If you’ve been watching any cooking competition on TV, you know that participants are always tested for their ability to cook the perfect steak. From hitting the correct temperature to the choice of herbs to complement the richness of the cut, there are a myriad ways on how to nail the perfect steak that’s worthy of a Michelin Star. But you really don’t have to be a kitchen wizard to cook the perfect steak. As long as you take to heart any of these 4 best methods to cook your steak, you’re guaranteed to serve only the most sumptuous, most mouth-watering slab of meat to your loved ones.
Before we start learning the best method to cook steak, let us try to understand a few ground rules first. It should be evident that the actual cooking of the steak is just a component of the whole experience. Equally important are the choice of cuts, the preparation needed, and your understanding of the different temperatures or the levels of doneness of the steak. Let’s get down to it.
- Steak Cuts
There are different kinds of cuts when it comes to steaks, although you will always hear celebrity chefs singing praises to the rib eye, although some would recommend going for the New York strip. Still, there are those who go for tenderloin, T-bone, sirloin, Porterhouse, or even the flank. One of the most important characteristics of a good steak is the even distribution of marbling or fats all over the meat. It is for this reason that the rib eye is preferred over other cuts especially when you’re looking for a medium rare steak.
The steak should always be brought to room temperature before slapping it on the grill or the skillet. Ideally, you should bring it out of your fridge to “warm up” a bit about 30 to 60 minutes before you cook it. Steaks that have been “warmed” to room temperature cook faster while also avoiding it getting overcooked.
If you’re looking for the best way to cook steak indoors, then you should have a cast iron skillet on hand. This is the best cookware for steaks as its thick bottom can accommodate exceptionally high heat which is needed in searing your steak. It stays very hot which is good.
Don’t forget to season your steak just before placing it on the skillet. Freshly ground black pepper and salt are all that is needed to amplify the natural flavors of your steak. You don’t need herbs at this point, although some chefs would recommend rubbing thyme and even garlic into the meat. It’s your choice.
- Levels of Doneness
Steak-lovers prefer a medium rare steak over any other level of doneness. Technically, it’s all about which temperature you prefer the most. That being said, you should probably learn how to tell if your steak is rare, medium rare, or well-done, or anything else in between.
All steaks have to rest for a certain period of time before you start slicing it across the grain. This is a fundamental requirement so that you preserve the juices of the steak, making them juicier and a lot richer, too.
The 4 Methods
Now that we’re done with the basics, let’s start cooking. The 4 methods we have listed here are designed to give you medium rare to medium steaks. Depending on your doneness preference, you may have to adjust the length of time of cooking and resting accordingly.
1. Sear-roasting Method
This has got to be the best method to cook steak. Majority of celebrity chefs always use this method to dish out the best-looking, mouth-watering meats they could ever serve. The trick here is to give the steak a nice sear, turning its outside surface into a flavorful brown crust. Once the steak has achieved its desired “brownness”, you can then put it into your oven so that it finishes cooking to your desired level of doneness.
Since this method requires both a skillet and an oven, we strongly suggest getting your oven preheated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit before you start cooking on the skillet.
So, how to cook a steak in a pan? You’ve got to get your cast iron skillet smoking hot. Now, some chefs will want you to put your steak straight into the super-hot skillet without adding any oil. Others may recommend adding a few drops of refined grapeseed oil or any other high-heat oil. For a 1-1/2 inch thick steak, you will need to sear one side for about 2 minutes before you turn it over and sear the other side for another 2 minutes.
You don’t need to take the steak out from the skillet as you can put it – skillet and all – into the oven for about 2 to 5 minutes, depending on the temperature you want. Once done, you can take the steak out of the skillet and let it rest for about 7 minutes. You can also cover it in foil while resting the steak.
Timing is critical in this method. One very slight miscalculation of the timing and you’d end up with an overcooked steak.
2. Reverse Sear Method
Even without explaining, it should be fairly obvious what this method entails. If you have already mastered the art of searing a steak before finishing it off in the oven, the reverse sear method technically follows the same procedure only in reverse order. As such, before searing the steak, you’d have to cook it in the oven first.
So, how to cook a steak in the oven using the reverse sear method? Get your oven heated up to about 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Once you got the oven ready, place your choice cut on a sheet pan placed on top of a rack. Make sure to season it, though. Put the rack in the oven and cook for about 20 to 30 minutes. You would really want to check the meat’s internal temperature. Your target is about 120 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit since you will still be searing this later on.
Once you’re done in the oven, you can coat the steak with a little oil and sear it in a super-hot cast iron skillet. Make sure to sear both sides to give it that brownness you’re after in a good steak. Give the steak about 10 minutes to rest.
This method is obviously one of the longest to take since the oven you’re putting the steak into is not really hot enough compared to the other methods. On a more positive note, this is one of the most foolproof ways to serve the perfect steak. So in case you’re wondering how to cook steal medium rare, follow this method and you’re guaranteed the perfect medium rare every time.
3. 4-3-2 Method
If you’re looking for the quickest and simplest method to cook medium rare steak, then the 4-3-2 method is for you. This is also perfect for those who do not have an oven at home. As long as you have a cast iron skillet, then you should do fine with this best method to cook steak.
There are only three steps involved in this method: 4 minutes sear on one side, 3 minutes sear on the other side, and 2 minutes rest. That’s it. It is so easy to memorize that even a 5-year old kid who knows the value of 4, 3, and 2 minutes can cook the perfect steak.
Keep in mind that this method only works on rib eye or any other cut of meat that doesn’t have any bone that can interfere with the super-heated surface. The other issue with this method is that it comes with a char-grilled characteristic. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t really go for anything char-grilled, then this isn’t the method for you.
4. Oven-Only Method
This last method of cooking medium rare steak uses only an oven that has been preheated to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. The seasoned steak is added with generous amounts of butter on top before being on a baking rack. The steak is oven-grilled for 15 to 20 minutes before being allowed to rest for about 5 to 10 minutes.
It’s a very easy way to cook steak. One problem with this method is that you won’t get that nice brown crust that you can only get when you sear the steak on a really hot pan. The steak also has this unwanted tendency to curl while cooking in the oven. It takes about half an hour to get your steak ready on the dinner table, too. The good news is that steak cooked in the oven-only method has an even doneness. The texture is super soft, too. Additionally, you get to savor the true flavors of aged beef.
The best method to cook steak is quite dependent on what matters to you. If you want the brown crust, then the sear-roasting method is a good choice. If you want it more char-grilled style, then the 4-3-2 method works best. If it’s the pure flavor of beef you’re after, then an oven-only method is perfect.