How to Cook the Perfect Steak – Every Time
Did you ever get a gift that was so F.N. awesome you didn’t even care that the gifter had quickly shoved it into an old dented box or padded manila envelope seconds before handing it to you? That gift made you so happy you barely noticed the crappy packaging.
This is what a good steak can do. When a steak is cooked perfectly, it doesn’t need precious packaging in the way of fancy sauces (I’m talking to you Béarnaise sauce). It can stand alone and be awesome. Sadly, most people only get a perfectly cooked steak at a restaurant, while the ones they attempt to cook at home often turn out grey, dry and destined for the trash.
But we’re about to remedy that. This steak cooking guide will walk you through how to cook the perfect steak every time, whether it’s a porterhouse, ribeye or filet mignon.
Steak knives ready…
The F.N. Sharp Guide to Cooking the Perfect Steak
Before we get into how to cook the perfect steak, let’s talk about an important first step – choosing the right steak
The magic begins before you ever fire up the grill or turn on the broiler. The perfectly cooked steak will always involve choosing the best steak at the grocery store. And that requires you to become familiar with the different cuts of steak and where they come from. Once you know which cuts are more tender, which are more marbled, and which require a marinade or should be sliced against the grain, you’ll know the proper cooking techniques to use, as well.
And speaking of proper cooking techniques, there are usually three go-to techniques to cook a steak: grill it, pan sear it, or broil it.
How to Grill the Perfect Steak
Whether you use a gas grill or are a charcoal devotee, grilling steaks is the most popular method of cooking a steak, and probably the method that renders the most steaks inedible. Your first step to grilling the perfect steak is to choose one that can stand up to the intense heat. For the grill, we recommend you choose one of the following:
- London Broil
Whichever steak you choose, just be sure to buy one that’s nice and thick – an inch to inch and a half is best. If you don’t see what you need in the case, talk to the butcher to see if he can cut you a thicker steak. At the very least, you want steaks that are even in thickness so they cook evenly.
Basic Rules for Grilling Steak
- Allow your steak to come to room temperature – it will cook more evenly.
- Don’t oil your steaks first, it will just cause flare-ups and charred, bitter meat. This isn’t to say that you can’t marinate your steaks. Just be sure to pat off excess moisture before tossing them on the grill.
- Before placing the steaks on your grill, figure out where the hottest and coldest areas of your grill are. You’ll want to place your steaks on the best direct heat to sear on each side, then move the steaks to an area where they’ll get indirect heat to finish cooking.
How to Broil the Perfect Steak
So what are grill lovers to do when the weather is not-so-nice outside? Turn the broiler on! Broiling a steak gives you shockingly similar results as grilling – it’s just that the high heat is coming from above the meat instead of below.
Cuts of steak that are great for the broiler are:
- Ribeye steak
- Top loin
- Eye round steak
Basic Rules for Broiling Steak
- Allow steaks to come up to room temperature and pat dry.
- Trim excess fat to avoid flare-ups. Outside on the grill is one thing, in your oven… nope.
- Make a few vertical cuts along the edges of the steak to keep it from curling under the heat of the broiler.
- Before turning your broiler on, place the top rack on the very top rung so it is just 3-5 inches below the broiler coils.
- Place steaks on a broiling or cast iron pan. NEVER use a glass pan under the broiler heat. It will break (and cleaning an oven is enough work).
- Once the coils are glowing red hot, place the broiling pan underneath. Keep your eye on steaks and once the crust has browned nicely, flip and cook on the other side until done. You can check doneness with a thermometer, which we’ll cover in a minute.
NOTE: The broiling method cooks steaks incredibly fast so don’t walk away during this process.
How to Pan Sear the Perfect Steak
This method is not unlike searing your meat on the hottest part of the grill first then moving it to indirect heat where it will finish cooking. With this method, you’ll pan sear your steaks first, then move them into your pre-heated oven to finish them off. Unless you like your steaks really rare, then a good sear is all you’ll need!
Filet mignons are great for this cooking technique, but you can use many different cuts like porterhouse, T-bone, ribeye and strip steaks as well.
Basic Rules for Pan Searing Steak
- Allow steaks to warm up to room temperature.
- Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees – a very hot oven will create a juicy steak!
- Place a 10-inch cast-iron skillet in the oven as it preheats. You can’t beat cast-iron for flavor and getting a nice char on the outside.
- When the oven has reached its temperature, use oven mitts and carefully pull the skillet out, place it on the stovetop and turn to high heat.
