- Cooking meat can seem like a daunting task, but chefs have some useful tips for preparing the perfect steak.
- A cast-iron skillet and a meat thermometer can make cooking steak easier.
- When buying a cut of meat, don’t be afraid to ask your local butcher for advice and always look for a piece that has plenty of white marbling, as it can lead to a more flavorful steak.
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Cooking steak can seem like a daunting task, especially when you’re trying to aim for that perfect medium-rare center and caramelized crust.
Luckily, many chefs are well-versed in cooking this red meat and they’ve learned a lot of helpful tricks along the way. Here are some chefs’ best tips for cooking the perfect steak.
Choosing a thicker cut of meat could help you better control the temperature of your steak.
For starters, you may want to opt for a thicker steak so you can better control the temperature of your meat, said Andreas Seidel, executive chef at New York City’s Strip House.
“I prefer a thicker cut on the steaks, around 2.5 inches,” he added. “Thin steaks overcook very easily.”
If you want a flavorful steak, look for cuts of meat that have a lot of white marbling.
When choosing your cut of meat, look for plenty of marbling – the little white flecks of fat you see within the lean, red meat. The more marbling in a steak, the better it’ll probably taste, said Michael Ollier, senior corporate chef for the brand Certified Angus Beef.
“These flecks melt when cooked and elevate a so-so steak to a delicious one that’s juicy, full of natural flavor, and melt-in-your-mouth tender,” he added.
Know your beef cuts.
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The “best” cut to choose depends mostly on how you plan to prepare it. Ollier said if you’re planning to grill your steak, you’ll want to opt for cuts from the loin and rib.
“[These are] the typical ones you see on steakhouse menus like strip steaks, ribeye steaks, Porterhouses, or filet mignon (tenderloin steaks),” Ollier told INSIDER.
Seasoning your steak can be as simple or as complex as you’d like.
“I strongly believe that when you start with a high-quality steak with lots of marbling, you don’t need anything other than salt and pepper,” said Ollier. He said these simple seasonings enhance a quality steak’s natural flavors without overpowering them.
That said, it can be fun to experiment with different flavors. “Seasonings are a great way to have fun and get creative when you cook. I try to use flavors that complement the great flavor of beef – garlic and herbs like thyme and rosemary are all solid options,” he added.
Try using a cast-iron skillet to cook your steak.
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There are a lot of different ways to cook steak, but some methods may be better than others.
Tara Lazar, owner of and chef at F10 Creative in Palm Springs, California, told INSIDER that a cast-iron skillet is perfect for cooking steaks because of how it nicely sears meat. Notably, when adding meat to the skillet, you’ll want it to be incredibly hot.
If you use a skillet, keep your steak in the center of it.
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“Carefully place the steak in the middle of pan where the heat is the hottest,” said Lazar. She said you want to avoid moving your steak around so it is able to develop a crispy crust that seals in its juices.
“Flip it once you see the edges curling slightly … And again, don’t mess with it for another two to three minutes so the other side gets that nice crust, too,” she added.
She said after that you’ll want to put the steak and skillet in a 375-degree-Fahrenheit oven for about four minutes if you want to achieve medium-rare meat.
Make sure the grill is really hot before you add steak to it and avoid moving your meat too soon.
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“You should hear the beef sizzle when it goes on. This will help develop a delicious crust,” said Ollier. After that, you’ll want to be patient.
“If you go to move or flip the steaks and they stick to the grates [of the grill], they’re not ready to be moved,” added Ollier.
He also suggested having a “safe zone” on your grill, meaning an area of it that is turned to a slightly cooler temperature. “If your steaks are cooking too quickly for your liking, you can move them there to continue cooking at a gentler, slower rate,” explained Ollier.
Try using a meat thermometer.
The best way to know if your meat is done is to have a meat thermometer. Generally, the internal temperature of your steak is able to tell you what sort of doneness your meat has achieved.
According to Certified Angus Beef, a rare streak will internally reach 125 degrees Fahrenheit and well-done steak will achieve an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
For larger cuts of meat, you might want to opt for an oven-safe thermometer, said Patrick Munster, the executive chef at MB Steak in Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Las Vegas. “This way, you can set your desired temperature and walk away,” he explained.
Chefs typically prefer to cook steaks to medium-rare (a warm, red center that’s reached 135 degrees Fahrenheit) for optimal juiciness and tenderness, but doneness is truly a personal preference, said Ollier.
After you cook your steak, let it rest.
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No matter how you cooked your steak, you’ll want to let it rest for about five minutes before you cut it or begin to eat it.
“When you take it off the grill [or pan], put it on a clean plate and leave it alone about five minutes,” said Ollier. He said the steak can continue to cook a bit more to achieve the perfect level of doneness.
Plus, giving your steak time to rest means it can redistribute its flavorful juices that had been previously pushed to the center of the steak due to heat.
And finally, be mindful of how you slice your steak.
Before slicing a steak, make sure you have a sharp knife. Then, take your steak and identify which way the “grain” runs – namely, the direction the fibers go.
“Using long, smooth strokes, not a sawing motion, slice steaks across the grain,” said Ollier. By cutting through the long fibers, you can end up with more tender slices of meat.