and tender. So be sure to pour the remaining juices over the steak before serving. Then, serve whole or sliced with some of the resting juices poured over.
And That’s How to Cook the Perfect Steak
Dinner is served! There is nothing quite like a good steak dinner, served with perfectly cooked chips. Steak has a bit of a reputation of being tricky to get right at home but with these instructions, we’re sure you’re more than ready. So, if you’re going to get one dish right, why not make this one?