How to Cook the Perfect Steak
Cooking the perfect steak requires four simple considerations:
1) the cut
2) the seasoning
3) the cooking method
4) how you slice it
You don't have to spend $50-80 for a steak at a high-end steakhouse to enjoy the perfect steak. Follow these four tips and you'll be enjoying a delicious, less expensive steak and bourbon at home in your lounging clothes. Not only is it less expensive and more comfortable, but you have so much more control over seasoning and temperature.
Choosing the right cut
First thing is first, start with healthy, pasture-raised meat. Animals raised in low stress environments & free to roam the land produce better tasting and healthier meat. Not to mention that you can feel good about choosing to buy from farmers and butchers who believe in humane treatment of animals.
Look for good marbling - those white specks of intramuscular fat. It impacts tenderness, flavor, and moistness. There are a lot of things that can influence marbling, including the cow's diet, breed, and amount of exercise. I'll save these nuances for another blog post.
Which steak? Well, that's a loaded question! When you get into it, literally, there are so many wonderful cuts that make for a delicious steak. I'll save the varieties for another blog post. For the sake of simplicity, I'll list a few of my favorites below:
Ribeye Cap (a.k.a. Spinalis)
Chuck Eye (a.k.a. the heart of the Delmonico)
A well-seasoned butcher can provide options and open the door to your traditional favorites as well as some lesser know delicious options.
Let the meat come to room temperature before cooking. A good rule of thumb is to rest your steaks on a plate on your counter for at least 30 minutes per pound prior
to cooking. It is important that the internal and external temperature of your steak is approximately the same to achieve that beautiful sear on the outside and perfect temperature on the inside, based on your liking.
When you bring the steak out to rest at room temperature, go ahead and season it generously with kosher salt & pepper. My preference is to keep it simple - let the meat speak for itself. If you want to add a little more seasoning, my favorite options are Pine Street Market's TS'UMAMI or Summer Spice.
TS-UMAMI is a perfectly savory tsunami of flavor. It's composed of mushroom, sea salt, lemon pepper, shallots, and chives.
Summer Spice adds just a little brightness with sage, thyme, rosemary, pepper, salt, shallot, and fennel.
If you use a spice blend, make sure to check the ingredients and adjust the amount of kosher salt & pepper, as necessary.
The cooking method
Choose a cooking method based on your preference for smoke. While I enjoy a smoky steak hot off the Big Green Egg, my preferred steak cooking method is in cast iron. If you don't have a cast iron pan - they're well worth the investment - you can use any heavy-bottomed skillet.
The key here is make sure your cast iron skillet (or grill) is smoking hot before you add your steak and resist the urge to flip prematurely to ensure you get a perfect sear.
To your cast iron pan on medium-high heat, add about a tablespoon of canola, regular olive, or grapeseed oil. When the oil shimmers, add your beautiful, well-seasoned steak...wait for it...holy beef steak, I can even hear the sizzle - enjoy that sound for a minute, grab a sip of bourbon or wine, let that smile flash across your face - you're almost there.
Give it about 2-3 minutes on one side, flip it over, and let it sit untouched for another 2-3 minutes. I recommend using an easy-to-read digital thermometer to gauge when your steak reaches that perfect temperature. They are a lot more accurate than a dial thermometer, and that's really important to make sure you nail the right steak temp. For thicker steaks - you know, when you want that 2-inch thick bone-in ribeye or the 2-inch thick New York strip - I recommend getting a good sear on both sides, approximately 3 min on each side or until golden brown, and then place it in a 400ºF oven until it reaches your perfect internal temperature.
A few things to remember...
Meat continues to cook after removing it from the heat - not a lot, but it can go from medium to medium well in a few minutes.
A note about 100% Grass-fed Beef - it is best prepared Medium-rare to Medium. You can extend to Medium-well if you prefer, but due to the fact that Grass-fed Beef is generally more lean and has less marbling, cooking to higher temperatures may result in a less tender, mealy, less juicy steak.
How to slice it
As always, let the meat rest before slicing. The cooking process drives the juices to the center; resting allows the juices to redistribute throughout making for a perfectly juicy steak. Generally, allow steaks to rest 5-10 minutes before slicing.
If you are cooking that 2-inch thick bone-in ribeye, slice it before taking it to the table. Whenever we cook steaks for a group we pre slice the cooked steaks and arrange it on a platter. This gives our friends the option of just taking a couple slices, or several, and picking slices that are the doneness they are looking for. It also means you are cooking less steak, so you can justify spending a little extra on that special cut.
Slice the meat against the grain.
Look for the direction of the meat fibers in the steak. Cutting across these fibers, against the grain, makes each slice more tender and easier to chew.
And, there you have it! How to cook a perfect steak.
Bourbon pairing: Buffalo Trace, neat, is my go-to
On the radio: Muddy Waters, My Home is in the Delta
Across the table: Dr. Summer Galloway