- Immediately place steaks on the middle of the hot, dry pan. Cook 1 – 2 minutes on each side, then transfer the pan back into the hot oven and allow to cook another 3-5 minutes.
That’s it. Simple.
You’ve got to admit, once you know the basic rules, cooking a perfect steak is pretty easy. But wait, we’re not quite done yet…
Don’t Skimp on Seasoning
As we mentioned in the beginning, when you cook steak perfectly, it doesn’t need to be dressed up with much. Just some salt and pepper is all you really need to season meat. But just how much salt and pepper, particularly salt, should you use? More than you probably think. When you consider the fact that your steak is going to be an inch to an inch and a half thick, and you are only able to season the surface, you’ll realize you need to use a bit more to make sure each bite has enough flavor.
To really become a “seasoned” meat eater, check out the F.N. Sharp guide to meat seasoning.
Watch That Temp
To get your steaks to just the right doneness, it’s important to keep a meat thermometer on hand. Unlike chicken or pork, beef can be safely served at any degree of doneness. Here’s how to serve steaks:
- Black and Blue – The steak is quickly seared on each side but is cool, raw and red in the center. The internal temperature is 110 F and the texture is soft to the touch.
- Rare – An internal temp of 120 F. The steak becomes a bit firmer to the touch and the juices start to appear.
- Medium Rare – This is the most popular doneness of steak. Internal temp is 130 – 135 F and the inside color is turning from deep red to pink. Also, steak is firmer to the touch.
- Medium – Internal temp is 135 – 145 F and there are a lot more juices being released. The meat now also becomes a bit chewy and dry, and the color is beginning to turn from pink to brown.
- Medium Well – Internal temp of between 145 – 155 F and the texture is now becoming almost stiff. There are less free juices and the color is turning a bit grey.
- Well Done – The internal temp will be above 155 F and the meat has shrunk quite a bit. It is incredibly tough and dry at this point.
Squashing Steak Cooking Myths
You may have noticed there are some tips we’ve left out of this post so far. For instance, have you heard us once mention anything about resting the meat?
Nope. It’s a myth.
Many a grill master have shot down this age-old myth that you must let the meat rest before cutting into it. The thing is, there is still heat and energy in the steak when you take it off the grill or stovetop. That heat is going to keep cooking the meat while you’re letting it “rest.”
While it’s true that resting allows the juices to become locked in, those juices will still end up on your plate where you can drag each bite through them. So, you can keep your juices and have the perfect doneness you’re looking for by NOT letting your meat rest. And, for the record, steak is even juicier when it isn’t overcooked.
Here are some other myths to completely forget about:
Searing Won’t Lock in Juices Either
Searing doesn’t create the barrier you might think it does. While it won’t help you lock in juices, it does add an F.N. awesome textural component to your steaks, so we still suggest you sear your steaks.
Bone-in Steaks Have More Flavor
There is absolutely no exchange of flavor between bone and muscle meat. We are not even sure how this myth got started. But by all means grill up some bone-in ribeyes because they look amazing and HUGE.
Flip Your Steaks Only Once
No one really knows the theory behind this myth, but we’re all taught it, and not just with steaks, but hamburgers, chicken breasts, you name it! It probably stems back to that whole “creating a barrier to lock in juices” myth and if you move the meat too soon, you’ll crack the barrier.
The reality is that flipping your steaks often makes them cook faster and more evenly. Now, don’t feel that you HAVE to flip your steaks often but don’t flip out if you do. There is no right or wrong when it comes to flipping.
You Should Only Season Your Steak After It Has Cooked
Nope, not even close. Salting your steak early will help enhance its flavor and make it even juicer and more tender.
Never Use a Fork to Turn Your Steaks
Poking your steak with a fork will cause it to lose precious juices, right? To a degree, yes, but to such a miniscule degree that it is hardly an issue. Poke away.
Now here’s something that’s not a myth…
Have the Right Knives for the Finished Product
You’ve bothered to buy the right steaks and cook them perfectly, making sure to avoid following the unnecessary steak cooking myths. But then you serve those steaks with… butter knives?
What the –
To properly enjoy your steaks, it’s important to slice through them with sharp, preferably straight-edged steak knives. (Leave the serrated knives for bread!)
At F.N. Sharp, our steak knives are always sharp, never serrated – and we don’t call our knives F.N. Sharp for nothing. Crafted from 67 layers of premium Japanese stainless steel, F.N. Sharp knives come with an exceptionally sharp, long-lasting edge so they’re always sharp and ready to cut into your juicy steak!
Now that you’re armed with the best steak-cooking tips and tricks, let’s take an even deeper dive into the different ways to cook a steak.