The Best Way to Cook a Steak
A great steak does not need tons of seasoning, special cooking techniques, or have to be $50 at a steakhouse. It just needs a few simple steps.
Ingredients for Cooking the Perfect Steak
Many people believe that a perfect steak requires special seasoning, marinades, cooking appliances, or a small loan to be taken out for a high-end steakhouse bill. In all actuality, a great steak requires very few, and simple, things. You will need the following:
- A well-marbled steak, 1-1.5 inch thick
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- Olive oil, 1 Tablespoon
- Butter, 3 Tablespoons (But you can never have too much butter!)
- 3-4 garlic cloves, 2 sprigs rosemary, 2 sprigs thyme
- A cast-iron skillet
Once you have acquired these items you are ready to begin.
Step One: Choosing the Right Steak for You
While this method of cooking steaks will work for any cut, I find that it works best with a well-marbled piece of meat. Marbling is the fat that runs throughout the membrane of the steak. It is very easy to identify a nice marbling, being that the more evenly distributed white lines you see running through the meat, the better the marbling. This is essential for the steak because the fat will make the meat melt-in-your-mouth-tender, much more flavorful, and keep it nice and juicy. But fear not, if you are an avid lean steak lover this method will work all the same. Below is a nice reference chart to aid in your purchasing of a good steak. Depending on what you are willing to spend you could go as high as you would like, but I would say about 5 or 6 would be the minimum you would want to go when deciding on what steak to bring home. Also, for this method of cooking, you will want your steak of choice to at least be 1-1.5 inches thick.
With a steak as thick as the ones you'll be cooking, don't be afraid to season your meat generously.
Step Two: Getting Started
Once you've chosen your steak, it's time to get prepped to cook it.
- First, you should let your meat sit out on the counter for about 30 minutes so it can get close to room temperature. If the steak is cold on the inside it won't cook evenly with the rest of the meat, leading to undercooked centers or burnt outer layers.
- While the meat is warming up you can begin to season it. You don't need any special steak rubs or marinades, you simply need the salt and pepper I listed earlier. A good steak will have great flavor simply from its own meat and fatty marbling, and the salt and pepper will accentuate that flavor and help with tenderness. With a steak as thick as the ones you'll be cooking, don't be afraid to season your meat generously. Really coat the tops, sides, and bottoms well so the salt and pepper can mingle with the fat as it renders down. Make sure you push those seasonings into the meat as well so they stick
Step Three: Cooking It in Your Cast Iron Skillet
- Once the meat has lost that cold edge, it's time to get your cast iron skillet ready. The reason we use cast iron, opposed to a different type of skillet or grill, is that cast iron will retain its heat even after the cool meat has been put on it. This helps with creating a nice crust on the meat but also keeping its heat, which helps with even cooking. Proper heat is one of the most important aspects of cooking a good steak.
- Put the cast iron on the stove with about a tablespoon of olive oil in the pan over high heat. You should let the pan get nice and hot to the point where the oil will begin smoking slightly. You can test if your pan is hot enough by placing the edge of your steak in the pan. If the steak doesn't sizzle loudly, your pan isn't close to hot enough.
- Once your pan is nice and hot, place your steak in and don't touch it for at least 3 and a half minutes!
- When the timer goes off flip the steak and repeat the process for 2 and a half to 3 minutes. Don't keep flipping your steak! Leave it alone. This is very important. Flipping the steak repeatedly won't allow for a good crust to form on the outside of your steak. Many people will say this is to lock in the juices with a nice sear, but this is an old grillman's tale. The juices will be referenced later, but a good sear is simply for taste and texture.
If you aren't sure about butter measurements, they're right on the side of the stick.
Perfect Steak Secret: Butter Basting
So now that your steak has been gaining a beautiful brown crust on both sides, it's time to get to the secret that makes these steaks 5 Star quality, butter basting! Butter Basting is the process of melting butter in the pan with your steak until it browns, adding a nice nutty flavor, and then spooning it over, or basting, the steak with it for about 30 seconds so it can penetrate the meat and add extra flavor. Once both sides of the steak have been crusted you will want to throw about 2 tablespoons of butter into the pan and let it melt and begin to brown. While this is happening, crush your garlic with a knife. This allows the oils to flow for better flavor. Throw the garlic, thyme, and rosemary into the butter and begin to spoon the butter over the steak, occasionally resting the herbs on top of the steak as well. Do this for about 30-45 seconds and then place your steak on a plate. Take the roasted garlic out of the pan also, it's sweet and absolutely amazing after going through the basting.
Eating Your Steak
I know what you're thinking, "I'm done cooking now, I can start to eat!" Wrong. The worst thing you can do now is cut into that steak. When the steak comes off the skillet it is going to continue to cook for at least 5 minutes. You have to let the bad boy rest for at least that long, if not 10 minutes. This allows for all the juices to redistribute and rest into the meat, and if you cut into it too early all of those delicious juices will end up on the plate instead of your mouth. It's going to be one of the hardest things you've ever had to do, but I promise it's worth the extra few minutes. Once that time has passed feel free to dig in.
Second Example of Final Product
And Cut Across the Grain!!!
One last thing, and I can't stress this enough, cut across the grain of the meat as you eat. If you look at your steak you'll see that the muscle fibers are all running in a particular direction. Cutting across them (if they go up and down you cut left to right and vice versa) helps with tenderness and will help to cut the meat easier as well. You don't want to ruin this masterpiece you've created by cutting it up the wrong way and having it be any less than the Goddess of Meat you intended her to be! Give it a shot and let me know in the comments how it turned out! Enjoy!
Have you ever cooked a steak this way before?
How was it?!
Questions, Comments, or Criticisms?
Let me know in the comments below what you think this would pair well with, or any praise or criticism of the dish! I look forward to reading and responding to any questions as well! Also, please be sure to keep an eye out for any new recipes I post or pair with this dish! And as always, keep eating good!