How to Cook a Good Steak


I don't know. I'm bored. I thought of this in the shower (where I do some of my best thinking.) So I might do a series on cooking tips. First up...

How to Cook a Good Steak
How to Cook a Good Steak

How To Cook A Good Steak:

* The Meat: Well, this could be long. So let me just say I am a filet mignon woman. It's small, and very, very lean and tender. It's by far my favourite cut, mostly due to leanness and tender texture. But it's spendy and not always available, so in that case I'll get whatever else is available. Go for thick cuts. They give you more latitude and won't overcook as easily.

* The Pan: Get out your cast iron pan. If you don't have that, use the heaviest pan you have. Non-stick coatings are not good, they don't sear enough, but if that's all you have... well, on second thought, go to any home store and buy a $20 cast iron. They last forever.

* You Don't Want it Shivering: Leave your steak out on the kitchen counter for a short time to get it to room temperature. It should not be fridge cold. (But never defrost on the counter. That timing can create dangerous bacteria so don't do it. And for that matter, don't freeze your steaks, if you can help it. Fresh is best.)

* The Pat Down: Once package is opened, pretend you're a cop and pat down with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. This is necessary to create a good sear, aka char. Char is flavour. You need that.

* Fire Up the Pan: Medium-ish heat. Gas stove is best, but whatever you have. Got a grill? Even better. But I don't, so this is the pan method. Add canola oil. You can use other oils or butter, but butter and olive oil have a very low smoke point (EVO/extra virgin oil being higher than regular olive oil), so they are not appropriate for the temperature required here. You can do it, but watch the temperature then. I am not in favour of other oils, for health and taste reasons, but do as you please. (You can also garnish at the end with a small bit of butter, or you can cook with a 50:50 mix of oil and butter. That is quite decadent, and the butter, although in danger of burning, does help to brown it very nicely.)

* Seasoning: I don't season with anything except salt and pepper. I recommend purchasing coarse sea salt and grinding it yourself in a hand grinder (you know those standing wood ones.) Use one grind per every inch of steak. Cover thoroughly, top and bottom. Pepper to your taste. Do not pre-salt meat and keep it on the counter. As soon as the salt hits it, it will start to draw moisture out, so wait until just before going in the pan. Gravy: Once in a while I'll use a dry powdered package of Knorr Brown Gravy and make that up (just add water, simmer in small pot for a few mintues.) It's the best brand (and passes my German seal of approval) of premade gravy, in my opinion. You won't be able to make much of a gravy out of today's lean single steak, but if you're really desperate for some, you can add some peppercorns and a bit of heavy or half & half cream, and whisk that up. For me, I like it classic, just S&P. The main thing is you must use enough salt. If it tastes weird, tastes off, it likely wasn't enough salt.

* "Fire in the hole!": When do you put the steak in the pan? When it's good and hot. When's that? Run your hand under the kitchen sink briefly, so it has a little water on it, and then shake your hand over the pan. If the pan, now with oil in it (1/2 Tbsp or so) sizzles, it's ready to go. No sizzle? Wait. Smoking pan? Too hot. Adjust temperature down, and wait. Temperature is very important. I would say, it's the most important aspect (after the quality of the meat.) Your method should be hot and fast, not low and slow.

* Cooking: Do not use anything to pierce the meat. Use tongs to place steak in pan. You want even heat, with the oil evenly distributed under meat. Crackling is good. I'm not going to go into detail about the various cook levels (rare, medium-rare, medium, well.) I'm not expert on that and I always cook between medium-rare and medium. That suits most peoples' tastes. Anything more than that, and in my opinion, you're buggering the meat. The more lean the meat, typically, the less time you cook. So I recommend turning after a few minutes (approx 5 min, but depending on thickness), but don't do it based on time. A good visual rule of thumb is to look for when the colour changes from red/pink to something else, going vertically up the side of the meat. As soon as you see this, flip. Flip only once. Like a burger on a grill, leave that baby alone. Do not stab, poke, or prod it. Now when to take out of pan? It's not like chicken or pork, where you need the juices to run clear for it to be safe to eat. Beef has much more latitude. But you'll notice the top begins to look different. You want a nice char on both sides. Note the colour of what runs out. It depends if you like it rare or medium or well (which will be red, pink, and clear, respectively.) And as the Brits say, "When it's brown it's done. When it's black it's buggered up." Don't panic if it looks too brown on the outside. That char is what is keeping the meat inside tender. Once cut, it should be pink in centre (for medium.)

* Resting vs. Cooling: It is advised to let meat rest. This seals in the juices. If you serve and cut immediately, the tasty juices (ok, fat) will run out. This keeps it moist and tender. But, otoh, if you wait too long, your meat turns cold, and cold meat is just no fun. It also quickly firms up, and makes a less soft texture, as it cools. So, take your pick. I choose hot.

* Go Against the Grain: Whether it's you serving it or someone else is cutting it themselves, cut against the bias. Which means not with the natural muscle grain, but against it, perpendicular. This will give you the best texture and 'mouth feel.'

* Serve with... whatever you want. This is already too long, so I'm stopping here. (But suggestions are: onion rings, baked potato, and a roasted veg. I bake each separately in the toaster oven. But that's another story.) Anyway, happy eating.

How to Cook a Good Steak
46 Opinion